CAR: REO Buyers Experience Most Difficulty In Obtaining Financing

ble home prices, low interest rates and the belief that rates will rise in the near future were the primary motivators leading home buyers to purchase in 2009 compared with last year, according to the California Association of Realtors' (CAR) 2009 Survey of California Home Buyers. According to the report, 39% of respondents reported that low interest rates helped them move to a better location, and 23% claimed the likelihood that rates will move up as the motivating factor. "After back-to-back years of sharp declines, home sales in California rebounded in 2008 and early 2009," says CAR President James Liptak. "The increase reflected the combination of favorable prices, low mortgage rates and home buyer tax credits, fueled primarily by sales of distressed properties that accounted for more than half of the state's transactions. Forty-nine percent of all buyers purchased a home through a traditional market sale, while 38% purchased a bank-owned property, according to the survey. Reflecting the difficulty in closing short sales, only 13% of buyers purchased a short-sale property. Home buyers who purchased a real estate owned property (REO) experienced the highest level of difficulty in obtaining financing, compared with a more traditional transaction. They rated the level of difficulty as 8.9 (on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 representing the greatest level of difficulty in obtaining financing), compared with a 7.7 for home buyers with a traditional market sale, and 7.6 for short-sale home buyers. Eighty-eight percent of traditional market sales and 75% of short sales were financed through fixed-rate mortgages. By contrast, just 43% of those who bought a REO/bank-owned property used fixed-rate mortgages. Financial literacy with respect to mortgage financing appears to have been a challenge for some buyers. For those buyers in a traditional market sale, 32% said that they either did not know or were not sure they knew the terms of their loan. The numbers were more encouraging for buyers of REO and short-sale properties, where only 12% and 7%, respectively, admitted they were unsure of the terms of their loan. According to the survey, the large number of distressed properties on the market provided more choices for home buyers in 2009 than in recent years. "In contrast to peak years, when inventory levels were at record lows, inventory levels over the past several months have been in the range of the long-run average," says CAR Chief Economist Leslie Appleton-Young. "With many homes available on the market at more affordable prices in the past year, home buyers have been devoting more time to considering and carefully selecting their home during the researching and buying process." On average, home buyers spent 8.4 weeks considering buying a home in 2009, compared with 7.2 weeks in 2008. Buyers spent an average of 10.3 weeks searching for a home with their Realtor, compared with 8.7 weeks in 2008. "With more uncertainties prevailing in the housing market and the general economy in the last year, buyers wanted to conduct more research prior to buying a property," adds Appleton-Young. "This was especially true of first-time buyers, who devoted more time than repeat buyers in considering buying, researching and previewing homes." The survey also found that first-time home buyers made down payments averaging 19.7% of their home sales price, compared with 28.3% for repeat buyers. Additionally, 23% of all home buyers selected their Realtor because he or she understood how to purchase foreclosures, short sales or distressed properties. No home buyers reported this as a factor in previous years. SOUR


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