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Beware of online real estate scams

Source: Courant Homfinder

Technology has made a lot of things easier and faster, but not always better or safer – beware of fraudulent real estate listings that reuse photos and property information available online.

When a seller lists his property for sale with a real estate company, the broker submits the listing information to the Multiple Listing Service (MLS).  The upside to this technology is that the information is immediately available to every other agent who is a member of that MLS.

 

Another elegant aspect of today’s  technology is that someone in Idaho, Nebraska or China, for example, can search for properties in Connecticut or any other state by looking at online real estate websites such as Realtor.com and Zillow.com.  The information is available because many MLSs have agreements with these sites to feed them listings since sellers want maximum exposure for their properties.

Fast and easy is good, but there is a downside to real estate listings being broadcast all over the planet – listings agents have no control over the information once it has left the MLS.  Those folks who are not real estate licensees, but who are technologically adept (and have bad intentions) can take listing information and modify it so that a property listed for sale on one site can become a property for rent on another.

A homeowner in northwestern Connecticut who had recently listed his property for sale with a real estate broker answered a knock at his door and found a couple asking to tour his home.  They had seen his house online and were interested in it.  The owner let them in, and as the couple was leaving,  they made an offer to rent his property. “Rent?”  The owner responded by saying that his property was not for rent, it was for sale.  The couple said they had seen the property somewhere online for rent. Apparently, a skillful hacker had taken the “for sale” listing and refashioned it as “for rent”.

Technology has also created a dilemma for real estate agents in that they have no control over who is looking at the listing once it’s “out there”.  Many listings include interior pictures or a video tout of the home that shows not only the floor plan, but the silver candlesticks, artwork and children’s names on their bedroom walls.  The possibility exists that some people viewing the listing may not be bona fide purchasers, so while internet exposure can be good, limited personal information is wise.

The technological downside doesn’t affect just sellers, it can also impact tenants.  Here’s a recent story:  A couple wanting to rent a shoreline property contacted the listing agent in an online posting.  The couple paid the agent the first month’s rent and security deposit in cash.  They went to “their” property only to find that the home had a family living in it and that it never had been listed for rent or sale.  The “listing agent” had gathered information on this home from online sources, created an ad and posted as the listing agent.  By the time the couple realized they had been scammed,, the “agent” was nowhere to be found.  In this case, technology made this transaction fast and east for the crook, but not better or safe for the tenant.

Judith I. Johansen is Assistant Counsel for the Connecticut Association of Realtors®, Inc..

 

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Conditions prime for home buying in 2012

Source: Courant HomeFinder Digest

With the housing market and mortgage industry gearing up for their peak season in home buying activity, a number of indications from both sectors could mean the most successful season in years.

Mortgage application activity on the rise

According to a recent report from the Mortgage Bankers Association, home loan activity rose 1.4 percent during the week ending May 4.  This overall increase was spurred by an upswing of purchase requests, as the refinancing share of the index declined.

Refinancing requests fell marginally to 72.1 percent from 72.6 percent a week earlier, the report found.  In addition, government initiatives such as the Home Affordable Refinance Program and Home Affordable requests from distressed borrowers as the Government Refinance Index fell 2.3 percent from the previous week.

These trends of rising purchase applications and decreasing refinance activity could be an indicator that the housing market is growing stronger.  The fact that the refinance share of mortgage application activity has trended lower during recent weeks could be a result of more current homeowners choosing to keep their home loans under the same structure as they gear up to sell their properties.

Home loan delinquencies declining

The mortgage delinquency rate of borrowers who were more than 60 days late on their home loan payments was down during the first quarter this year to a rate of just 5.78 percent.  This marks both an  annual and month-over-month decline, according to a report from TransUnion.  This is the lowest the rate has been since the beginning of 2009.  As a potential result, this could give lenders the confidence they need to extend more lines of credit to prospective borrowers in the coming months.

“To see that quarter-over-quarter, and year-over-year, more homeowners were able to make their mortgage payments is certainly welcome news, “said TransUnion U.S. housing financial services business unit Vice President Tim Martin.  “Before this, we saw two quarters of delinquency increases and while we are still about three times above the pre-recession norm, this should mark the start of consistent improvement each quarter.”

Prior to this decline, the delinquency rate had fallen for six straight quarters until climbing during the final six months of 2011.

Housing affordability reaches 40-year high

Due to recent changes in mortgage rates, median housing incomes and property values, a report from Fisery and Care-Shiller found that housing affordability is currently at the highest level seen in nearly four decades.  Home prices have fallen by as much as 35 percent since the housing market’s peak, according to the report.  Property values are now at the same level they were in 1998.

“The precipitous drop in home prices was an immediate cause of the last recession and the financial crises.  Falling home equity has cut into household consumption and has further constrained the economic recovery,” said Fisery Chief Economist David Stiff.

Nowadays, at the current median household income, the average American family that purchases a home will only need to allocate 12 percent of their annual income to the investment.  Typically, experts advise not pulling more than 30 percent of annual income toward housing, which makes 12 percent a real bargain.

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Pending Home Sale On The Rise!

Source:  Carol Riordan www.HartfordCourant.com – HomeLife

 

Pending home sale for February were up significantly versus a year ago according to a study just released by the national Association of Realtors (NAR).

Their Pending Home Sales Index (PHSI)* showed an overall increase across the United States to an index of 96.5, a rise of 9.2 percent compared to February of 2011.  In the Northeast, the index rose 18.4 percent to 77.7.  The Midwest also posted large gains with a 19.0 percent increase to an index of 93.8.  There was an increase of 7.8 percent in the South to an index of 105.8 and a decrease in the West of 1.8 percent to an index of 99.3.

NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun predicted a strong buying season based on recent monthly PHSI increases.  He said, “We had a very good January, now we have a nine-percent increase in February figures.  These are implying that this buying season will be a quite decent year.”

The unseasonably warm weather has encouraged people to go out and look for properties.  Potential buyers are not just browsing, however, but shopping seriously for homes as indicated by a rise in realtor confidence.  “Realtors are looking at some of the qualitative factors,” said Yun.  “Whether or not people are returning on their open house visits; whether people are examining homes very carefully or just kicking the tires.”

Another indication of the real estate market’s recovery is declining shadow inventory which is measured by seriously delinquent mortgages and homes in foreclosure.  Shadow inventory reached a high in the last quarter of 2009, but has been steadily declining since then.  There has also been a decline in bank-owned properties and properties owned by the government through Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and the Federal Housing Administration.  In addition, visible inventory has reached its lowest level in the five years.  “So all three buckets of potential inventory…are declining and therefore, because it’s declining consistently, it’s implying that the market is able to absorb this inventory and it’s all moving in the right direction, “said Yun.

He noted that home sales have been essentially stable since 2009 and that the recent uptick in the PHSI is noteworthy.  “If activity is sustained near present levels, existing-home sales will see their best performance in five years,” Yun said.  “Based on all of the factors in the current market, that’s what we’re expecting with sales rising seven to 10 percent in 2012.”

*The PHSI is a forward-looking indicator based on contract signings.  The data reflects contracts, but not closings.  The index is based on a large national sample, typically representing about 20 percent of transactions for existing-home sales.  Information about NAR is available at www.realtor.org.

Visit www.BarberinoRealEstate.com for all your Connecticut Real Estate Home Selling and Buying needs.  Specializing in Condominium Property Management in CT, Leases and Sales. Go with the pro! Alan Barberino.

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