Hillsborough Title is Proud to Announce its YourDox Platform

YD Video Pic

Want to see how YOU benefit?

YourDox is technology that works automatically within our systems to offer safe and secure document storage for buyers and sellers, and post closing marketing for realtors and lenders.

Here’s how it works – with every closing, buyers and sellers get paperless delivery of their documents to their personal, secure website. Using their YourDox account, they can safely store, print, download, and email their documents at any time. They can also add any other important documents to their account for safekeeping. Every time a customer accesses their account, they are greeted with your logo, contact information, and links.

Here’s a quick overview of just some of the benefits of Hillsborough Title’s YourDox system:

How it benefits your customer:

  • Secure delivery and storage of their important documents
  • Secure site to store any additional documents
  • Environmentally-friendly paperless delivery
  • No more searching for important papers
  • Instant disaster recovery for insurance claims in case of fire, flooding, hurricanes, tropical storms, and natural disasters
  • Protection from theft, forgery, or access by others
  • Protection from deterioration such as moisture, mold & mildew
  • Notification of delivery of post-closing policies and documents
  • Notification of important dates, events, and real estate information on behalf of their real estate team

How it benefits YOU:

  • Complete, automatic post-closing marketing campaign
  • Lifetime branding and links on customer document sites – permanent marketing and brand reinforcement at document access and other key moments with all past customers, increasing repeat and referral opportunities
  • Lifetime, automatic email marketing campaign – real estate info to all past customers with their logo, links and contact info
  • Lifetime Leadsautomatic lead generation on all past customers, delivered with perfect timing.

3 Financial Reasons to Buy a Home NOW!

Part I – Prices Are Rising at an Accelerated Rate

prices up

The price of a home is the major consideration when deciding whether or not it makes financial sense to purchase a house. Experts are not only projecting that house values will increase in 2013. They are also more optimistic in the level of appreciation they are projecting as the market begins to heat up. Here are some examples:

The Home Price Expectation Survey

The latest survey of a nationwide panel of 118 economists, real estate experts and investment and market strategists reveals they project home values to end 2013 up an average of 4.6% according to the first quarter. This is after they had projected a 3.1% increase just three months ago.

Bank of America

In a report titled, Someone Say House Party?, Bank of America analysts revised their projections upward:

“Home prices continue to show momentum amid shrinking inventory and record high affordability, prompting us to revise up our original forecast of 4.7% for home prices this year. We now expect national home prices, as defined by the S&P Case Shiller home price index, to increase 8% this year.”

Capital Economics

According to a report in DSNewsCapital Economics also upgraded their prediction:

“Strong demand and tight inventory have brought existing home sales back to ‘normal’ levels, and further gains are possible, according to the latest market report from Capital Economics. Additionally, market conditions may prompt lenders to “loosen the purse strings slightly” and lend a little more freely.

These conditions, combined with broader economic indicators, lead Capital Economics to revise its previous forecast of a 5% price gain this year up to 8%.”

Morgan Stanley

In an article from HousingWireMorgan Stanley joined the party:

“Strong momentum in home prices as well as housing activity gave Morgan Stanley analysts enough confidence to upgrade their home price appreciation projections to roughly 7% (from 5%) for 2013, according to its latest global securitized credit report…

“The momentum in most metrics of housing activity is running well ahead of the pace we had expected,” said James Egan, Jose Cambronero and Vishwanath Tirupattur, analysts for Morgan Stanley.”

Not only are prices projected to appreciate. Experts are actually revising their projections upward as demand maintains its momentum.

Part II – Interest Rates Are Increasing

interest rates

A big component in the cost of a home is the mortgage interest rate a purchaser pays. Understanding where rates are headed will help in making a decision whether to buy now or wait.

So, Where Are Rates Headed?

No one can know for sure. The Fed has been artificially holding rates down to stimulate the economy. However, as the economy improves, many experts expect rates to creep up. As an example, HSH Associates, the nation’s largest publisher of mortgage and consumer loan information, recently explained:

“The stronger the economy becomes, the higher rates may grind; the Federal Reserve is keeping them low to goose the economy, but an economy responding to the Fed’s medicine will soon see less of a need for it in order to function. If not otherwise manipulated, higher rates are the natural result of a growing economy, as rising demand for available credit supply and concerns about inflation allow costs to rise.”

The Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) agrees. They were quoted in HousingWire late last year regarding their thoughts on where rates would be headed in 2013.

“After reaching record lows in 2012, mortgage rates are expected to creep up slowly in 2013, the Mortgage Bankers Association predicted.”

In the MBA’s latest Mortgage Finance Forecast they forecast that the 30 year interest rate will be 4.3% by the end of the year. This represents an increase of almost a full percentage point from the 3.4% rate available at the end of 2012.

Mortgage Payments

For example, we show the impact a one percent increase in rate will have on the monthly principal and interest payment on a $200,000 mortgage.

Freddie Mac’s Weekly Primary Mortgage Market Survey reveals that rates have increased by 2/10ths of a percentage point already this year.

As we mentioned, no one knows for sure where rates will be a year from now. But, many experts think they may be as much as a point higher. With rising residential real estate prices and the possibility of higher mortgage rates, waiting to buy a home makes no sense in our opinion.

Part III – Rents Are Skyrocketing

money evaporating house

Whether you own or rent, you will have a monthly housing expense. The question is how that expense will change in the future. When you purchase a home, for the most part, you lock-in that monthly housing expense for the length of the mortgage you take (15 or 30 years for example). When you rent a home, your housing expense is impacted by movements in the supply and demand for rental properties.

Historically, residential rental rates increase by 3.2% on an annual basis. However, in the current housing environment, there is an increasing demand for residential rental properties. This increase in demand has dramatically impacted rates. Zillow, in their most recent report, revealed that rental rates in the U.S. increased by 4.5% over the last twelve months. Other studies have projected rental rate increases of 4-5% over the next few years.

The only way to have control of your housing expense is to buy.

But Isn’t Buying Much More Expensive Than Renting?

Not right now! As a matter of fact, with prices down and mortgage rates at historic lows, it is LESS EXPENSIVE to buy than rent in most areas. In a recent reportTruliarevealed it is cheaper to buy than rent in ALL of America’s largest regions.

According to Jed Kolko, Trulia’s Chief Economist:

“People who didn’t buy a home last year may have missed the bottom of the market, but they haven’t completely missed the boat. Buying remains cheaper than renting in all 100 large metros. Even buyers who can’t get today’s lowest mortgage rates will still find that buying makes more financial sense than renting in nearly all local markets.”

However, Kolko went on to say that this opportunity may soon disappear:

“Although buying a home is still cheaper than renting, the gap is closing. In 2013, home prices should rise faster than rents, and mortgage rates are likely to rise in the next year as the economy improves. By next year, buying could be more expensive than renting in some housing markets, even for people with the best credit.”

Again, the only way to lock-in your monthly housing expense is to take that decision out of the hands of a landlord by owning. With both prices and interest rates set to increase, the best time to buy is right now.

By: The KCM Crew, KCM Blog


Existing-Home Sales Up in February; Inventory Rises from Prior Month

Existing-home sales rose 0.8 percent in February to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.98 million, the National Association of Realtors reported (NAR) Thursday. Economists had expected the sales pace to climb to 5.01 million from January’s originally reported 4.92 million. January sales were revised up to 4.94 million.

The median price of an existing single-family home rose to $173,600 in February as the median price in January was revised down to $170,600.

The inventory of homes for sale rose for the first time since last July, up 9.6 percent to 1,940,000. At the reported sales pace, that represents a 4.7-month supply of homes for sale, up from the 4.3-month supply reported for January.

The month-over-month increase in sales was the eighth in the last 12 months. February sales were 10.2 percent ahead of the pace one year ago.

The report on existing-home sales tracked NAR’s Pending Home Sales Index (PHSI) which fell in December to its lowest level since June. The PHSI, however, bounced back in January to its highest level since April 2010.

Weak prices continue to contribute to the reluctance of homeowners to list their homes. The median price of an existing single-family home averaged $176,500 over the last six months, down from $180,000 in the previous six months (which included the summer months, typically a stronger sales period). Listed inventory, according to theNAR, is 19.2 percent below a year ago, when there was a 6.4-month supply.

Sales continue to be plagued by weak inventory. The inventory of homes for sale has averaged 2,189,000 for the last 12 months, down from 2,832,000 for the previous 12 months.

Though the February median price was up 11.6 percent from a year ago, the median price of an existing single-family home has fallen for five of the last eight months. The median price is down 24.6 percent from the July 2006 peak of $230,300 and is off 8.1 percent from the 2012 peak of $188,800 in June.

Distressed homes—foreclosures and short sales—accounted for 25 percent of February sales, up from 23 percent in January but down from 34 percent in February 2012. Fifteen percent of February sales were foreclosures, and 10 percent were short sales compared with January, when 14 percent of sales were foreclosures and nine percent were short sales. Foreclosures sold for an average discount of 18 percent below market value in February, while short sales were discounted 15 percent. In January, foreclosures sold for an average discount of 20 percent, while short sales were discounted 12 percent.

Unlike the government report on new home sales which tracks contracts, the NAR report is based on closings, which means this report (though labeled “February”) actually reflects economic conditions in December, when contracts were signed amidst uncertainty that “fiscal cliff” negotiations would affect the mortgage interest tax deductions and other homeownership incentives.

The median time on market for all homes was 74 days in February, 24 percent below 97 days in February 2012, the NAR said. Short sales were on the market for a median of 101 days, while foreclosures typically sold in 52 days and non-distressed homes took 77 days. One out of three homes sold in February was on the market for less than a month.

First-time buyers, according to the NAR, accounted for 30 percent of purchases in February, unchanged from January; they were 32 percent in February 2012.

Regionally, existing-home sales in the Northeast fell 3.1 percent to an annual rate of 630,000 in February, 8.6 percent above February 2012. The median price in the Northeast was $238,800, 7.6 percent above a year ago and up 5.6 percent from January.

Existing-home sales in the Midwest slipped 1.7 percent in February to a pace of 1.14 million, 12.9 percent above a year ago. The median price in the Midwest was $129,900, up 7.7 percent from February 2012 but down 1.1 percent from January.

In the South, existing-home sales increased 2.6 percent to 2.01 million in February, 14.9 percent above February 2012. The median price in the South was $150,500, up 9.3 percent from a year ago and up 2.0 percent from January.

Existing-home sales in the West rose 2.6 percent to 1.2 million in February, 1.7 percent above a year ago. The median price in the West rose to $237,700, 22.7 percent above February 2012, but off 0.4 percent from January.

By: Mark Lieberman, Five Star Institute Economist, on DSNews


Trulia: Owning Costs 44% Less than Renting

Home price gains may be outpacing increases in rent, but the cost of being a homeowner is still much less than that of a renter, according to Trulia’s Winter 2013 Rent vs. Buy report.

After factoring all cost components including transaction costs, taxes, and opportunity costs, Trulia found buying a home is 44 percent cheaper than renting, down slightly from 46 percent a year ago.

“Although buying a home is still cheaper than renting, the gap is closing,” said Jed Kolko, Trulia’s chief economist. “In 2013, home prices should rise faster than rents, and mortgage rates are likely to rise in the next year as the economy improves. By next year, buying could be more expensive than renting in some housing markets, even for people with the best credit.”

In the last year, asking home prices showed a 7 percent gain compared to a 3.2 percent increase in rents during the same time period, according to data from the real estate site.

Trulia explained low mortgage rates have kept the cost of owning down; for the analysis, a 3.5 percent mortgage rate was assumed.

The San Francisco-based company also revealed that out of the 100 largest metros analyzed, buying was more affordable than renting in all metros.

In some metros, the cost of buying was much less than the national average. The buy-rent gap was the largest in Detroit, where buying costs 70 percent less than renting. For the next four metros in top five, the cost of owning was 63 percent less than renting; the four metros were Dayton and Cleveland in Ohio; Warren, Michigan; and Gary, Indiana.

Although owning was found to be less expensive in all metros, owners in San Francisco averaged the smallest savings at 19 percent, a steep decrease from the 35 percent savings seen in 2012.

If one were to receive a mortgage rate of 4.5 percent, Trulia noted the cost of buying would be just 9 percent cheaper in San Francisco. However, a rate of 4.5 percent would still make buying more affordable than renting in all metros analyzed.

“People who didn’t buy a home last year may have missed the bottom of the market, but they haven’t completely missed the boat,” Kolko added. “Even buyers who can’t get today’s lowest mortgage rates will still find that buying makes more financial sense than renting in nearly all local markets – so long as they can get a mortgage in the first place.”

Other metros where owning may not be as enticing to borrowers based on savings were Honolulu, where the cost of owning is 23 percent cheaper, followed by San Jose (-24 percent), New York (-26 percent) and Albany (-30 percent).

By: Esther Cho, DSNews


What’s Up with the Housing Inventory?

It’s All About Supply and Demand

Definitions of Supply and Demand:

 Dictionary.com

In classical economic theory, the relation between these two factors determines the price of a commodity. This relationship is thought to be the driving force in a free market. As demand for an item increases, prices rise. When manufacturers respond to the price increase by producing a larger supply of that item, this increases competition and drives the price down.

Investopedia.com

A theory explaining the interaction between the supply of a resource and the demand for that resource. The law of supply and demand defines the effect that the availability of a particular product and the desire (or demand) for that product has on price. Generally, if there is a low supply and a high demand, the price will be high. In contrast, the greater the supply and the lower the demand, the lower the price will be. The law of supply and demand is not an actual law but it is well confirmed and understood realization that if you have a lot of one item, the price for that item should go down.

In real estate appraisal context, the principle of Supply and Demand states that:

The price of real property varies directly, but not necessarily proportionately, with demand and inversely, but not necessarily proportionately, with supply.

My most simple explanation of Supply and Demand is: It is the relationship between sellers present in a market, which is the supply; and buyers looking, which is the demand. This relationship is reported in months’ supply of inventory.

So, what is the latest challenge?

Some (or most) might say that there are not enough “good” homes for sale. This could represent a shortage of supply, something we have not talked about for several years. It is allowing sellers to raise their asking prices and buyers who have been ‘shopping around’ are now willing to pay higher prices based on other homes they are comparing and/or contemplating to the home that they want.

Why do we have a shortage?

  • We are coming out of the worst decline (or correction) in real estate values for many generations – some pointing back to the early 1980′s, others are pointing back to the Great Depression.
  • In all of Chicagoland, our MLS showed a 37.6% decline in 5 years. The values hit their all-time high in the 3rd quarter of 2007 at $391,272, and by the 3rd quarter of 2012, they hit a low of $244,203.
  • The mean sales price at the end of the year in 2001 was $239,858, and year-end 2002 was $255,001. Therefore pricing as of the end of 2012 is at the same level that we were 10 years ago – sometime in 2002.

Why aren’t there many “good” homes for sale?

There are several contributing factors:

1. New construction – We are seeing new construction picking up again at all price points, which is certainly a positive. But with fewer builders, and more conservative approaches after getting burned, builders are not keeping up with the demand that is present. This is leaving buyers searching for resales. And because of the slowdown in new construction, (few new homes were built between 2007 and 2012) the nearly-new resales rarely exist.

Lack of new construction is a contributing factor as many builders folded or downsized significantly over the past 5-6 years.

2. Foreclosures – Foreclosures are a trend that is affecting supply of inventory. Banks are slower at foreclosing, in some cases taking over 3 years through the process. In some cases, the buyers aren’t even interested in these properties, and the investors are picking up these properties and flipping them at a profit.

Foreclosure properties, once viewed as a deal perhaps 25% to 40% under market values, are now being sold at only a 7% discount according to RealtyTimes.com.

3. Investors – Investors have entered the market at greater levels, some to purchase properties to rent, others to rehab and flip them. With the high inventory, investors were able to seek out the best deals, now there are fewer homes available for them.

4. Few people really want to sell at the bottom – Personally, I think the biggest reason that our inventory is low is simply because everyone wants to buy at the bottom; but what seller really wants to sell their home at the bottom of the market? That being said, there are many sellers who cannot sell.

Recently, I heard Steve Harney speak at the Leading Real Estate Companies of the World Conference; he stated there are over 10 million people that are still under water and cannot sell their homes. That is a significant number – these are ‘move-up buyers’ that will create a domino effect. A portion may also represent the potential downsizing buyers who have that upper priced home to sell. This is a very complicated situation. There are many opportunities in the market as demand continues to surge.

Move-up sellers have pent up demand and are ready to buy – if they can sell!

Remember, our market dropped 37.6% as a region since 2007 (some areas fell less than 20%, and other areas fell greater than 50%). The buyers with 20% down lost equity in their homes. Buyers with 5% or 10% lost substantial equity in their homes. If they sell today, they don’t have the down payment necessary for that next home.

Various predictions by “experts” suggest our recovery may be anywhere between 2% and 8% annually. At a conservative 4% annual rate of recovery, it is 5 more years before we can reach 20%.  Those who last purchased their home between 2006 and 2008 are being hurt the hardest in today’s market.

One positive is that renters are ready to purchase. Generation X and Y buyers now believe in homeownership; they want to get out of renting apartments because rents continue to go higher than taking out a mortgage. Interest rates remain at historic lows, with no indication of a significant increase of rates on the horizon.

From the 3rd quarter to the 4th quarter, Chicagoland saw its first quarter to quarter increase in sales price since prices began falling five (5) years ago. All indications are that this trend is continuing. But the increase, although welcome news, is very small. (+0.13%). Many communities throughout Chicagoland are seeing more substantial increases, some are not yet seeing increasing values. (44%, or 84 out of 191 communities) saw increases over the past quarter.

Back to Supply and Demand …

A balanced supply of inventory is considered to be 4 to 6 months. A balanced supply is going to be neutral in pricing, while an undersupply is going to lead to upward pressure on prices – a Seller’s Market. An oversupply will lead to downward pressure on prices – a Buyer’s Market.

Our supply of inventory is at its lowest level since the end of 2006 and most areas have been reduced to a balanced supply of inventory, with undersupply observed in many sub-markets in the region.

Chicago Detached housing is 3.88 months, and Attached housing (condos, townhomes, Co-ops and duplexes) is 2.87 months supply!

The anticipation is that the pricing will continue to be pressured upward as the desirable properties (in terms of location and condition/modernization) will be gobbled up. Remember the multiple-contracts driving up values last decade? Many agents are now experiencing these trends again.

Get ready for a wild and crazy ride as our real estate market in Chicagoland is pulled and pushed in all directions in 2013

This could lead to things that do not make sense in the crazed market. Real Estate professionals (Agents and Appraisers alike) must take care to understand all of the nuances in the market signaling the positives taking place.

Just what we need: more complications to try to understand.

Here are a few things to watch…

  • Watch the days on market (DOM). Take time to understand if an area’s high DOM may be due to stale listings of homes that are overpriced, distressed and/or in inferior condition.
  • Trend the increasing Sales Price-to-List Price ratios – in many sub-markets that I appraise in, I have seen these trend from 93% to 96% or higher just in the past year.
  • Track the number of pendings in relationship to the number of listings? One appraiser friend of mine tracks this and calls this “market velocity.” Right now, I see some areas where there have more pendings than listings in a given sub-market.
  • Are the pendings priced higher than the previous sales prices? Another indication of an increasing market that I am seeing in many areas.

Welcome to, we all hope, the Housing Market Recovery!

By: Chip Wagner on the KCM Blog


Homeowners 'Springing' into Action, According to Report

Recent data show homeowners are getting ahead of the curve and listing their properties earlier than in previous years as the spring selling season approaches.

A report by Realtor.com shows listing inventories increased by 1.15 percent month-over-month in February, and houses stayed on the market for an average of 98 days, down 9.26 percent from January. Month-over-month list prices also increased to $189,900.

“As we enter the busiest time of the year for home buyers and sellers, our latest housing trend data shows just how competitive the market is with a significant national housing recovery well underway,” Steve Berkowitz, CEOof Move, Inc., said in a statement.

“Looking ahead, we can expect the amount of inventory to increase this spring along with higher list prices as sellers become more comfortable with the market conditions,” Berkowitz added.

This recent spate of news indicates to some that a growing number of “move-up” homebuyers are less reluctant about venturing into the market and are taking early advantage of the recent uptick in housing prices. This positive swing coupled with the consistent, gradual downward trend of annual inventory levels, which decreased by 15.97 percent over the last two years, are giving sellers more motivation to strike while the iron is warming.

Nationally, the median list price also rose by 1.55 percent during the month of February and 1.01 percent annually, while the median age of inventory dropped in nearly all of the 146 markets Realtor.com tracks.

California markets showed the biggest decreases with year-over-year declines in for-sale inventories. Declines averaged 48 percent in Sacramento, Stockton, Oakland, San Jose, Orange County, Los Angeles, Seattle, San Francisco, Riverside, and Ventura.

Cities in coastal areas stayed on the market longer according to the report, with Seattle and Denver posting record low inventory median ages.

By: Ashley R. Harris, DSNews


Hillsborough Title Welcomes Fran Santiago

Fran Welcome

Fran Santiago, Closer- Fran was born and raised in Queen’s, NY; she has called the Bay Area “home” since 1998. After receiving a Business degree from the NYC College of Technology, Fran spent more than 5 years working her way up the Real Estate ranks. In 2011, she made the leap into the Title Insurance industry. Fran is thrilled to have joined Hillsborough Title South Tampa as a closing agent. In her free time, she enjoys spending quality time with her husband and 3 beautiful children; together, they enjoy the Florida beaches, amusement parks, and watching/playing sports.