Jeanne

Author, teacher, speaker, and expert witness on title insurance, real estate closings, title examination and title abstracting. Certified Distance Education Instructor for ARELLO.org. Licensed MN Education Provider with online courses for the land title industry.

Strangest Questions Asked by Buyers

Long before home buyers decide a certain place must be theirs, it behooves them to ask a lot of questions. For example: “How’s the neighborhood?” or “How old is that water heater, anyway?” Ask away! Such queries help you pare down your options, so don’t be bashful; real estate agents have heard them all.

However, the adage “There’s no such thing as a stupid question” isn’t always true. As proof, just check out this list of the strangest questions real estate agents have ever heard about a house. Cue the “Twilight Zone” music—things are about to get very, very weird.

  1. ‘How do you keep alligators from coming up into the toilet?’

Michael Lyons, a real estate broker with Lyons Realty Group in Hollywood, FL, has certainly heard his share of concerns about alligators lurking in yards, ponds, and swimming pools. But sneaking into the house? Through a toilet? That left him stumped.

“I couldn’t answer that question seriously,” he said. “So I made up some weird solution. I told them, ‘pour vinegar down the toilet once a month, they hate it.'”

This seemed to appease the buyers, who ended up purchasing the house. No word on whether or not the vinegar trick worked.

  1. ‘Do any swingers live in the neighborhood?’

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While home buyers often have questions about the neighbors, this one was a first for Kate Julian, a real estate agent with City Chic Real Estate, in Washington, DC.

“They said they were swingers and that’s something they were looking for,” she said.

Unsure what to say, she countered with, “drive around the neighborhood and see.” After all, aren’t swingers very friendly?

 

 

  1. ‘Does the car in the driveway come with the house?’

Chike Uzoka, a real estate agent with Weichert in Newark, NJ, has heard of buyers asking whether many things “come with the house,” from chandeliers and furniture to appliances and pool equipment. But a car?

The only way he could answer such a question was with sarcasm: “If the attorney doesn’t catch it in attorney review, then yes it does!”

  1. ‘Is anyone buried in the backyard?’

Larry Prigal, a real estate agent with Re/Max in Gaithersburg, MD, had no reason to believe the house he was selling had any corpses stashed 6 feet under. “So I joked, ‘I’m not aware of anyone buried here, but you can dig it up after you’ve settled on the property.’”

Who knows? Maybe the buyers were worried about our next point…

  1. ‘Are there any ghosts in the house?’

When Chris Dossman, a real estate agent with Century 21 in Indianapolis, holds open houses at older homes, it’s not uncommon to hear creaks or creepy noises. That prompts a superstitious few to pop the ghost question.

“I usually respond jokingly at first that there are ghosts but that they’re friendly, but then immediately follow with ‘just kidding,’ because people can be really weird about those things,” Dossman said. “Cellars and basements can be especially freaky, even to me.”

Nonetheless, a haunted house is, in fact, a selling point for some home buyers. Go figure.

  1. ‘I really like this house, but I need to pray about it. Is that OK?’

Kimberly Sands, a real estate broker with Coldwell Banker Sea Coast Advantage, in Wilmington, NC, said she gets this question (or some variation of it) a fair amount, so she wasn’t alarmed, at first.

“I thought the would-be buyer would go home and pray about it and then decide, so I said ‘sure.'” That’s when things got weird.

“All of the sudden she drops to her knees and starts flailing her arms and yelling at the top of her lungs: ‘Dear Jesus, please send me a sign, Jesus, a sign that I should buy this house!’ Meanwhile, I slowly started inching toward the door planning a hasty escape. I ended up waiting outside on the curb for her to come out for about 15 minutes. When she came out, she was cool, composed, and had her answer: no.”

  1. ‘Do you think the homeowner would give me the house without a down payment?’

Taken aback, Julie McDonough, a real estate agent with AmeriSell, in Southern California, told the buyer, “I can’t imagine they would.”

The buyer went on to explain that he’d taken a seminar on how to get the seller to deed the buyer the property without any credit or money.

“So I asked him, ‘How is that going? Has anyone deeded you a property yet?’” McDonough recalled. “He said, ‘No, but it’s a numbers game.’”

  1. ‘Can I come back at midnight to see how the moon here affects my soul?’

The question threw Pate Stevens for a loop, but then he figured there was no harm.

“Although a strange request, I drove over to the home at midnight to let him in,” said Stevens, a real estate agent with Nourmand & Associates, in Beverly Hills, CA.

The outcome? “He didn’t buy the house because the moon ‘didn’t feel right’ to him.”

  1. ‘Why is the garage unfurnished?’

Um. “Because the sellers use it for their cars, not as a living space,” replied Benny Kang, a real estate agent with Uniti Realty, in Irvine, CA, to which the buyer said, “Oh, you’re right.”

“When I heard that question, I thought, ‘This is going to be a long tour,'” Kang said.

  1. ‘Can we close all the blinds and doors and turn off the lights? I just need to see the space at its darkest.’

“I was pretty sure this was the end for me,” said a Brooklyn real estate agent who was holding an open house. “After I said OK, I stood by the front door with my hand on the doorknob.”

Fortunately, the agent, who asked not to be identified, made it out unscathed. “[The buyer] was this eccentric guy who I later found out was the CEO of a big startup.”

Daniel Bortz is a Realtor in Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, DC, who has written for Money magazine, Entrepreneur magazine, CNNMoney, and more.

 

CFPB Seeks Comments on Proposed Mortgage Servicing Rule

CFPB Seeks Servicing Agent Comments on Proposed Mortgage Servicing Rules.  This is an important discussion for Service Providers who work for Mortgage Lenders

 LINK TO CFPB POST

By Erik Durbin and Paul Rothstein – MAY 04, 2017

Today, we’ve released our plan to assess the effectiveness of the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (RESPA) mortgage servicing rule. We are asking the public to comment on our plan, to suggest sources of data, and generally to provide other information that would help with the assessment.

Mortgage loan servicers are typically responsible for several activities relating to mortgage loans such as:

  • Processing loan payments
  • Responding to borrower inquiries
  • Keeping track of principal and interest paid
  • Managing escrow accounts
  • Reporting to investors
  • Pursuing collection and loss mitigation activities (including foreclosures and loan modifications) under certain circumstances

In January 2013, the CFPB issued the 2013 RESPA Servicing Final Rule. We amended the rule a few times before it took effect, and we refer to all of the requirements and related amendments that took effect on January 10, 2014, as the RESPA mortgage servicing rule. This rule gave borrowers new consumer protections related to mortgage loan servicing, many of which were aimed at helping consumers who were having trouble making their mortgage payments.

The RESPA mortgage servicing rule requires, among other things, that servicers provide disclosures to borrowers related to force-placed insurance, respond to errors asserted by borrowers in a timely manner, and follow certain procedures related to loss mitigation applications and communications with borrowers. For example, servicers generally must acknowledge written notices of error within five days and investigate and respond to the borrower in writing within 30 days. In general, the consumer protection purposes of RESPA include that servicers respond to borrower requests and complaints in a timely manner, maintain and provide accurate information, help borrowers avoid unwarranted or unnecessary costs and fees, and facilitate review for foreclosure avoidance options.

The Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (Dodd-Frank Act) requires us to review some of our rules within five years after they take effect. These formal reviews are called assessments. We are conducting an assessment of the RESPA mortgage servicing rule, and we will issue a report of the assessment by January 2019. As required by law, the assessment will address the rule’s effectiveness in meeting the purposes and objectives of title X of the Dodd-Frank Act and the specific goals of the rule, using available evidence and data. We recently released our plan for the remittance rule assessment, as well.

We see conducting the assessment as an opportunity. Conducting the assessment will advance our knowledge of the benefits and costs of the key requirements of the RESPA mortgage servicing rule. The assessment will also provide the public with information on the mortgage servicing market, and help us to fulfill our commitment to be an evidence-based and effective agency.

We would like your help in improving the assessment.

We invite consumers, consumer advocates, housing counselors, mortgage loan servicers, industry representatives, and other interested parties to comment on our assessment plan. Comments can suggest sources of data, offer other recommendations, and generally provide information that would help us understand the rule’s effectiveness or improve this important work.

We are committed to well-tailored and effective regulations and have sought to carefully calibrate our efforts to ensure consistency with respect to consumer financial protections across the financial services marketplace.

Comments on the plan will be due 60 days after it is published in the Federal Register.

Learn more about your options and rights related to mortgage loans.

For more information on how to comply with the Bureau’s mortgage servicing rules, visit our implementation and guidance page.

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Join the conversation. Follow CFPB on Twitter  and Facebook .

 

SEC Addresses Important Cyber-Security Measures for Service Providers

I just completed my PCI Compliance ( Payment Card Industry Data Security Standards report that requires specific security and use of qualified vendors who accept credit card payments on our behalf.) So  data security has been on my plate and on my mind.  I was particularly concerned after hearing about the recent ransom-ware attack that affected business, governments, hospitals and other entities computers in 75 countries including the US…. Scary stuff.

So it seems important to pass on the new SEC information on cyber-security.

“The staff observed a wide range of information security practices, procedures and controls across registrants that may be tailored to the firms’ operations, lines of business, risk profile and size,” as well as “firm practices during this Initiative that the staff believes may be particularly relevant to smaller registrants in relation to the recent WannaCry ransomware incident.”

Key findings from the examination, as reported in the alert, are as follows:

  • Cyberrisk assessment: “5 percent of broker-dealers and 26 percent of advisers and funds (collectively, ‘investment management firms’) examined did not conduct periodic risk assessments of critical systems to identify cybersecurity threats, vulnerabilities, and the potential business consequences.”
  • Penetration tests: “5 percent of broker-dealers and 57 percent of the investment management firms examined did not conduct penetration tests and vulnerability scans on systems that the firms considered to be critical.”
  • System maintenance: “All broker-dealers and 96 percent of investment management firms examined have a process in place for ensuring regular system maintenance, including the installation of software patches to address security vulnerabilities. However, 10 percent of the broker-dealers and 4 percent of investment management firms examined had a significant number of critical and high-risk security patches that were missing important updates.”

The SEC also noted that the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) has created a webpage with links to resources related to cybersecurity. It includes a cybersecurity checklist for small firms and a report on cybersecurity practices, which highlights effective practices for strengthening cybersecurity programs.

It is estimated that the ransomware attack affected more than 200,000 computers in about 150 countries, beginning May 12. The malicious software is known as “WannaCry,” “WCry” and “Wanna Decryptor,” which works by encrypting files and demands payment from users to regain access to their data.

“Initial reports indicate that the hacker or hacking group behind the attack is gaining access to enterprise servers either through Microsoft Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) compromise or the exploitation of a critical Windows Server Message Block version 1 vulnerability,” the alert states. “Some networks have also been affected through phishing emails and malicious websites.

“To protect against the WannaCry ransomware, broker-dealers and investment management firms are encouraged to:

(1) review the alert published by the United States Department of Homeland Security’s Computer Emergency Readiness Team and

(2) evaluate whether applicable Microsoft patches for Windows XP, Windows 8, and Windows Server 2003 operating systems are properly and timely installed.”

MN Dept Commerce New E-license Website

The Minnesota Department of Commerce  has a new e-license Website regarding Closing Agent Licenses, look here for info:  https://mn.gov/elicense/a-z/?id=1083231369#/list/appId//filterType//filterValue//page/1/sort//order/

For the Abstracter Licensing the new  e-license link is: https://mn.gov/elicense/a-z/#/list/appId/0/filterType/Subject/filterValue/Abstracters/page/1/sort//order/

Best Laid Plans

I certainly planned to have the NEW, updated abstract course online by now, but with some surgery and other family issues it has been delayed a bit.  Not sure when life will fall back to normal, but hope to soon be back on target. Thanks for your patience, and please call or email with questions.

CFPB Fines Mortgage Lender, Real Estate Brokers and Servicer

CFPB Orders Prospect Mortgage to Pay $3.5 Million Fine for Illegal Kickback Scheme

Real Estate Brokers and Mortgage Servicer also Ordered to Pay $495,000

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) today took action against Prospect Mortgage, LLC, a major mortgage lender, for paying illegal kickbacks for mortgage business referrals. The CFPB also took action against two real estate brokers and a mortgage servicer that took illegal kickbacks from Prospect. Under the terms of the action announced today, Prospect will pay a $3.5 million civil penalty for its illegal conduct, and the real estate brokers and servicer will pay a combined $495,000 in consumer relief, repayment of ill-gotten gains, and penalties.

“Today’s action sends a clear message that it is illegal to make or accept payments for mortgage referrals,” said CFPB Director Richard Cordray. “We will hold both sides of these improper arrangements accountable for breaking the law, which skews the real estate market to the disadvantage of consumers and honest businesses.”

Prospect Mortgage, LLC, headquartered in Sherman Oaks, Calif., is one of the largest independent retail mortgage lenders in the United States, with nearly 100 branches nationwide. RGC Services, Inc., (doing business as ReMax Gold Coast), based in Ventura, Calif., and Willamette Legacy, LLC, (doing business as Keller Williams Mid-Willamette), based in Corvallis, Ore., are two of more than 100 real estate brokers with which Prospect had improper arrangements. Planet Home Lending, LLC is a mortgage servicer headquartered in Meriden, Conn., that referred consumers to Prospect Mortgage and accepted fees in return.

The CFPB is responsible for enforcing the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act, which was enacted in 1974 as a response to abuses in the real estate settlement process. A primary purpose of the law is to eliminate kickbacks or referral fees that tend to increase unnecessarily the costs of certain settlement services. The law covers any service provided in connection with a real estate settlement, such as title insurance, appraisals, inspections, and loan origination.

Prospect Mortgage

Prospect Mortgage offers a range of mortgages to consumers, including conventional, FHA, and VA loans. From at least 2011 through 2016, Prospect Mortgage used a variety of schemes to pay kickbacks for referrals of mortgage business in violation of the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act. For example, Prospect established marketing services agreements with companies, which were framed as payments for advertising or promotional services, but in this case actually served to disguise payments for referrals. Specifically, the CFPB found that Prospect Mortgage:

  • Paid for referrals through agreements: Prospect maintained various agreements with over 100 real estate brokers, including ReMax Gold Coast and Keller Williams Mid-Willamette, which served primarily as vehicles to deliver payments for referrals of mortgage business. Prospect tracked the number of referrals made by each broker and adjusted the amounts paid accordingly. Prospect also had other, more informal, co-marketing arrangements that operated as vehicles to make payments for referrals.
  • Paid brokers to require consumers – even those who had already prequalified with another lender – to prequalify with Prospect: One particular method Prospect used to obtain referrals under their lead agreements was to have brokers engage in a practice of “writing in” Prospect into their real estate listings. “Writing in” meant that brokers and their agents required anyone seeking to purchase a listed property to obtain prequalification with Prospect, even consumers who had prequalified for a mortgage with another lender.
  • Split fees with a mortgage servicer to obtain consumer referrals: Prospect and Planet Home Lending had an agreement under which Planet worked to identify and persuade eligible consumers to refinance with Prospect for their Home Affordable Refinance Program (HARP) mortgages. Prospect compensated Planet for the referrals by splitting the proceeds of the sale of such loans evenly with Planet. Prospect also sent the resulting mortgage servicing rights back to Planet.

Under the consent order issued today, Prospect will pay $3.5 million to the CFPB’s Civil Penalty Fund for its illegal kickback schemes. The company is prohibited from future violations of the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act, will not pay for referrals, and will not enter into any agreements with settlement service providers to endorse the use of their services.

The consent order filed against Prospect Mortgage is available at:http://files.consumerfinance.gov/f/documents/201701_cfpb_ProspectMortgage-consent-order.pdf

ReMax Gold Coast and Keller Williams Mid-Willamette

ReMax Gold Coast and Keller Williams Mid-Willamette are real estate brokers that work with consumers seeking to buy or sell real estate. Brokers or agents often make recommendations to their clients for various services, such as mortgage lending, title insurance, or home inspectors. Among other things, the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act prohibits brokers and agents from exploiting consumers’ reliance on these recommendations by accepting payments or kickbacks in return for referrals to particular service providers.

The CFPB’s investigation found that ReMax Gold Coast and Keller Williams Mid-Willamette accepted illegal payment for referrals. Both companies were among more than 100 brokers who had marketing services agreements, lead agreements, and desk-license agreements with Prospect, which were, in whole or in part, vehicles to obtain illegal payments for referrals.

Under the consent orders filed today, both companies are prohibited from violating the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act, will not pay or accept payment for referrals, and will not enter into any agreements with settlement service providers to endorse the use of their services. ReMax Gold Coast will pay $50,000 in civil money penalties, and Keller Williams Mid-Willamette will pay $145,000 in disgorgement and $35,000 in penalties.

The consent order filed against ReMax Gold Coast is available at:http://files.consumerfinance.gov/f/documents/201701_cfpb_RGCServices-consent-order.pdf

The consent order filed against Keller Williams Mid-Willamette is available at:http://files.consumerfinance.gov/f/documents/201701_cfpb_Willamette-Legacy-consent-order.pdf

Planet Home Lending

In 2012, Planet Home Lending signed a contract with Prospect Mortgage that facilitated the payment of illegal referral fees. The company’s practices violated the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act and the Fair Credit Reporting Act. Specifically, the CFPB found that Planet Home Lending:

  • Accepted fees from Prospect for referring consumers seeking to refinance:Under their arrangement, Planet Home Lending took half the proceeds earned by Prospect for the sale of each mortgage loan originated as a result of a referral from Planet. Planet also accepted the return of the mortgage servicing rights of that consumer’s new mortgage loan.
  • Unlawfully used “trigger leads” to market to Prospect to consumers: Planet ordered “trigger leads” from one of the major consumer reporting agencies to identify which of its consumers were seeking to refinance so it could market Prospect to them. This was a prohibited use of credit reports under the Fair Credit Reporting Act because Planet was not a lender and could not make a firm offer of credit to those consumers.

Under the consent order filed against Planet Home Lending, the company will directly pay harmed consumers a total of $265,000 in redress. The company is also prohibited from violating the Fair Credit Reporting Act and the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act, will not pay or accept payment for referrals, and will not enter into any agreements with settlement service providers to endorse the use of their services.

The consent order filed against Planet Home Lending is available at:http://files.consumerfinance.gov/f/documents/201701_cfpb_PlanetHomeLending-consent-order.pdf

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The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is a 21st century agency that helps consumer finance markets work by making rules more effective, by consistently and fairly enforcing those rules, and by empowering consumers to take more control over their economic lives. For more information, visit consumerfinance.gov.

 

CFPB Issues Mortgage Complaint Report

The latest CFPB Complaint Report for Mortgages shows that, by far, the largest number of complaints filed with the CFPB were with the Credit Reporting Agencies – Equifax, TransUnion and Experian, having 3,897 complaints nationwide on credit reports in January.  Mortgage complaint leaders were Wells Fargo, Bank of America and JP Morgan Chase. To read the latest full mortgage report: click here for CFPB Complaint Report.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) is the first federal agency solely focused on

consumer financial protection,1 and consumer complaints are an integral part of that work. The

CFPB helps connect consumers with financial companies to make their voices heard. When

consumers submit a complaint, they work with companies to get the consumer a response,

generally within 15 days. They also publish basic information about complaints in our public

Consumer Complaint Database to empower consumers, inform consumer advocates, and improve the functioning of the marketplace.

HUD REACHES SETTLEMENT AGREEMENTS COMPANIES RE: VIOLATING FAIR HOUSING ACT

HUD Press Release
Thursday January 26, 2017

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development announced agreements with two insurance companies in Ohio and Florida settling allegations the companies violated the Fair Housing Act by denying insurance coverage to properties that contain “subsidized housing” and “low-income housing.”

The Fair Housing Act makes it unlawful for providers of housing-related services or products, including insurance providers, to discriminate because of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, disability, and familial status.

The agreements stemmed from a Secretary-Initiated complaint HUD filed after receiving reports the insurance companies’ policies and practices had a discriminatory effect because of race and national origin. Specifically, HUD’s complaint alleged that the companies refused to provide umbrella coverage, which provides additional liability coverage when an insured’s other primary policy limits have been reached, to properties containing subsidized or low-income housing.

Under the agreements, McGowan and Company will remove “subsidized” and “low-income” from its list of prohibited properties, spend $100,000 to affirmatively market its services and products to the affordable and low-income housing markets and provide fair housing training for management and staff that review and/or approve applications for insurance. Mack & Waltz will spend $10,000 to affirmatively promote its services in affordable and low-income housing markets, and provide fair housing training for its management and staff.

People who believe they have experienced discrimination may file a complaint by contacting HUD’s Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity at (800) 669-9777 (voice) or (800) 927-9275 (TTY). Housing discrimination complaints may also be filed by going to www.hud.gov/fairhousing, or by downloading HUD’s free housing discrimination mobile application, which can be accessed through Apple and Android devices.

 

MBA Introduces GSE Reform Principles and Guardrails

Mortgage Bankers Association Press Release

“Today’s paper is intended to provide thoughtful recommendations on how to reform the GSEs while ensuring a healthy, robust secondary mortgage market emerges for both single-family and multifamily mortgages,” said Rodrigo Lopez CMB, Executive Chairman of NorthMarq Capital and Chairman of MBA. “The U.S. mortgage market requires global capital in order to maintain adequate liquidity through all economic cycles.  International and institutional investors will only fill that role if there is an explicit government guarantee on the securities, something that can only be obtained by congressional action.”

The MBA will elaborate on all of these concepts in its full paper, anticipated in April, and will also include more detailed end-state reform recommendations including a comprehensive transition plan and affordable housing strategy.

Existing-Home Sales Slide in December; 2016 Sales Best Since 2006

Press Release

WASHINGTON (January 24, 2017) — Existing-home sales closed out 2016 as the best year in a decade, even as sales declined in December as the result of ongoing affordability tensions and historically low supply levels, according to the National Association of Realtors®.

Total existing-home sales 1, which are completed transactions that include single-family homes, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops, finished 2016 at 5.45 million sales and surpassed 2015 (5.25 million) as the highest since 2006 (6.48 million).

In December, existing sales decreased 2.8 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.49 million in December from an upwardly revised 5.65 million in November. With last month’s slide, sales are only 0.7 percent higher than a year ago.

Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, says the housing market’s best year since the Great Recession ended on a healthy but somewhat softer note. “Solid job creation throughout 2016 and exceptionally low mortgage rates translated into a good year for the housing market,” he said. “However, higher mortgage rates and home prices combined with record low inventory levels stunted sales in much of the country in December.”

Added Yun, “While a lack of listings and fast rising home prices was a headwind all year, the surge in rates since early November ultimately caught some prospective buyers off guard and dimmed their appetite or ability to buy a home as 2016 came to an end.”

The median existing-home price 2 for all housing types in December was $232,200, up 4.0 percent from December 2015 ($223,200). December’s price increase marks the 58thconsecutive month of year-over-year gains.

Total housing inventory 3 at the end of December dropped 10.8 percent to 1.65 million existing homes available for sale, which is the lowest level since NAR began tracking the supply of all housing types in 1999. Inventory is 6.3 percent lower than a year ago (1.76 million), has fallen year-over-year for 19 straight months and is at a 3.6-month supply at the current sales pace (3.9 months in December 2015).

“Housing affordability for both buying and renting remains a pressing concern because of another year of insufficient home construction,” said Yun. “Given current population and economic growth trends, housing starts should be in the range of 1.5 million to 1.6 million completions and not stuck at recessionary levels. More needs to be done to address the regulatory and cost burdens preventing builders from ramping up production.”

According to Freddie Mac, the average commitment rate(link is external) for a 30-year, conventional, fixed-rate mortgage surged in December to 4.20 percent from 3.77 percent in November. December’s average commitment rate was the highest rate since April 2014 (4.32 percent).

First-time buyers were 32 percent of sales in December, which is unchanged both from November and a year ago. First-time buyers also represented 32 percent of sales in all of 2016. NAR’s 2016 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellersreleased in late 2016 4 — revealed that the annual share of first-time buyers was 35 percent.

“Constrained inventory in many areas and climbing rents, home prices and mortgage rates means it’s not getting any easier to be a first-time buyer,” said Yun. “It’ll take more entry-level supply, continued job gains and even stronger wage growth for first-timers to make up a greater share of the market.”

On the topic of first-time- and moderate-income buyers, NAR President William E. Brown, a Realtor® from Alamo, California, says Realtors® look forward to working with the Federal Housing Administration to express why it is necessary to follow through with the previously announced decision to reduce the cost of mortgage insurance. By cutting annual premiums from 0.85 percent to 0.60 percent, an FHA-insured mortgage becomes a more viable and affordable option for these buyers.

“Without the premium reduction, we estimate that roughly 750,000 to 850,000 homebuyers will face higher costs and between 30,000 and 40,000 would-be buyers will be prevented from entering the market,” he said.

Properties typically stayed on the market for 52 days in December, up from 43 days in November but down from a year ago (58 days). Short sales were on the market the longest at a median of 97 days in December, while foreclosures sold in 53 days and non-distressed homes took 50 days. Thirty-seven percent of homes sold in December were on the market for less than a month.

Inventory data from Realtor.com® reveals that the metropolitan statistical areas where listings stayed on the market the shortest amount of time in December were San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, Calif., 49 days; San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, Calif., and Nashville-Davidson-Murfreesboro-Franklin, Tenn., 50 days; and Billings, Mont., and Hanford-Corcoran, Calif., both at 51 days.

All-cash sales were 21 percent of transactions in December, unchanged from November and down from 24 percent a year ago. Individual investors, who account for many cash sales, purchased 15 percent of homes in December, up from 12 percent in November and unchanged from a year ago. Fifty-nine percent of investors paid in cash in December.

Distressed sales 5 — foreclosures and short sales — rose to 7 percent in December, up from 6 percent in November but down from 8 percent a year ago. Five percent of December sales were foreclosures and 2 percent were short sales. Foreclosures sold for an average discount of 20 percent below market value in December (17 percent in November), while short sales were discounted 10 percent (16 percent in November).

Single-family and Condo/Co-op Sales

Single-family home sales declined 1.8 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.88 million in December from 4.97 million in November, but are still 1.5 percent above the 4.81 million pace a year ago. The median existing single-family home price was $233,500 in December, up 3.8 percent from December 2015.

Existing condominium and co-op sales dropped 10.3 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 610,000 units in December, and are now 4.7 percent below a year ago. The median existing condo price was $221,600 in December, which is 5.5 percent above a year ago.

Regional Breakdown

December existing-home sales in the Northeast slid 6.2 percent to an annual rate of 760,000, but are still 2.7 percent above a year ago. The median price in the Northeast was $245,900, which is 3.8 percent below December 2015.

In the Midwest, existing-home sales decreased 3.8 percent to an annual rate of 1.28 million in December, but are still 2.4 percent above a year ago. The median price in the Midwest was $178,400, up 4.6 percent from a year ago.

Existing-home sales in the South in December were at an annual rate of 2.25 million (unchanged from November), and are 0.4 percent above December 2015. The median price in the South was $207,600, up 6.5 percent from a year ago.

Existing-home sales in the West fell 4.8 percent to an annual rate of 1.20 million in December, and are now 1.6 percent below a year ago. The median price in the West was $341,000, up 6.0 percent from December 2015.

The National Association of Realtors®, “The Voice for Real Estate,” is America’s largest trade association, representing 1.2 million members involved in all aspects of the residential and commercial real estate industries.

Info On Home Closing

Home Closing 101: An Educational Initiative of the American Land Title Association