Archives for January 2013

Breaking Down The Federal Reserve Statement (January 2013 Edition)

FOMC statementThe Federal Reserve’s Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) voted to maintain the Federal Funds Rate within its current range of zero to 0.25 percent, and to continue its current stimulus program of purchasing $85 billion monthly in Treasury bonds and mortgage-backed securities (MBS).

Citing weather-related events such as Hurricane Sandy and drought in the Midwest, the committee said in its statement that information received since its December 2012 meeting “suggests that growth in economic activity has paused in recent months in large part because of weather-related disruptions and other transitory factors.”

Concerns over the then-looming fiscal cliff crisis may have also contributed to the economic contraction during the last quarter of 2012. Positive economic trends observed by the Fed included:

  • Improved household spending
  • Improving housing markets
  • Growth in business fixed investments

The Fed initiated its third round of quantitative easing (QE3) in September as part of an ongoing effort to hold down interest rates and to encourage business spending. The benchmark Federal Funds Rate will remain between zero and.0.25 percent until the unemployment rate falls to 6.5 percent and provided that inflation remains stable.

The Fed Funds Rate has stayed near zero since December 2008.

The national unemployment rate was 7.8 percent in December, and Wall Street expects it to be 7.7 percent for January. The Department of Labor will release its monthly jobs report on Friday; this report includes the monthly unemployment rate. Inflation is expected to remain at or below the Fed’s target level of 2.0 percent or less for the medium-term.

While noting that “strains on global financial markets have eased somewhat,” the FOMC said that it “continues to see downside risks to the economic outlook.” Low overall interest rates and gradual inflation work in favor of home buyers as home prices and mortgage rates are likely to rise at a gradual pace.

Mortgage rates in Minneapolis improved slightly after the FOMC release.

How To Paint Your Home’s Exterior Walls

Paint your home's exterior to improve its curb appealWhen preparing to sell a home, few things improve its curb appeal more than a fresh coat of exterior paint.  

Many people are intimidated by the thought of painting their home’s exterior, and choose to hire a third-party to handle the work. But, you can do it yourself, with these easy steps.

First, before starting, you’ll want to inspect your home. Examine all walls, look under the eaves, and pay attention to door frames and windows.  Be on the lookout for peeling paint, mildew and rough surfaces and make a note of them.

Next, gather the tools you’ll need to do the job. These include :

  • A power washer
  • A 2-3” inch putty knife
  • A 2-3” inch pull scraper
  • A wire brush
  • A sander
  • Chlorine bleach

Then, to create a clean surface on which to paint, power-wash the walls with plain water. Detergents are not needed, and may not work as well as plain water, anyway.

Follow-up your wash with the putty knife and wire brush to remove the remaining paint. Note where paint has peeled, blistered or wrinkled. Avoid gouging the surface by holding the putty knife perpendicular to the wall, and by using moderate force.

For areas that won’t easily clean, use your pull scraper. It’s used the same way as the putty knife, but it has a sharp blade attached that quickly works through old paint.

Next, sand your home’s exterior smooth using a piece of sandpaper wrapped around a sanding block. An electric sander may be more effective for large areas; it’ll save you time and energy.

If during the cleaning process, you find mildew, be sure to remove it. A simple mix of chlorine bleach will do the job. Mildew will show through the new coat(s) of paint, so be sure to be rid of it before beginning.

Lastly, with your home cleaned and primed for paint, wait for “good painting weather” and get started. Soon you’ll be ready to list your Minneapolis home for sale.

Pending Home Sales Post 20th Consecutive Month Of Annual Gains

Pending Home Sales IndexThe National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) reports that the Pending Home Sales Index fell 4.3 percent in December as compared to the month prior. The index now reads 101.7.

The Pending Home Sales Index measures the number of U.S. homes that have gone “into contract”, but have not yet closed. The report is based on data collected from local real estate associations, and from national brokers.

Despite December’s drop, however, the annual rate at which contracts for a home purchase were drawn increased 6.9 percent from one year ago, and marked the 20th consecutive month of annual purchase contract gains.

NAR reports that 80% of homes under contract are closed with 60 days, with the majority of the remained homes “sold” within months 3 and 4.

Analysts believe that December’s Pending Home Sales Index drop is not a result of a weakening housing market. Rather, it’s a function of a falling national home supply; in particular, a shortage of homes in the West Region offered a prices under $100,000.

The national housing inventory is currently at an 11-year low. However, regionally, results varied :

  • Northwest : -5.4 percent from November; +8.4 percent from one year ago
  • Midwest : +0.9 percent from November; +14.4 percent from one year ago
  • South : -4.5 percent from November; +10.1 percent from one year ago
  • West: -8.2 percent from November; -5.3 percent from one year ago

Although December’s Pending Home Sales Index dropped as compared to November, the year-to-year growth of pending home sales suggests a broader improvement in the U.S. housing market. Furthermore, the index is a strong indicator of existing home sales, which means that this season’s home sales should outpace those from 2012.

The Pending Home Sales Index is bench-marked to 100, the value from 2001, which was the index’s first year of existence. 2001 was considered a strong year for the housing market so last month’s 101.7 is considered a positive measure for the housing market.

Analysts project a strong Spring market in Chicago and nationwide.