Archives for August 2012

Pending Home Sales Index Approaches “Tax Stimulus” Levels

The pace at which homes are going under contract to sell is increases. In July, for the third time this year, the Pending Home Sales Index surpassed the 100-value threshold, climbing to 101.7.

The housing market continues is slow, steady pace of recovery.

Highest Reading Since April 2010

The Pending Home Sales Index is a monthly housing metric from the National Association of REALTORS®. It measures the number of homes going into contract that are not yet sold.

Historically, 80 percent of “pending” homes go to settlement within 60 days of contract, with the majority of the remaining homes closing within months 3 and 4. As a result, the monthly Pending Home Sales Index data often correlates with NAR’s Existing Home Sales report — a report of homes actually closed — two months into the future.

The Pending Home Sales Index is a forward-looking indicator for housing and it points to a strong fall season. Homes have not gone to contract at such a furious pace since April 2010, the last month of that year’s federal home buyer tax credit.

In April 2010, the Pending Home Sales Index read 111.5.

Purchase Mortgage Applications Rising

There are two noteworthy data points in the July Pending Home Sales Index.

First, the index posted north of 100. This matters because of how the Pending Home Sales Index is “scored”. It’s a relative index, based on housing market activity in 2001, the metric’s first year of existence.

2001 happened to be a good year for housing.

When the Pending Home Sales is higher than 100, therefore, it suggests that the housing market is doing better than it did in 2001. Conversely, when the Pending Home Sales Index is below 100, it suggests that the housing market is trailing what it did in 2001.

This year’s housing market is in stark contrast to the market of the last few years :

  • May 2010 – February 2012 : The Pending Home Sales Index crossed 100 zero times
  • March 2012 – July 2012 : The Pending Home Sales Index crossed 100 three times

Furthermore, with mortgage rates low and momentum building, the number of purchase mortgage applications continues to rise. As reported by the Mortgage Bankers Association, the Purchase Index rose a seasonally-adjusted 1 percent last week from the week prior.

Low Downpayment Options For Home Buyers

It’s a terrific time to be a home buyer. Home prices remain relatively low, mortgage rates are sub-4.000 percent, and low-downpayment mortgage programs are readily available. The FHA offers a 3.5% downpayment mortgage, and the USDA and VA both offer 100% financing options to qualified home buyers.

Network Your House with SmartThings: Rule Your Home with Your Phone

smart thingsSmartThings has a pretty lofty goal. They want to be the hub to control everything in your home. While some companies and apps today control various aspects, like lights or air conditioning or security systems, SmartThings thinks that’s just child’s play. Actually, children are the only thing SmartThings can’t control.

From cabinets being open to clothing recommendations based on weather to lights turning on when you get out of bed, SmartThings is central command for every exiguous aspect of your home in the palm of your hand. Sounds complicated? Surprisingly, the concept is simple. By attaching custom sensors to objects you want to control, it then sends signal to a SmartThings hub that looks as innocuous as a WiFi router which then communicates with your iPhone for alerts and to adjust various settings.

Apparently the demand to literally be master of your domain is quite high. The SmartThings page on (Kickstarter is a site for funding new ideas & companies) shows that the funding for this product has already exceeded its first round goal by 82% making it well on its way to mass production.

The interesting part for me is there is a potential here to create a new ecosystem for developers and even home owners to build on. Through what they are calling their SmartApps platform, I envision 3rd parties will eventually be able to create their own custom features that can be integrated with the SmartThings hub. The Kickstarter page lists the following as existing enhancements to the platform:

  • Get notified immediately if your pet runs out of your yard without you with the “Oh No, My Pet Is Loose!” SmartApp.
  • Get an early warning or directly contact a plumber when there is a leak somewhere (bathroom, basement), before damage gets out of hand with the “It’s Leaking!”  SmartApp.
  • Monitor drawers and cabinets that contain precious or dangerous items with the “My Stuff is Secure” SmartApp.

The day of the truly smart house is incredibly close. For homeowners, a system like this can help the increasingly busy life of a homeowner be on top of the general upkeep and maintenance of their home.

For me the only question is how much angrier I would be when I lost my phone? Check out the demo video for SmartThings below and visit their page on Kickstarter to get more details.

Buyers Worried They’re Losing Bargaining Power

While home buyers have been holding a lot of bargaining power in the housing market the last few years, more of them say they are now feeling the market shift against them, according to a new survey.

Seven in 10 home buyers say they’ve faced competition on a home for at least one offer, according to a recent survey of 982 buyers in 19 markets conducted by Redfin. Of those surveyed, 46 percent say now is a good time to purchase a home — that’s down from 56 percent in the first quarter. On the other hand, the number of those who are saying it’s a good time to sell grew by 13 percent in that period. Thirty-two percent now say it’s a good time to sell.

“Many buyers who emerged from hibernation this spring eager to take advantage of low rates and near-bottom prices now seem to have become demoralized by the intense competition for a limited selection of homes for sale,” Redfin said in a public statement about the survey results.

Home buyers may feel more urgency too. The survey found the number of buyers expecting home prices to rise drastically grew — 61 percent say prices will rise compared to 32 percent during the first quarter. However, they are reluctant to get in a multiple-offer situation. Thirty-one percent of those surveyed said that if they faced a multiple-offer situation, they would back off.

Source: “Survey: Buyers Think Market Is Shifting Against Them,” Inman News 

State of the US Housing Market [Interactive]


Click to interact with the chart

Survey: Housing is Part of the American Dream

online-surveysAmericans are getting more optimistic about their financial future, and they believe housing still plays an important part in that, according to a poll of 1,000 to 2,000 people conducted by FTI Strategic Communications.

Sixty-two percent of Americans say they expect the economy to improve within the next year. What’s more, 73 percent of those surveyed say home ownership is part of achieving the American Dream.

According to the survey, Americans believe they increasingly hold their financial fate, with 60 percent saying that they can be comfortable financially by working hard and being savvy with their investing.

What’s more, 44 percent say they believe they’ve had more opportunities than their parents.

The survey found that the chief worries among the public is paying for health care, losing a job, and the high costs of education.

Source: “Consumer Corner: Americans Still Optimists,” Bloomberg Businessweek

Modest Modern Multi-Family Industrial Vernacular Dwelling

multifamily-housing-diagramMulti-family housing poses unique challenges, as do the budgeting constraints of owning and running a factory in China with living quarters for workers. With a rather elegant and earthy simplicity, this project tackles these problems with aplomb.

KUU architects (with images by Jeremy San of StzernStudio) made this multi-functional residence out of modular three-by-three-meter, brick-walled spaces, split between worker spaces and weekend quarters for the owners.

The white-brick theme is carried throughout at a comfortably human scale, with dark wood and red clay accents adding material contrast.

No single point stands out as the pinnacle piece, which is part of the purpose or the decentralized plan: to have egalitarian, functional and cozy areas for living and interacting. For something made so simply, it is remarkably well-detailed and resolved.

Is Today The Day That Case-Shiller Finally Goes Positive?


The above chart shows the year-over-year change in the Case-Shiller House Price index — usually considered the gold standard of home price indices.

On a year over year basis, analysts expect it to come in down 0.05% when it comes out later today. Even a modest beat could see house prices rise on a year-over-year basis. Note that there was growth in early 2010, but that was only off the epic collapse of 2008-2009… house prices quickly resumed their fall that year.

CAVEAT: Here in “Seattle”, this report uses King, Snohomish and Pierce Counties to represent “Seattle”.

Read more:

10 Stylish Modern Cabins

cabinCabins have re-emerged in modern designs and now can function as houses in their own right. The architects and designers are creating not only functional but also stylish and beautiful. A cabin can make for a great retreat, a home office, a studio or a guest house.

Mountain Hill Cabin

10 Stylish Modern Cabins

Mountain Hill Cabin designed by Fantastic Norway is going to be located in the mountains. Norway in the area that can only be reached in winter on skis. The building has a sloped rooftop which makes it suitable for skiing. The cabin will be installed late this summer.

Cabin Verdehaugen

10 Stylish Modern Cabins

Another creation from Fantastic Norway is a Cabin Verdehaugen also located in the Norway. The cabin’s architecture responds to the environment and has complex shape and form.

Log Cabin

10 Stylish Modern Cabins

Log cabin by Thomas Mayer is a prefab music studio cabin designed by Piet Hein Eek. This log cabin is a fresh modern take on traditional wooden log cabins. It has retractable windows designed to closed the cabin entirely.

Dalene Cabin

10 Stylish Modern Cabins

Dalene Cabin by Tommie Wilhelmsen in Norway is made of wood and has an interesting architecture. Read and see more of Dalene Cabin.

Urban Cabin

10 Stylish Modern Cabins

Urban Cabin designed by Fábio Galeazzo located Brazil used to be an abandoned house remodeled into a colorful cabin with timber and granite. The cabin is located at a great site surrounded by greenery.

Sunset Cabin

10 Stylish Modern Cabins

Sunset Cabin by Taylor Smyth Architectsa is a stylish retreat that stands on a lake shore in Canada. The glass structure is covered by cedar slats through which the natural light, sunsets and sunrises can be seen. The interior is made in birch veneer plywood and includes a bed, storage and a stove.

Vashon Cabin

10 Stylish Modern Cabins

Vashon Cabin by Vandeventer + Carlander Architects was constructed on a limited site but it turned out very stylish. The glazed walls provide the cabin with plenty of natural light while the wooden wall provides with privacy.

Mountain Cabin

10 Stylish Modern Cabins

This beautiful cabin by John Maniscalco Architecture in cedar and glass looks simply grand and stunning. It is a bit elevated thanks to a platform on which it stands. The cabin has two levels the first one covered with wood while the second in glass opening the views on snow landscape.

False Bay Cabin

10 Stylish Modern Cabins

False Bay Writer’s Cabin is a great personal retreat designed by Olson Kundig Architects. The glass-box square structure opens up to the surroundings while featuring retractable wooden panels that enclose the cabin when it’s not in use.

Vermont Cabin

10 Stylish Modern Cabins

Vermont Cabin by Resolution: 4 Architecture is a stylish prefab dwelling with no electricity or cell phone service which makes it an ultimate family getaway. The cabin is shaped as L dividing the public and private areas and features an outdoor terrace and big windows to let the natural light in.

Housing Market Shows ‘Sustainable’ Improvement

Housing-Market-ImprovementHome sales and prices are ticking up, despite a sluggish economy. In fact, the rebound has economists predicting that housing will likely add to economic growth this year for the first time in seven years.

Existing-home sales increased 2.3 percent in July and are up more than 10 percent compared to year-ago levels, the National Association of REALTORS® reported last week. What’s more, home prices soared 9.4 percent in July compared to last year at that time—to $187,300—marking the largest price gain in six-and-a-half years.

New-home sales also have been inching up, rising 3.6 percent in July and up more than 25 percent compared to last July, the Commerce Department recently reported.

The "evidence that the housing market is recovering…is fairly clear across a wide range of reports," John Ryding, an economist at RDQ Economics, told the Associated Press. "[Housing] is now becoming a small positive for the economic outlook."

Economists say the rebounds appear to be sustainable and will likely climb even higher, particularly with modest economic growth, future job gains, ultra low mortgage rates, and housing affordability hovering near record highs.

Source: “Rise in U.S. Home Sales Reflects Steady Improvement,” The Associated Press