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December, 2009 Newsletter

+++++++++++ December 1, 2009 +++++++++++++++++++

CONTENTS:
Introduction: Sales Results Show Good Gains
Mortgage Rate Update: Rates Fall to New Low
This Month's Tip: "Virtual" Home Buying
++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Introduction: Sales Results Show Good Gains

Welcome to the December edition of the Home
Buyer's Newsletter. A very happy holiday season to all of
our readers.

Driven by the first-time buyer tax credit, existing-home
sales showed another big gain in October with a strong
uptrend established over the past seven months, while
inventories continue to decline, according to the National
Association of Realtors®.

Existing-home sales including single-family, townhomes,
condominiums and co-ops surged 10.1 percent to a seasonally
adjusted annual rate of 6.10 million units in October from a
downwardly revised pace of 5.54 million in September, and are
23.5 percent above the 4.94 million-unit level in October 2008.
Sales activity is at the highest pace since February 2007 when
it hit 6.55 million.

Total housing inventory at the end of October fell 3.7 percent
to 3.57 million existing homes available for sale, which represents
a 7.0-month supply2 at the current sales pace, down from an 8.0-month
supply in September. Unsold inventory totals are 14.9 percent below
a year ago.

Sales of new one-family houses in October 2009 were at a
seasonally adjusted annual rate of 430,000, according to
estimates released jointly November 25th by the U.S. Census
Bureau and the Department of Housing and Urban Development.
This is 6.2 percent (±17.6%) above the revised September
rate of 405,000 and is 5.1 percent (±14.9%)* above the
October 2008 estimate of 409,000.

The median sales price of new houses sold in October 2009
was $212,200; the average sales price was $261,100. The
seasonally adjusted estimate of new houses for sale at
the end of October was 239,000. This represents a supply of 6.7
months at the current sales rate.
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Mortgage Rate Update: Rates Fall to New Low

Mortgage rates fell to new lows in the month of November
as economic factors continued to weigh on the market.
30-year fixed-rate mortgages averaged 4.78% at the end of
the month, according to mortgage company Freddie Mac. Rates
had averaged 5.03% at the end of October, a significant
decrease. In 15-year fixed-rate mortgages, the decline
was also pronounced, from an average of 4.46% at the beginning
of the month to an average of 4.29% at the end.

For current average mortgage rates, see the
rates page.

For more information on mortgages, visit the
Mortgage Section
++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

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++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

This Month's Tip: "Virtual" Home Buying

25 years ago, the concept of accomplishing much a home home
purchase online, on a computer in your present home, would
have been as alien as colonies on Mars. Fortunately, for
today's home buyers, that day is here and it has had a major
effect on the Real Estate Industry in the last few years.
Information that was previously unavailable to consumers
(such as Multiple Listing information) is now freely
available online. Mortgage comparisons, a process that
once took many hours of hard work, now can be accomplished
in a matter of minutes.

Like much that is involved with the Internet, though, home
buying online has the potential for both a very efficient
process (a time saver) but also an inefficiency trap (a time
waster). There are some home buying processes that are
ideally suited for the web, and others that can't (or
probably shouldn't) be there. Buying a book or CD online is
a pretty straightforward process--you get the information
you need and click "BUY" to purchase it. Buying a home, due
to the level of information needed, is something entirely
different. Recent statistics from the National Association
of Realtors found that although 37% of home buyers used the
web to search for homes, only a tiny 4% actually found the home
they eventually bought on the Internet.

Understanding what you can do--and be effective at--on the
Internet and what you can't do--or be effective with--will help
to simplify the process.

WHAT YOU CAN DO ONLINE

Get Information on the Process
We're biased, we admit, but we believe that The Home Buyer's
Information Center has the largest collection of information
and tools that can assist the home buyer. Our checklists,
information sources and resource links can simplify the home
buying process (and take much of the fear out of it!)

Make Comparisons

The availability of detailed information online has probably
saved consumers tens of millions of dollars over the last few
years. Where it once was commonplace to deal with a single
source (for example, a lender) and accept whatever was offered,
it is now possible to get comparisons quickly and easily from
the comfort of your home or office. More comparisons equates
to more competition for your business and generally a better
price.
Resources on the site:
Mortgages
<http://www.ourfamilyplace.com/homebuyer/mortgage.html>
Inspections
<http://www.ourfamilyplace.com/homebuyer/inspections.html>
Insurance
<http://www.ourfamilyplace.com/homebuyer/homeowners.html>

Locate an Agent

This is especially helpful if you are buying your first home
and do not have contacts in the Real Estate industry or if you
are relocating to a new area. Many Agents (and most Real Estate
offices) maintain their own web sites, which can give you
information on service area, experience and philosophy. A good
Agent is worth their weight in gold for finding and evaluating
available homes.
IMPORTANT NOTE: If you approach the process backwards (meaning
that you find an Agent by locating a property first) the Agent
that you will find will represent the seller, not you.
Resources on the site:
<http://www.ourfamilyplace.com/homebuyer/realtor.html>

Get Pricing Information

Prior to the popularity of the Internet, getting pricing
information (previous and current sale prices and statistics)
involved a long and drawn-out process at the local courthouse,
searching for records. Now, in most states, consumers have
access to the same information available to Agents. If you
have a specific house address, you can find out prior sales
prices as well as county assessments and comparable sale
prices in the neighborhood.
Resources on the site:
<http://www.ourfamilyplace.com/homebuyer/value.html>

WHAT YOU CAN'T DO ONLINE

Tour a Home

Yes, there are "virtual tours" and videos that are sometimes
available online, but there are a couple of problems with their
application. First, they often take an eternity to download and
view. Second, the view is a biased one--you only get to see what
the seller WANTS you to see. A home is more than a collection of
pictures. It is a combination of setting, location and more than
anything else, "feel." Your time is usually better spent actually
looking at homes than wasted on watching poor quality video
presentations or "walkarounds." If you are represented by a
Buyer's Agent, they often can get you more of a feel of a property
than a few pictures would ever be able to do.

Finalize the Mortgage

Although much of the mortgage process (comparisons, pre-approvals
and applications) can be done online, you'll still need ink and
paper for at least the final mortgage commitment letter.

Settlement and Closing

The U.S. Congress recently passed the Digital Signature bill,
which allows, with certain safeguards, online "signatures" to
carry the same validity as a penned signature. Digital Signatures
as part of normal practice, though, is probably a couple of years
away. For now, you will still need to close and settle your
home purchase in person--which is probably a good thing since
you will have more opportunity for questions and clarification
should you need it.

SUMMING UP

Don't overestimate what can be done online. Buying your home is
not like buying a book, trading stock or even purchasing a high
ticket item like an automobile (where all new cars of a certain
make and model are exactly the same). A house is an investment
that becomes part of your personality--it has to have the right
feel as much as have the right numbers. Take advantage of the
many resources that are available online, but when it comes time
to make real housing choices, get out and enjoy the process.
It truly can be an exciting experience!

Further information and resources on the site:
Determining Your Needs and Wants
<http://www.ourfamilyplace.com/homebuyer/needsandwants.html>
Finding a Home
<http://www.ourfamilyplace.com/homebuyer/findahome.html>

Next Month's Tip: SHOULD You Buy?

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The Home Buying Checklist

Many of our visitors have said that one of the most valuable
aspects of the Home Buyer's Information Center is the
Buying Checklist, where they can make sure that all
the bases have been touched.
You can find the checklist
here
.

As always, if you have suggestions for improving the
site, or topics you would like to see addressed in
this newsletter (or, if you have used the Home Buyer's
Information Center to successfully purchase a home),
drop us a quick line
here.

A special thanks to all those who have written to let us know
that they have found the Home Buyer's Information Center a
helpful resource in their buying process.

Have a great month and good luck in all your endeavors!

The Team at the Home Buyer's Information Center

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