Repairing Your Lawn this Summer: Brown Spots and Dog Damage

Wondering if those brown spots in your lawn are from your dog or something else? Scotts offers some great tips on how to keep your lawn green and healthy. For instance, fertilizing your lawn properly and not overwatering can actually help keep your grass drought tolerant as we head into the hot summer months. You can check out all their tips here, but here’s some useful info how to identify and treat your lawn to stop those ugly brown spots…


Brown Patch

Brown patch is a lawn fungus that forms brown, circular patterns. It usually appears in warm, humid weather. Its circles can be several feet wide.

When It’s Hot and Humid, Keep an Eye Out for Brown Circles in the Lawn

If you have large, brown circles on your lawn, you could be looking at brown patch fungus. Brown patch shows up when the weather turns hot and sticky. Its circular patterns are sometimes several feet wide. While any lawn can suffer from brown patch, lawns with St. Augustinegrass are particularly vulnerable. Fortunately, there are some easy steps you can follow to control this lawn disease.

Restrict Your Watering

Brown patch thrives in humidity and damp conditions. You want to water your lawn only once a week to control the amount of moisture on the lawn. Watering once a week keeps your lawn healthy, while allowing it to dry out. Brown patch hates all things dry.

Treat Your Lawn with a Fungus Control

Brown patch responds to anti-fungal treatments. Apply a lawn fungus control product every other week. You’ll need to make at least 3 applications.


Dog Damage

Our dogs appreciate our lawns as much as we do, though for different reasons. While we mostly love our lawns for their looks, our canine pals enjoy them as a place to run, play, roll on their backs, and do their business. Here are a few simple tips that will help you keep your grass looking good and your dog safe and happy.

Prevent and Repair Dog Damage

Salts in your dog’s urine cause those familiar brown spots ringed by dark green, fast-growing grass. Mowing high will help lessen the effect, as will flushing affected areas with water as soon as possible. Badly damaged spots will need to be repaired, however, by reseeding or patching with sod.  A more permanent and effective solution is to create a mulched area at the back of your yard and train your dog to go there.

Feed Your Lawn at Recommended Amounts

Feed your lawn on a regular schedule (4 times a year is best for most grasses) for thick, strong turf that will stand up to heavy use. Over-applying won’t help the lawn. Be sure to follow the directions and spreader settings listed on the package when applying fertilizer and other lawn products.

Wait as Directed

After applying any lawn product, keep your dog off the lawn according to the label directions. Areas treated with fertilizer can be entered immediately after application, although we recommend watering the lawn and waiting until it dries before anyone walks on it. That helps activate the fertilizer and prevents it from being tracked into the house. Check the package for directions when applying any weed or insect control; most recommend keeping pets off the lawn after application for a certain period. And remember, all lawn products should be stored properly, where kids and pets can’t get into them.

Don’t Panic if Your Dog Eats Grass

You shouldn’t be surprised if your dog sometimes eats grass and vomits. Most do that occasionally as a way to treat an upset stomach, and it would take more than a few mouthfuls of grass clippings to cause harm.


15 Ways to Stay Cool & Save

With summers trending hotter and budgets getting tighter, it’s tough to stay cool. Here’s some great tips from Better Homes and Gardens on how to reduce your summer energy bills without breaking the bank.

1) Replace Your Windows  According to the EPA, Energy Star-qualified windows can save the typical household $125-$450 per year in energy costs when replacing single-pane windows and $25-$110 per year when replacing double-pane clear-glass windows.

What makes a window energy-efficient?

— Improved frame materials such as wood composites, vinyl, and fiberglass reduce heat transfer and improve insulation.
— Low-E glass with special coatings reflects infrared light, keeping out summer heat.
— Gases between the panes, such as argon or krypton, insulate better than regular air.
— Multiple panes of glass with air or gas in between insulate better than a single pane.
— Warm-edge spacers keep a window’s panes the correct distance apart to reduce heat flow and prevent condensation.

2) Delay Heat-Producing Activities  To save energy and keep your kitchen cool at dinnertime, use your grill and microwave instead of the cooktop and oven as much as possible. Plan your schedule so you can run the dryer, dishwasher, and oven in the early morning or evening rather than in the heat of the day. Air-conditioning lowers humidity as it cools the air, so you shouldn’t need to run a separate dehumidifier if you have air-conditioning.

3) Maximize Efficiency  Let your heating and cooling system do the thinking for you. When set and used properly, a programmable thermostat can save about $100 in energy costs each year. You should also protect your investment. Schedule annual preseason maintenance checkups with a licensed contractor to ensure your system is operating efficiently. Check the air filter monthly and replace it as needed. Finally, use a caulk gun to seal leaks around windows, doors, and ducts that cause drafts and make your heating and cooling system work overtime.

4) Turn Up Your Thermostat  The recommended temperature setting for comfort and energy savings in an air-conditioned room is 78 degrees Fahrenheit. Resist the urge to drop the temperature for a quick cool, which taxes your cooling unit.

5) Put Windows to Work  Close your house tightly during the heat of the day. Don’t just close windows; lock them to create an airtight seal that eliminates cool-air leaks. If outdoor temperatures are cool at night, cross-ventilate rooms by opening windows. Close them again in the morning to seal in the cool air. Also, close curtains or lower shades during the day.

6) Take Advantage of Shade  Reduce the load on your air-conditioner by shading east-, south-, and west-facing windows. Outside, extend roof eaves or add a trellis or awning to shade windows. Add tinted window film to lessen the effects of radiant heat and UV light while maintaining views.

7) Insulate Your Attic  If an attic inspection reveals insulation scattered halfheartedly among the floor trusses, head to your local home improvement center to get more. If you use your attic for storage, don’t remove all those boxes; simply insulate between the joints. In terms of reduced energy costs, the payback time for a few hundred dollar’s worth of insulation can typically be measured in months, not years.

8) Move the Air  It’s basic, but it’s true: If you keep the air in your house moving with a ceiling, box, or window fans, you’ll feel cooler. Place window fans in your north-facing windows to draw in the cooler air. Place others in your south-facing windows to push out the hot interior air. Box fans keep the air moving horizontally; ceiling fans should be set so they blow air down during the summer months.

9) Plant Trees with a Purpose  Planting trees on the south and west sides of your house will pay off when they’re full-grown. A mature oak or maple can block the sun’s most intense rays from heating your home. And during the winter, leafless branches let sunshine through to brighten the interior — and your spirits.

10) Reduce Ambient Heat Culprits  Your cooling apparatus will work less — and use less energy — if you cut back on interior elements generating heat. Ninety-five percent of the energy an incandescent light bulb uses goes to heating the bulb; install compact fluorescent bulbs instead. Shutting down unused electronics also reduces heat (and your electricity costs). Use your dryer in the early morning or late evening, or use a clothesline instead.

11) Wrap Your House  Are you working on a large-scale addition or a project that requires removal or relocation of exterior walls? A high-quality house wrap, applied to the outside of exterior walls prior to siding installation, will keep your home cool and reduce your energy bills.

12) Install a Whole-House Fan  It uses a fraction of the electricity of a full-blown air-conditioning system. It’s best suited for areas with hot summer days coupled with cool nights, such as the Pacific Northwest. All night, the fan pulls in outside air to cool the house. Many whole-house fans can be programmed to shut off during the warmest hours of the day.

13) Shop Smart  Room air-conditioners are notorious energy hogs. To minimize the cost, choose an Energy Star-rated window unit properly sized for the room you wish to cool. Energy Star-qualified room air-conditioners use at least 10 percent less energy than conventional models.

14) Get Swamped  Swamp coolers are popular in the Southwest because they add a comfortable level of humidity to dry air, are relatively inexpensive, use a quarter as much electricity as a standard unit, and they are easy to maintain. On the inside, water-soaked pads frame the unit. A fan blows hot outside air through the wet pads, cooling the air by about 20 degrees Fahrenheit as the water molecules evaporate. The cooled air is then blown into the house through a vent.

15) Go Geothermal  Planning to stay in your house for 10 or more years? Install a geothermal system. It harnesses the earth’s natural thermal energy via buried pipes filled with a liquid similar to antifreeze. During the summer, it pulls out warm air and dissipates it through the pipes. During the winter, it works in reverse, bringing the earth’s warmth to your house. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, geothermal systems save homeowners 20-50 percent in cooling costs and 30-70 percent in heating costs compared with conventional systems.

Tax Benefits of Home Ownership Are Almost Too Good to Be True: Uncle Sam helps you in three ways when you own your home

They say there are only two things you can count on in this world: death and taxes. But when it comes to owning a home, it appears there may be a third. And that is the favorable treatment of home ownership by the Internal Revenue Service.

1. The purchase

When buying your own home, most of the expenses are not tax deductible. But there is one exception that is worth finding.

The IRS says you can deduct interest in the year that it is paid, and that is usually part of each monthly loan payment. In addition, if the day you purchase is on any day other than the first of the month, you will likely pay a charge for “daily interest” between the day of closing and the end of the month. Look on line 901 of your HUD settlement statement.

Much more importantly, the IRS says that, in most cases, loan discount points and origination fees are tax deductible to the buyer, regardless of who pays them. Look at lines 801 and 802 of your settlement statement and see if you hit the jackpot. This is a particularly unusual deduction because you get the benefit even if the seller paid your closing costs. And because origination fees of 1% and more are common, this can amount to a lot of cash.

2. Mortgage interest

In general, you can deduct interest charged on a loan used to acquire or improve your principal residence in the year that it is paid. In the early years of a loan, most of your monthly payment is interest, so this can really add up. If you are in a 28% federal tax bracket, this can have the effect of lowering your borrowing costs by almost a third, depending on which state you live in. This is truly nothing more than a subsidy to home owners, and it’s a very popular deduction.

In addition, you can always deduct interest on an additional $100,000 of mortgage debt, which can be used for any purpose. This is called the “Home Equity Loan” exception, and it allows you to tap into your home equity for any purpose. This gives home owners the ability to do what is called “debt-shifting.” For example, if you live in an apartment and have a credit card balance of $10,000 at 18% interest, none of that interest would be deductible. But if you bought a house, obtained a home equity loan for $10,000 and paid off the credit card, then ALL of the interest expense becomes automatically deductible. Furthermore, the rate on the home equity loan is likely to be around prime plus one or two, usually much lower than credit card rates. This same technique works with any and all personal debt, from car loans to consolidation loans – with only one hitch. In every home equity loan, you have pledged your house as collateral for the loan. If you fail to pay the payments as agreed, you could lose your house to foreclosure. So be careful in using this technique.

3. The sale

This is the best. In fact, I can hardly believe this myself. Here’s how it works:

If you have owned and occupied your principal residence for at least two of the past five years, you can earn up to $500,000 on the sale of that house and pay no federal income tax whatsoever. That’s assuming you are married – singles get up to $250,000 tax free. And here comes the kicker:

You can do this as often as every two years for the rest of your life.

This is as good an excuse for getting married as I have ever heard. Buy a fixer-upper in an up and coming neighborhood, work on it nights and weekends for two years, then sell it at a nice profit and pocket the cash, totally free of federal taxes. And most states recognize the federal exclusion, so you put the cash away totally tax free. You don’t have to re-invest, you don’t have to be age 55, and you can do this every two years forever. No, I’m not kidding.

The one restriction is that you MUST own and occupy the house as your principal residence, so don’t try this on a rental property by pretending you live there when you don’t. And there are some unclear rules about how you can take a partial exclusion if you live there less than two years, but we don’t really know what they mean yet, so I recommend you stay there two years.

Many of these benefits came into being with the 1997 tax law, but lots of folks are just finding out about them now, so buy and sell to your heart’s content. Just don’t plan on staying forever!


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June Home Prices Provide Further Evidence of Budding Recovery

Clear Capital®, a premium provider of data and real estate asset valuation, investment and risk assessment, has released its Home Data Index™ (HDI) Market Report with data through June 2012. The HDI Market Report uses a broad array of public and proprietary data sources providing the most timely and relevant analysis available. Methodology details are on page seven of this report.

Report highlights include:

  • June saw further support for a housing price recovery in sustained momentum with broad-based advances.
  • The nation’s home prices rebounded with quarterly and yearly gains of 1.7 percent.
  • Regional performance improved across the board.
  • The West led the regions in price recovery and forecasted growth, offering insight to the next chapter of recovery.
  • The Midwest gained ground over the rolling quarter, recovering from the persistent price declines over the last year.
  • Home price forecast through 2012 shows continued growth for the nation, regions, and a majority of the top MSAs.

“June home price trends provided further evidence that housing has turned the corner, with the momentum of the recovery picking up speed,” says Dr. Alex Villacorta, Director of Research and Analytics at Clear Capital. “Prices continue to climb at the national level, with each of the four regions showing improvements over last month. The West continued as the front runner in terms of overall market correction, with growth branching out from the low tier to mid and higher priced homes. Seeing price growth expand to other sub-markets is a key step in the evolution of this recovery. Even the Midwest started to catch up to the other regions, shedding the drag of recent declines.

“Looking forward over the rest of 2012, we expect to see national, regional, and most metro markets improve by varying degrees. And while it’s encouraging to see broad based advancements coupled with positive forecasts, we remain cautiously optimistic. The current strength in housing fundamentals remains vulnerable to domestic and global economic challenges,” Villacorta adds. “But right now the market is the strongest it’s been since the start of the downturn, and barring a major economic meltdown, we expect to see this organic growth sustain and strengthen through the end of the year.”

Year-over-Year Prices: Improving and Expected to Grow Through 2012

National home prices appreciated by 1.7 percent over the previous year, picking up notable momentum over last month’s marginal gains of 0.1 percent. The progress is expected to extend over the second half of 2012, with additional growth of 2.5 percent forecasted through the end of the year. The current and future expected growth at the national level is a direct result of broad-based regional gains increasing in momentum, coupled with progress expanding across sectors, as seen in the West.

Falling in line with short term trends, the West made the largest contribution to national gains over the last year, posting annual price advances of 4.1 percent. The superior performance, fueled by expanded gains across price tiers, is expected to continue through 2012 with an additional 5.75 percent growth over the next two quarters.

Meanwhile, Northeast home prices tacked on 2.3 percent over the last year. This region, having experienced moderate yearly growth over the last nine months is also expected to see additional gains of 1.8% through the end of 2012.

The South saw prices inflate 1.5 percent over the last year, an improvement over the annual growth of 0.9 percent shown in last month’s Market Report. The accelerating trend is expected to continue, with the South forecasted to see home prices notch up another 1.9 percent by year’s end.

Certainly the Midwest made improvements in long term price trends, but just missed turning a gain with year-over-year losses of 0.6 percent. Although the region continued to see prices slide, the losses tapered significantly over the previous month’s declines of 3.1 percent. And the correction should continue, with projected gains for the Midwest of 1.1 percent for the last half of 2012. While the shift in long term trends for the Midwest has yet to create tailwinds for the national performance, the previous drag associated with continued losses has been alleviated.

MSA Market Analysis and Forecast: Far More Metros Advancing than Declining

The top 50 metro markets generally made positive headway in June. The large majority of markets saw quarterly gains, while only seven markets saw prices slide. Of those markets that posted quarterly losses, only four saw declines greater than 1.0 percent. And while this recovery will continue to take place market by market, the relatively moderate losses among this group are encouraging.

The remaining 43 MSAs turned out growth over the last quarter, with average gains of 3.0 percent doubling the rate of average declines. Additionally, 10 of the 43 advancing markets saw quarter-over-quarter price growth exceed 5.0 percent, providing evidence the recovery is also picking up steam on a metro market level.

Columbus, OH, posted double-digit gains of 13.0 percent, but it’s worth noting that gains alone don’t tell the whole story behind this market’s trends. Volatility for Columbus, OH is typical; having seen 14 quarterly price swings greater than 5.0 percent since the start of the downturn in 2006. Also worth considering is the relatively low median price-per-square-foot of $69, as compared to the national median price-per-square-foot of $105. Given the low price point, seemingly small shifts in price trends can have larger effects on percentage changes. While the growth for Columbus, OH is notable, chances are these trends won’t be lasting.

Phoenix, on the other hand, has been a market showing consistent signs of strength for the past 10 months. With current quarterly growth of 8.7% and annual gains of 20.4 percent, the positive trends in this market are supported on a more sustainable basis.

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Fresh Takes on Garage Storage

Ever notice how messy your garage can get once the weather starts to warm up? Suddenly the kids are out of school and it seems there are basketballs, bicycles, or skate boards every where! Not to mention the tailgating, camping, or beach supplies! Where’s your car supposed to fit? Can’t find that new drill you received for Father’s Day? Maybe it’s hiding with those new gardening tools and flower pots from Mother’s Day. It’s overwhelming sometimes!  Better Homes and Gardens magazine has some great tips for getting your garage in top storage shape now (as in before it’s time to drag out all the Christmas decorations, too). Organize your tools, outdoor gear, and whatever else makes its way into your garage with these smart solutions.

Must-Know Tips for Navigating the Housing Market

“Studies on homeownership prove that it enhances our lives in many ways, and among them is how we plant deeper stakes within the communities we call home,” notes John L. Heithaus, CMO of MRIS. “Since navigating the housing market has become more complex than ever, any potential homebuyer, whether a first-time buyer or not, can benefit from solid professional advice in their pursuit of homeownership.”

To that end, MRIS has compiled the following list of “must read” tips from among its 45,000+ network of real estate professionals, reinforcing some of the best practices for ensuring that potential homebuyers are home-ready.

• Understand and update your FICO credit score. This single number plays a major role in determining the interest rate on your mortgage, so it’s vital to know what your FICO score is, address any discrepancies and take corrective action to improve your score if it’s below par. As of May 2012, 664 was listed as the national average, and the median was listed as 723. According to Heithaus, individuals with scores of at least 700 tend to get the best rates on a mortgage. Each of the nationwide consumer reporting companies—Equifax, Experian and Trans-Union—are required to provide you with a free copy of your credit report, at your request, once per year.

• Know what you can afford. Up to 12 months in advance of your desired home purchase, establish a relationship with a trusted mortgage lender who can help you identify your monthly payment goals, target purchase price and the types of loans you are qualified for based on your current financial situation.

• Boost your savings. After you have determined your monthly payment goals and target purchase price, make sure you have the cash on hand for when you are ready to buy. We suggest saving enough money for six months of mortgage payments, as well as a minimum of 3.5 percent of the purchase price to cover the down payment and closing costs. First-time and repeat homebuyers should also establish reserves for less visible expenses, such as closing costs, moving costs, home repairs, renovations and planned upgrades when saving for a home.

• Avoid making major purchases. When preparing to buy a home, it’s important to stay away from big-ticket items, such as purchasing a car, in order to keep your cash reserves high and show the lender that you’ll be able to service the mortgage debt more easily.

• Understand the micro-local real estate market. Homebuyers can save themselves money by watching the seasonal trends in their targeted area(s) and being financially prepared to make an offer when the time is right.

• Consult a real estate professional. Long before you are ready to buy, seek out and interview up to three real estate professionals who can prepare you to face the market by addressing questions, setting realistic expectations and providing valuable insight and expertise to the complex process of home purchasing.

The tips above were provided with support by MRIS customers Teresa Tolson, Teri Deane, Colleen Minahan and Debbie McKeen. For more information, visit


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Survey Shows Americans Are Increasingly Confident about Homeownership

Brookfield Real Estate and Relocation Affiliates Inc., owner of the Prudential Real Estate franchise network, recently released the quarterly Prudential Real Estate Outlook Survey showing that Americans’ confidence in homeownership and real estate continues climbing from the first quarter and a year earlier.

Signs of growing confidence are widespread, according to the national survey. For instance:

• 69 percent believe that real estate is a good investment despite the market volatility of the past few years, up 6 percentage points from the first-quarter 2012 survey and 17 percentage points from first quarter 2011.

• 72 percent expressed confidence that the real estate market and property values will improve during the next two years, including a 6-point jump among those “very confident” or “confident” vs. the first quarter 2012, and a 14-point gain in this subset over first quarter 2011.

• Nearly two-thirds (64 percent) of respondents have a favorable perception of the U.S. housing market, up from 60 percent in first quarter 2012 and 52 percent in first quarter 2011).

“The American Dream is clearly on the mend,” says Earl Lee, president, Prudential Real Estate. “Americans are feeling better about homeownership and the ongoing recovery taking place in residential real estate. Many are increasingly optimistic about their personal circumstances and, with housing affordability near all-time highs, they want to act on the opportunity.”

Factors driving homeownership

Homeownership remains the central component to the American Dream, as 78 percent of respondents said owning a home was still “very important” – the same percentage reported in the first-quarter 2012 study. A full 98 percent said homeownership was at least somewhat important.

In addition, with interest rates at historically low levels, 96 percent of respondents at least “somewhat agree” that now is a great time to buy a home – the same percentage reported in the first-quarter 2012 study.

More than the financial reasons to buy a home, respondents placed higher priority on the emotional reasons for homeownership. “Control over living space,” “more space for family,” “safer neighborhood” and “good place to raise a family” rated higher than “a good investment,” “financial security” and “tax benefits.”

“Normalcy is returning to the U.S. real estate market and more people are buying homes for traditional reasons – to raise a family, feel secure and build a future,” says Lee. “Every last emotion is rolled up into owning a home – it’s where life happens – so it’s no surprise that the emotional side outweighs financial reasons for owning a home among respondents.”

Caution remains

The survey also shows that consumers remain cautious about the real estate market and process, as a full 30 percent “strongly agree” that the housing crisis reminds them to be more careful about buying or selling a home; up two percentage points from the first-quarter 2012 survey. In addition:

• Nearly two-thirds (65 percent) of respondents indicated that financing or getting a mortgage is more challenging than it was before the market crisis, which is up from 58% in the first-quarter 2012 survey.

• Among those considering a real estate transaction, 39 percent expressed concern they won’t be able to sell their current home, up 11 points from the first-quarter 2012 survey and 10 points from first quarter 2011.

• Given the dynamics and challenges of today’s real estate market, nearly three out of four (74 percent) respondents think it is more important than ever to work with a good real estate agent for the best success in buying or selling a home (up from 71 percent in first-quarter 2012 and 67 percent in first quarter 2011).

“Real estate markets are improving around the country and consumers face many choices,” concludes Lee. “Consumers should seek out a real estate professional who can help them make the best choices to suit their needs.”

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Pending Home Sales Soar in May to Highest Level in 2 Years

(MCT)—Prospective homebuyers signed the most contracts to buy existing homes last month in more than two years, according to new data from the National Association of Realtors.

An index measuring sales agreements ticked up 5.9 percent to 101.1 from 95.5 in April, moving into positive territory and matching March’s reading.

The indicator, which forecasts the finalized sales that usually come a month or two after the signed contract, is up 13.3 percent from a year earlier. Analysts had expected a far smaller bounce.

The last time the gauge was so high was in April 2010, when a tax credit helped boost deals for previously occupied homes. Once the incentive expired, the index plummeted to a bottom of 75.9 in June 2010.

In May, however, the report from the trade group found monthly and annual gains in every region.

The market, according to Lawrence Yun, the group’s chief economist, is “clearly superior this year compared with the past four years,” even though low inventory, underwater homeowners and tight credit are still cramping the industry.

Yun anticipates total sales spiking 10 percent this year, with the national median price for existing homes rising 3 percent and then 5.7 percent next year. Housing starts will skyrocket 26 percent this year and then another 50 percent in 2013, he predicts.

Some analysts, however, note that the trade group and its million members have a vested interest in real estate returning to its former glory. Several other housing reports have recently suggested a modest but halting recovery in the market.

Earlier this week, the Case-Shiller index of home values made its first increase after seven straight months of declines. New home sales improved last month, builders are requesting the most permits in years, interest rates are at new lows and demand is strong.

 ©2012 Los Angeles Times. Distributed by MCT Information Services. RISMedia:

Existing-Home Sales Constrained by Tight Supply in May, Prices Continue to Gain

Limited supplies of housing inventory held back existing-home sales in May, but sales maintained a strong lead over year-ago levels and home prices are on a sustained uptrend in all regions, according to the National Association of REALTORS®.

Total existing-home sales, which are completed transactions that include single-family homes, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops, declined 1.5 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.55 million in May from 4.62 million in April, but are 9.6 percent above the 4.15 million-unit pace in May 2011.

Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, said inventory shortages in certain areas have been building all year. “The slight pullback in monthly home sales is more likely due to supply constraints rather than softening demand. The normal seasonal upturn in inventory did not occur this spring,” he says. “Even with the monthly decline, home sales have moved markedly higher with 11 consecutive months of gains over the same month a year earlier.”

There are broad-based shortages of inventory in the lower price ranges in much of the country except the Northeast, and in the West supply is extremely tight in all price ranges except for the upper end. ” REALTORS® in Western states have been calling for an expedited process to get additional foreclosed properties onto the market because they have more buyers than available property,” Yun adds. Widespread inventory shortages also are found in much of Florida.

Total housing inventory at the end of May slipped 0.4 percent to 2.49 million existing homes available for sale, which represents a 6.6-month supply at the current sales pace; there was a 6.5-month supply in April. Listed inventory is 20.4 percent below a year ago when there was a 9.1-month supply. Unsold inventory has trended down from a record 4.04 million in July 2007; supplies reached a cyclical peak of 12.1 months in July 2010.

“The recovery is occurring despite excessively tight credit conditions and higher downpayment requirements, which are negating the impact of record high affordability conditions,” Yun says.

According to Freddie Mac, the national average commitment rate for a 30-year, conventional, fixed-rate mortgage declined to a record low 3.80 percent in May from 3.91 percent in April; the rate was 4.64 percent in May 2011; recordkeeping began in 1971.

The national median existing-home price for all housing types rose 7.9 percent to $182,600 in May from a year ago, the third consecutive month of year over year price gains. The last time there were three back-to-back price increases from the same month a year earlier was from March to May of 2006. “Some of the price gain results from a shrinking share distressed homes in the sales mix,” Yun explains.

Distressed homes – foreclosures and short sales sold at deep discounts – accounted for 25 percent of May sales (15 percent were foreclosures and 10 percent were short sales), down from 28 percent in April and 31 percent in May 2011. Foreclosures sold for an average discount of 19 percent below market value in May, while short sales were discounted 14 percent.

NAR President Moe Veissi offers advice to buyers in markets with limited supply. “We are hearing a lot about multiple bidding and quick sales in areas with tight supply, with competition between first-time buyers and cash investors, who have a significant advantage,” he says.

“It’s extremely important to listen to the advice of your agent and perform all the due diligence that you would normally do in a more balanced market, such as making offers contingent upon a satisfactory home inspection,” Veissi says.

First-time buyers accounted for 34 percent of purchasers in May, compared with 35 percent in April and 36 percent in May 2011.

All-cash sales slipped to 28 percent of transactions in May from 29 percent in April; they were 30 percent in May 2011. Investors, who account for the bulk of cash sales, purchased 17 percent of homes in May, down from 20 percent in April and 19 percent in May 2011. “These figures reflect a modest increase in traditional repeat home buyers in May,” Yun says.

Single-family home sales slipped 1.0 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.05 million in May from 4.09 million in April, but are 10.4 percent above the 3.67 million-unit level in May 2011. The median existing single-family home price was $182,900 in May, up 7.7 percent from a year ago.

Existing condominium and co-op sales fell 5.7 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 500,000 in May from 530,000 in April, but are 4.2 percent higher than the 480,000-unit pace one year ago. The median existing condo price was $180,000 in May, which is 8.8 percent above May 2011.

Regionally, existing-home sales in the Northeast fell 4.8 percent to an annual level of 590,000 in May but are 7.3 percent higher than May 2011. The median price in the Northeast was $250,700, up 3.8 percent from a year ago.

Existing-home sales in the Midwest rose 1.0 percent in May to a pace of 1.04 million and are 19.5 percent above a year ago. The median price in the Midwest was $147,700, up 6.4 percent from May 2011.

In the South, existing-home sales slipped 0.6 percent to an annual level of 1.78 million in May but are 9.2 percent higher May 2011. The median price in the South was $159,700, up 7.8 percent from a year ago.

Existing-home sales in the West declined 3.4 percent to an annual pace of 1.14 million in May but are 3.6 percent above a year ago. The median price in the West was $233,900, up 13.4 percent from May 2011. “The sharp price increase in the West results largely from more sales at the upper end of the market,” Yun explains.

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