U.S. consumer confidence rose a bit in June

 NEW YORK – June 27, 2017 – The Conference Board Consumer Confidence Index increased moderately in June after dropping a bit in May. Overall, consumers have a rosier picture of their situation today, but they’re a bit less optimistic about the future.

The Index now stands at 118.9, up from 117.6 in May. The Present Situation Index increased from 140.6 to 146.3, while the Expectations Index that gauges attitudes about the short-term future declined from 102.3 last month to 100.6.

“Consumer confidence increased moderately in June following a small decline in May,” says Lynn Franco, Director of Economic Indicators at The Conference Board.

“Consumers’ assessment of current conditions improved to a nearly 16-year high (July 2001, 151.3),” Franco adds. “Expectations for the short-term have eased somewhat but are still upbeat. Overall, consumers anticipate the economy will continue expanding in the months ahead, but they do not foresee the pace of growth accelerating.”

Present Situation Index
Consumers’ appraisal of current conditions improved in June. Those saying business conditions are “good” increased from 29.8 percent to 30.8 percent, while those saying business conditions are “bad” declined from 13.9 percent to 12.7 percent.

Consumers’ assessment of the labor market was also more positive. Those stating jobs are “plentiful” rose from 30.0 percent to 32.8 percent, while those claiming jobs are “hard to get” decreased slightly from 18.3 percent to 18.0 percent.

Expectations Index
Consumers, however, were less optimistic about the short-term outlook in June. The percentage of consumers expecting business conditions to improve over the next six months decreased from 21.5 percent to 20.4 percent, however, those expecting business conditions to worsen also declined marginally – from 10.3 percent to 9.9 percent.

Consumers’ outlook for the labor market remained mixed. The proportion expecting more jobs in the months ahead increased from 18.6 percent to 19.3 percent, but those anticipating fewer jobs increased from 12.1 percent to 14.6 percent.

The percentage of consumers expecting an improvement in their income rose from 19.1 percent to 22.2 percent, but the proportion expecting a decline increased slightly from 8.7 percent to 9.2 percent.

The monthly Consumer Confidence Survey, based on a probability-design random sample, is conducted for The Conference Board by Nielsen, a global provider of information and analytics. The cutoff date for the preliminary results was June 15.

© 2017 Florida Realtors

Related Topics: Economic indicators
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What do today’s buyers want in a home?

NEW YORK – Aug. 5, 2015 – What building materials are trending in new-home construction? The latest Annual Builder Practices Survey, conducted by Home Innovation, reveals what buyers can expect to see in the new-home market.

1. Garages: The garage door is getting more enhancements, including windows, insulated doors, and doors made of composite or plastic materials. In 2014, 32 percent of all new single-family homes had bays for three or more cars – the most ever recorded in this study’s history.

2. Flooring: Carpeting continues to be the most popular flooring option for new construction, included in about 83 percent of all new-home bedroom installations. However, only about 40 percent of living rooms now have carpet. Hardwood flooring – both solid and engineered– is the second most popular type of flooring included in 27 percent of all new-home installations. Ceramic tile (which appears in 72 percent of all bathroom floor installation) follows in third place, making up 20 percent of all new-home floor installations.

3. Countertops: For kitchen countertops, granite continues to reign in two out of three homes (64 percent of new-home installations). Quartz/engineered stone is gaining popularity while laminate, solid surfacing and ceramic tile are losing appeal.

4. Appliances: Cooktops and wall oven combinations are gaining in popularity and make up about 24 percent of the market, compared to freestanding ovens (45 percent). Freezer-on-bottom refrigerators are gaining in popularity at 19 percent, while side-by-side has fallen to 28 percent of the share.

5. Kitchen sinks: More buyers are paying attention to their kitchen sink, with the single basin kitchen sink making a comeback, growing from 5 percent to 20 percent of all new single-family homes in the past decade. Also growing in popularity are granite/stone kitchen sinks (at 8 percent). One-piece cultured marble lavatories are continuing to decline in demand.

Source: “Material World: The Hottest Trends From the 2015 Builder Practices Survey,” BUILDER Online (July 29, 2015)

© Copyright 2015 INFORMATION, INC. Bethesda, MD (301) 215-4688

4 Florida cities tops for seriously underwater homes

IRVINE, Calif. — July 30, 2015 — RealtyTrac released its second quarter (Q2) 2015 U.S. Home Equity & Underwater Report, which listed four Florida cities at the top of the list for homes seriously underwater – properties where the homeowners owe at least 25 percent more than the home’s current market worth.

Areas (population greater than 500,000) with the highest percentage of seriously underwater properties included Florida markets such as Lakeland (28.5 percent), Cleveland, Ohio (28.2 percent), Las Vegas (27.9 percent), Akron, Ohio (27.3 percent), Orlando (26.1 percent), Tampa (24.8 percent), Chicago (24.8 percent), Palm Bay(24.4 percent) and Toledo, Ohio (24.3 percent).

In addition, RealtyTrac looked at underwater homes that are also in the foreclosure process.

In the same Florida cities, over half of the homeowners going through foreclosure were seriously underwater:Lakeland (54.8 percent of foreclosures seriously underwater), Tampa (51.7 percent), Palm Bay (51.5 percent) and Orlando (51.2 percent).

Statewide, 23.6 percent Florida of homeowners with a mortgage were seriously underwater in the Q2 2015 – a drop from 23.8 percent in the first quarter and 30.3 percent year-to-year.

On the flipside, RealtyTrac found that 17.6 percent of Florida owners with a mortgage were “equity rich” with at least 50 percent equity. That’s a slight drop for the first quarter’s 17.8 percent but an increase from 15.9 percent year-to-year.

Looking only at homes in foreclosure, 62.8 percent in Florida were seriously underwater, while 18.6 percent, even though going through foreclosure, were equity rich.

“Strong South Florida price increases over the past few years have moved many homeowners from negative to positive equity. We would encourage the remaining distressed homeowners to ask for a Broker Price Opinion (BPO) regarding the value of their property – many may be surprised at their improving value,” says Mike Pappas, CEO and president of Keyes Company in South Florida.

National numbers

Nationwide, 13.3 percent of all properties with a mortgage were seriously underwater in Q2, an increase from 13.2 percent of all homes in the first quarter. However, they dropped from 17.2 percent year-to-year. At the peak of the foreclosure crisis in 2012, the percentage was 28.6 percent.

“Slowing home price appreciation in 2015 has resulted in the share of seriously underwater properties plateauing at about 13 percent of all properties with a mortgage,” says Daren Blomquist, vice president at RealtyTrac.

“However, the share of homeowners with the double-whammy of seriously underwater properties also in foreclosure is continuing to decrease and is now at the lowest level we’ve seen since we began tracking that metric in the first quarter of 2012,” he adds.

© 2015 Florida Realtors®

Feds: Mortgage fraud increased in 2011

VIENNA, Va. – The Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) – a task force created by President Obama that includes 20 federal agencies, 94 U.S. attorneys’ offices and others – released its full 2011 update of mortgage loan fraud.

According to FinCEN, banks and lenders submitted 92,028 “mortgage loan fraud suspicious activity reports” last year, a 31 percent increase over the 70,472 submitted in 2010.

Florida ranked third in states for mortgage fraud per capita; California and Hawaii took the top two spots. On a county-by-county analysis, California took four of the top five spots. Only South Florida’s Broward County made the list, coming in at No. 4.

While the number of suspicious activity reports has risen, FinCEN suggests that an increase in fraud reports may not equal an increase in fraud – lenders might just be getting better at spotting potential problems.

“The FinCEN report shows we’re seeing financial institutions spotting activity that appears to be fraud before it happens and, in the process, helping to prevent it,” says FinCEN Director James H. Freis, Jr.

Many reports also relate to problems that occurred earlier. In 2011, for example, 84 percent of the fraud events occurred more than two years prior to filing compared to 77 percent in 2010.

FHA clarifies new ‘credit dispute’ rule

WASHINGTON – April 5, 2012 – The Federal Housing Administration (FHA) back stepped a bit on a rule announced earlier. FHA says it will give borrowers a chance to explain any disputed collection accounts in their history in order to qualify for an FHA-backed mortgage. A new FHA rule took effect April 1 and had some in the real estate community concerned that it would shut more buyers out by disqualifying them for mortgages.

Under FHA’s new rule, borrowers with any credit disputes greater than $1,000 on file will not be able to get the government-backed loan. As first announced, borrowers either have to pay the remaining balance of the credit amount or show proof of entering into a payment plan for it.

The FHA is easing those restrictions somewhat, according to new instructions it provided to lenders, HousingWire reports. Borrowers will be exempt from the new rule if the credit amount is from a “life event.” This might include a medical bill, death, divorce or unemployment.

“The borrower may provide a written explanation and documentation as it applies to all types of disputed and collections accounts if it makes sense, and is consistent with other credit information in the file,” according to instructions provided to lenders.

Also starting on April 1, the FHA raised its insurance premiums, citing it as another effort to try to rebuild its emergency fund, which has fallen below the mandated amount Congress requires.

Source: “FHA Eases New Rule on Collections Accounts,” HousingWire (April 3, 2012)

© Copyright 2012 INFORMATION, INC. Bethesda, MD (301) 215-4688