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It’s March and home prices are rising annually, outpacing inflation. Real estate data group, CoreLogic recently released their January 2017 Home Price Index (HPI), showing prices increased 0.7 percent month-over-month and 6.9 percent year-over-year.“A combination of factors is driving momentum ahead of the curve,

says Dr. Frank Nothaft, chief economist of CoreLogic.

“With lean for-sale inventories and low rental vacancy rates, many markets have seen housing prices outpace inflation. Over the 12 months through January of this year, the CoreLogic Home Price Index recorded a 6.9 percent rise in home prices nationally and the CoreLogic Single-Family Rental Index was up 2.7 percent—both rising faster than inflation.”

Accounting for limited available inventory, CoreLogic’s HPI Forecast expects home prices to rise 0.1 percent month-over-month from January to February, and 4.8 percent year-over-year from January 2017 to January 2018.

“Home prices continue to climb across the nation, and the spring home-buying season is shaping up to be one of the strongest in recent memory. A potent mix of progressive economic recovery, demographics, tight housing stocks and continued low mortgage rates are expected to support this robust market outlook for the foreseeable future. We expect the CoreLogic [HPI] to rise 4.8 percent nationally over the next 12 months, buoyed by lack of supply and continued high demand”

adds Frank Martell, president and CEO of CoreLogic.

And according to Realtor.com, spring home-buying season got an early jump this year, indicating record-high home prices and record-low days on market for February. This is especially true for Denver where you’ll see in the chart that showings for February are up over this time last year. Time to move!

“I See What You Mean” (Big Blue Bear) created by Lawrence Argent, photograph by Elizabeth Thomsen
You may be surprised to know that in the Denver metro area, The Home Affordability Index (HAI) is at its highest recording ever. What does that mean? The HAI compares the median price of a home in the Metro Denver real estate market to the median income level, and brings the current interest rate for a 30-year fixed rate loan into the equation. As a home buyer this is good news as the median income earner can buy more house today than ever before. Why? Because home prices, while rising quickly, are still well below their peak prices of 5-6 years ago and interest rates are at never-before-seen historic lows. It is the interest rates that continue to make homes so wonderfully affordable, so let’s dig into those a bit.
The typical rate on a 30-year fixed mortgage tumbled below 3.5% for the first time last week, the latest record low in a trend that has fired up homes sales around the country. Freddie Mac’s weekly survey of what lenders are offering to qualified borrowers showed the 30-year rate at an average of 3.49%, down from 3.53% the week before. The 15-year fixed loan fell from 2.83% to an almost unbelievable 2.8%! Let’s put this in perspective. In late July 2010 and 2011 the typical 30-year rate in the Freddie Mac survey was just over 4.5%, more than a percentage point higher than now. The 30-year rate was above 6% in 2006 and most of 2007, over 8% back in 2000, and over 10% in 1990. Back in the bad old days of inflation, the rate topped 18% in 1981. Look at how the interest payments affect your monthly Principle and Interest payments:
$200,000 property in 1981 at 18% interest: $3,014
$200,000 property in 1990 at 10% interest: $1,755
$200,000 property in 2000 at 8% interest: $1,467
$200,000 property in 2007 at 6.5% interest: $1,264
$200,000 property in 2011 at4.5% interest: $1,013
$200,000 property in 2012 at 3.5% interest: $898
But wait, there’s more! According to a recent CNN Money article the average cost of closing on a mortgage has fallen by 7.4% over the past year. At the end of June, a homebuyer looking to close on a $200,000 mortgage with 20% down paid an average of $300 less than 12 months earlier. Even if you don’t have 20% down payment saved, you can put 3.5% on an FHA mortgage. Very attractive, no?
No one knows how long these historically low rates can last. But in the meantime my clients are taking advantage of them to buy the homes of their dreams and lock in once-in-a-lifetime interest rates.

There was a time, early in my real estate career, when I would take buyers out “window shopping”, testing the waters to get a feel for what my clients liked, before they had talked to a lender. More seasoned agents would scoff, “I don’t let a buyer in my car if they’re not pre-qualified!” I felt this was harsh. After all, loans were easy to come by and “pre-qualified” lender letters weren’t worth much. (It’s a pre-approval you’re looking for, anyway.)
Those days are over.
Though interest rates are still at historic lows, loan approval is harder to get. Even those who think their ducks are all lined up may find something sneaky lurking in their credit report: that Victoria Secret card you forgot to pay in the rush to the alter, the seventeen applications you filled out to finance the wedding, the car you had to buy last month when you blew a gasket on the Civic and that FreeCreditReport.com service you’re paying for is not the same as the credit score your lender pulls. Other factors, like your debt-to-income ratio may be working against you if your credit card balances are high. Now that the market is hot, don’t let the numbers leave you out in the cold.
So when your agent tells you to talk to a lender and get pre-approved before you go house-hunting, assume she knows what she’s talking about. It will not only give you a pretty accurate assessment of how much house you can afford and what your payment will be, it will save you (and her) valuable time. I’ve found many buyers their dream home, watched them fall in love, and witnessed the heartbreak when what they thought was pre-approval didn’t pan out. Some lenders have you fill out online applications (a drag, I know) and zip out a BING! YOU’RE APPROVED! message without having enough information to be sure. Best practice is to set up an appointment, have an in-depth phone call, or follow-up on that online application with the necessary paperwork (tax returns, pay stubs, etc.) your lender asks for. Real estate agents are your best resource for mortgage brokers and lenders because we work with them all day long. We know who answers their cellphone at five o’clock on a Saturday, guides the loan through underwriting and shows up at the closing table. And we know who doesn’t.
These days, before I put a buyer in my car, I want them pre-approved. I also want them to schedule a clear window of time to look at houses and be prepared to write an offer on the first one they fall in love with, because by some miracle, in 2012 that house may not be there tomorrow.


It is not because I was raised in California in the 60s, vote Democratic, eat granola or need a job. (I don’t. I have two, thank you) It’s not because I’ve made or lost a fortune in the stock market, am I anti-American, anti-corporation or want to bring capitalism to its bloody knees. I do not want to share my personal story of loss, health insurance, rate-jacking on credit card rates or banking fees here, I take responsibility for the decisions I’ve made and their consequences. And I’ll leave the commentary on the inner-machinations of who/how/why we got here to the pundits and those far more adept at these things than I.
Most of my professional life has been spent working in television and as theater artist; actor, director & playwright, and I’ve made a living doing what I love. I am at home with the dramatic expression of ideas, comfortable with change and used to the variables of a 1099 income. Suffice it to say Occupy Wall Street is not my first drum circle jam. But that’s not why I’m speaking out. Six years ago, when the prospect of single-motherhood was looming, I got my real estate license, worked my ass off in a difficult market and for the most part it has been good to me (I’m used to the variable income, remember?). I’ve worked the luxury market, helped buyers find their first homes, move up to larger spaces, and have numerous investors who’ve increased their cash flow with rental and fix & flip properties. I find it very gratifying and I’m good at it.
I support Occupy Wall Street because as a Realtor©, I have worked to save clients from foreclosure, spent hours negotiating with banks over short sales, sat around kitchen tables listening to frustrations with loan modifications, and spent as much on tissue as I have on champagne. (Okay, I exaggerate, but you get the idea.) I have seen this at all income levels and from clients who did not take out loans they could not afford, use their homes as ATMs or over-purchase. When they bought the future was bright and the payments were manageable. When the bubble burst and a few of life’s bumps hit (illness, divorce, job loss or downsizing) they tried valiantly to keep their obligations and pay the mortgage…until the day they couldn’t and their homes were worth less than they owed.
We may not all share an aching drive to be rich, but I’d bet that most of us want to work hard, prosper and live comfortably enough to invest in our futures, save for our children’s college and be prepared for retirement. We’d even like a vacation or two. For years we’ve trod along hoping things would get better and worked hard to make that a reality, even if the price of our hope was the depletion of our savings. At last we are exhausted. Too many Silverado, WorldCom and Goldman Sachs sagas played out on the nightly news, followed by stories of bailouts and bonuses for those who’ve shamelessly played fast and loose with our lives.
The tide has turned in America and around the world. The tsunami is hurling us forward faster than we’ve ever collectively moved before and there is no turning back. The social/political, dare I say… evolution is upon us, the old ways are outmoded and there’s no point in retreating to their ice age. It is time to start the conversation. We’ll figure out what the next best step is, but for now… shut up and listen.