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Kathy B. Hayes
1110 North Broad Street
Lansdale  PA 19446
 Phone: 215-362-0800
Office Phone: 215-362-2260
Cell: 215-498-7058
Fax: 267-354-6839 
kathy@kathyhayesrealtor.com
Kathy B. Hayes

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Green Building Accelerates through Economic Downturn, Says Study

November 15, 2012 3:08 am

Around the world, the green building marketplace is accelerating, according to a new study recently released by McGraw-Hill Construction in partnership with United Technologies at the Greenbuild International Conference and Expo in San Francisco.

The study indicates a shift in the global construction market, now viewing green as a business opportunity rather than a niche market. Overwhelmingly, firms report that their top reasons to do green work are client demand (35 percent) and market demand (33 percent) - two key business drivers of strategic planning. The next top reasons were also oriented toward the corporate bottom line - lower operating costs (30 percent) and branding advantage (30 percent). In contrast, the top reason in 2008 motivating the green building market was doing the right thing (42 percent) and market transformation (35 percent), followed by client and market demand.

In the next three years, the sectors with the largest opportunity for green building around the world include new construction and renovation projects. Sixty-three percent of firms have green work planned in new commercial projects and 45 percent in new institutional projects by 2015, and 50 percent have plans for green renovation work. In the United Kingdom and Singapore, green renovation projects were planned by the greatest number of firms at 65 and 69 percent respectively. In Brazil and UAE, new projects pose the largest opportunity. In Brazil, 83 percent of firms are planning to work on new green commercial projects over the next three years, and in the UAE, 73 percent have new green institutional projects planned.

Green buildings are also expected to garner business benefits for building owners. For new green building projects, firms report median operating cost savings of eight percent over one year and 15 percent over five years, as well as increased building values of seven percent (according to design and construction firms) and higher asset valuation of five percent (according to building owners).

Other significant findings include:
  • Human factor benefits are driving green building more today compared to three years ago - 55 percent cite greater health and well-being as the top social reason for green (tied with encouraging sustainable business practice), up from only 29 percent in 2008.
  • Energy use reduction tops the environmental reasons for green building - 72 percent say it is the important environmental reason to engage in green building.
  • Water use reduction is more important today - 25 percent of study respondents cite reduced water consumption as the top reason, up from only four percent in 2008. It is particularly important in the UAE (64 percent cite it as a top reason), Brazil (39 percent), and the U.S. (32 percent), ranking as the second most important environmental factor in these countries.
  • Improved indoor air quality is also more important today - 17 percent cite it as a top reason to engage in green building, up from only three percent in 2008.
  • For firms not currently doing any green project work, the primary driver that they think will motivate future green activity is the desire to do the right thing. This is in sharp contrast to those involved, suggesting this market is not as familiar with the business case for green building.
The study also revealed that approximately 48 percent of the work by U.S. respondents was green, with that share expected to increase to 58 percent by 2015. These results are consistent with McGraw-Hill Construction's 2013 Dodge Green Construction Outlook that sized the green building share of new construction starts in the U.S. to be 44 percent by value, and up to 55 percent by 2015.

The findings are drawn from a McGraw-Hill Construction survey of firms across 62 countries around the world. Firms include architects, engineers, contractors, consultants and building owners.

Source: McGraw-Hill Construction

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'Black Friday' a Good Time to Launch Remodeling Plans

November 15, 2012 3:08 am

With the holidays fast approaching, you probably aren’t putting much thought into home improvement—except, perhaps, to grumble about the fact that you’ll have to cook another Thanksgiving meal in your outdated kitchen, or steer guests toward your home’s only bathroom with its leaky faucet.

If those complaints sound annoyingly familiar, you may not want to put off thinking about a remodel until the spring. According to Dan Fritschen, a golden opportunity to get a head start on planning the house of your dreams is right around the corner, and it goes by the name “Black Friday.”

“When many people think about Black Friday, they have visions of sale-crazed hordes trampling each other in pursuit of merchandise, claustrophobia-causing crowds, and a shopping experience that’s so horrible it’s not worth the savings,” acknowledges Fritschen, founder of www.remodelormove.com. “But if you have a remodeling project in mind, you might want to conquer your fears and revise your post-Thanksgiving plans.”

Most remodeling projects aren’t cheap—even if you’re going the DIY route. And the super sales that are offered on Black Friday and Cyber Monday could realistically take your expenses from budget-busting to reasonable. If you aren’t convinced, consider the cost of a kitchen remodel in which appliances can easily account for 30 percent of the total. Saving just 10 percent on those purchases might bring down your expenditure by thousands of dollars.

“Plus, at this time of year, remodeling supplies aren’t as sought-after,” Fritschen shares. “So you’ll often find that home improvement retailers discount them that much more in order to get consumers’ attention.”

If you’re planning on remodeling your home in the foreseeable future, here’s what Fritschen says you should do now to get the most for your money:

Make a list and check it twice. According to Fritschen, most homeowners are shocked by how complicated remodeling actually is. For instance, if you’re redoing your kitchen, you might naively focus the majority of your planning on picking out appliances, cabinets, and countertops…and once work commences, be blindsided by the amount of details you’ve overlooked (think drawer knobs, paint colors, lighting, cabinet hinges, faucet types, disposals, etc.).

“Now’s the time to educate yourself on everything you’ll need for your remodel,” Fritschen says. “Try to formulate as complete a list as possible, including photos so that you won’t accidentally miss any discounts or sales. Years of experience have taught me that autumn and winter are some of the best times to buy, since remodeling ‘season’ usually takes place in the spring and summer.”

Go shopping with a strategy.
Most retailers publish the details of their post-Thanksgiving sales well in advance, so take a little time to map out where and when to get the best deals. Keep in mind that, thanks to modern technology, you might save the most money if you do your shopping from your trusty laptop.
Read up on return policies. If you aren’t planning on starting your remodel immediately, check and double-check return policies before buying materials. Especially on big-ticket items, you’ll want to make sure you’re not making an irreversible commitment.

“A thousand little things could change between now and next summer, for example,” Fritschen says. “You might need to change your plans because of budget issues. The product you bought might turn out to be defective. You might simply change your mind and decide that you’d like to go with a different style of light fixture. Make sure you don’t accidentally lock yourself into something you’ll later regret buying.”

Surf the ’Net—but be smart about it. As Fritschen has mentioned before, you may be able to find some of your remodeling supplies online—it’s called Cyber Monday for a reason! But before you whip out the credit card and click away, do a little preparation. If possible, Fritschen suggests scoping out big-ticket items in person. For instance, it’s well worth your time to measure the refrigerator you’ve been eyeing and look at it next to the paint and countertop samples you’re considering.

“Pay special attention to shipping fees and, again, return policies,” he adds. “If you have to send something large or heavy back and pay return shipping, it could eat up your savings and more.”
Remember that there’s an app for that! According to an NRF.com holiday spending survey, 33 percent of consumers will use their smartphones to research products and compare prices in the coming month. And if you’re remodeling, you have a great incentive to join them.

“So, even if you usually stay home, watch football, and graze on leftover turkey on Black Friday, consider changing those plans if you have a remodel coming up,” concludes Fritschen. “Braving the crowds can save you a surprising amount of time, money and stress when it’s time to start tearing down walls and installing new appliances next year.”

Source: remodelormove.com

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Americans Dish on Thanksgiving Holiday Preparation and Plans

November 14, 2012 3:08 am

Game and jigsaw puzzle company Buffalo Games Inc. got the scoop from Americans about their Thanksgiving holiday plans this year. The survey sought to identify when people begin Thanksgiving holiday preparation, where they shop, what they buy, and what they do on Thanksgiving Day.  

Key survey findings include: 
  • Preparation Time: 48 percent of those who host Thanksgiving dinner prepare two or three days ahead.
  • (Hungry) Gift-Giving Guests: 55 percent of guests bring the Thanksgiving host/hostess a gift; 84 percent of those gift givers bring food, such as dessert or a side dish. 
  • Cooking versus Carving: 48 percent of hosts do not carve their own turkey – a partner or significant other does.
  • Turkey, football and … games?: In addition to eating, 64 percent of respondents say they will watch football and 56 percent of respondents will play  board games on Thanksgiving Day.
  • Nap time: 41percent admit they will take a nap on Thanksgiving. 
  • Going back for seconds: 52 percent of respondents say they will have two helpings of Thanksgiving dinner.
  • Why bother slaving over dinner?: More than one third (34 percent) of respondents enjoy Thanksgiving leftovers more than dinner
  • Who is really helping in the kitchen?: While 86 percent of guests say they help with clean-up and dishwashing after Thanksgiving dinner, only 56 percent of hosts say they let guests help with post-Thanksgiving dinner clean-up.
Source: Buffalo Games
 

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Survey Shows Dual Income Couples Fueling Market

November 14, 2012 3:08 am

Dual income households are comprising a greater portion of the housing market and helping sales recover, according to an annual study recently released by the National Association of REALTORS®.

According to the 2012 National Association of REALTORS® Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers, 65 percent of all buyers are married couples, 16 percent are single women, nine percent single men, eight percent unmarried couples and two percent other; percentages of single buyers were slightly higher in 2011. However, just two years ago, 58 percent of buyers were married, 20 percent were single women, 12 percent single men and seven percent unmarried couples; the overall marketshare of single buyers declined a total of seven percentage points over the past two years. Before 2010, the marketshares moved within a very narrow range, generally a percentage point or two.
Paul Bishop, NAR vice president of research, said the study is painting a clearer picture of the impact of mortgage limitations. “We’ve known for some time that stringent mortgage credit standards have been holding back home sales, but these findings show single buyers have been hurt the most over the past two years. Total home sales would be 10 to 15 percent higher without these unnecessary headwinds,” he said. 
“The continued growth in married couples as single buyers shrink demonstrates that households with dual incomes are more successful in obtaining a mortgage.  However, given the historically favorable housing affordability conditions, most single-income buyers could also purchase a home and stay well within their means, if lending requirements were more sensible,” Bishop said.
First-time homebuyers edged up to a 39 percent marketshare in the past year from 37 percent in the 2011 study.  Long-term survey averages show that four out of 10 buyers are typically first-time buyers, who are critical to a housing recovery because they help existing homeowners to sell and make a trade.
The study shows the median age of first-time buyers was 31 and the median income was $61,800.  The typical first-time buyer purchased a 1,600 square-foot home costing $154,100, while the typical repeat buyer was 51 years old and earned $93,100.  Repeat buyers purchased a median 2,100-square foot home costing $220,000.
The median down payment for all homebuyers was nine percent, ranging from four percent for first-time buyers to 13 percent for repeat buyers. First-time buyers who financed their purchase used a variety of resources for the down payment:  76 percent tapped into savings; 24 percent received a gift from a friend or relative, typically from their parents; and six percent received a loan from a relative or friend.  Eleven percent tapped into a 401(k) fund, and six percent sold stocks or bonds.  Ninety-three percent of entry-level buyers chose a fixed-rate mortgage.
Seventy-eight percent of recent homebuyers said their home is a good investment, and 46 percent believe it’s better than stocks; 92 percent were satisfied with the buying process.
Source: The National Association of REALTORS®
 

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29 Percent of Borrowers That Refinance Shorten Mortgage Term during Third Quarter

November 14, 2012 3:08 am

In the third quarter of 2012, 29 percent of borrowers that refinanced an existing mortgage chose to shorten their loan term, based on the Freddie Mac Quarterly Product Transition Report released today. Further, refinancing borrowers clearly preferred fixed-rate loans, regardless of whether their original loan was an adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) or a fixed-rate.

Of borrowers who refinanced during the third quarter of 2012, 29 percent reduced their loan term, while 68 percent of borrowers kept the same term as the loan that they had paid off; three percent chose to lengthen their loan term. 
More than 95 percent of refinancing borrowers chose a fixed-rate loan. Fixed-rate loans were preferred regardless what the original loan product had been. For example, 82 percent of borrowers who had a hybrid ARM chose a fixed-rate loan during the third quarter, the highest share since the second quarter of 2010, while the remaining 18 percent chose to refinance back into a hybrid ARM.   
Those borrowers who refinanced under the Home Affordable Refinance Program (HARP) were more likely to take out a long-term, fixed-rate mortgage. For example, 25 percent of HARP borrowers shortened their loan term when they refinanced during the third quarter, compared with 31 percent of borrowers who refinanced outside of HARP. Further, of those borrowers who were refinancing out of an ARM, if they refinanced under the HARP program, then more than 95 percent chose a fixed-rate mortgage; in contrast, of borrowers that had an ARM but did not refinance through HARP, about one-half opted for another hybrid ARM.
Source: Freddie Mac

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Positive Housing Sentiment Continues Steady Climb

November 13, 2012 3:08 am

Americans continue to show growing confidence in home price increases over the next 12 months, providing further indications of a slow but steady housing recovery, according to results from Fannie Mae's October 2012 National Housing Survey. Taken together with rental price expectations, which surged in October and remain much higher than home price expectations, more consumers may be motivated to purchase a home in the coming months.

"This has been a year of steady growth in the percentage of consumers with positive home price expectations," said Doug Duncan, senior vice president and chief economist of Fannie Mae. "Increasing household formation, encouraged by an improving labor market, is adding additional momentum to the housing recovery and putting upward pressure on rental price expectations. Expected increases in both owning and renting costs may encourage more consumers to buy and add further strength to the housing recovery already under way."  

Continuing the positive upward trend seen over the past year, survey respondents expect home prices to increase an average of 1.7 percent in the next 12 months. The share who say home prices will decrease in the next year dropped to 10 percent – 13 percentage points lower than October 2011 and the lowest level since the survey's inception in June 2010.

Additionally, the positive difference between those saying home prices will go up and those saying they will go down remained steady at a survey high of 26 percentage points. The percentage who believe mortgage rates will go up climbed four percentage points to 37 percent following a steep drop in September. Returning to the July 2012 level, respondents' average rental price expectation jumped by 0.8 percent to 3.9 percent, and 50 percent believe home rental prices will rise in the next year – a three percentage point increase over last month and the highest level since the survey began. 

When asked about the state of the economy, the share of respondents who say it's on the right track dropped to 38 percent, down three percentage points from last month. Conversely, those who say the economy is on the wrong track climbed three percentage points to 56 percent. The share of consumers who expect their personal financial situation to get better or stay the same over the next year remained essentially level at 43 percent and 40 percent, respectively.

Other highlights from the survey include:
  • Consumers' average home price change expectation edged up slightly to 1.7 percent, continuing the positive trend of the past year. 
  • Ten percent of those surveyed say that home prices will go down in the next 12 months, a 13 percentage point decrease since October 2011, and the lowest level since the survey's inception in June 2010. 
  • After a sharp drop last month, the percentage who think mortgage rates will go up rose four percentage points in October to 37 percent. 
  • Seventy-two percent of respondents say it is a good time to buy, while 18 percent say it is a good time to sell, consistent with the trends seen over the past six months. 
  • The average rental price expectation jumped up by 0.8 percent to 3.9 percent, a return to the level seen in July 2012. 
  • Fifty percent of those surveyed say home rental prices will go up in the next 12 months, a three percentage point rise over last month and the highest level since the survey's inception in June 2010. 
  • Nineteen percent of respondents say their household income is significantly higher than it was 12 months ago, a slight increase from last month's total of 17 percent. 
  • Household expenses remained stable over the past month, with 56 percent responding that their household expenses stayed the same compared to 12 months ago.
Source: Fannie Mae
 

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How to Protect Yourself from "Storm Chaser" Contractors

November 13, 2012 3:08 am

After storms like Hurricane Sandy, it is not uncommon for fraudulent "storm chaser" contractors to flock to damaged neighborhoods offering to help with home repairs. Unfortunately, homeowners in affected regions could soon be inundated with these fraudulent contractors knocking on their doors.  Additionally, states sometimes ease licensing requirements to meet demand, which can bring in fly-by-night contractors. 

"After any natural disaster there is an increase in storm-chasing contractors attempting to take advantage of distressed homeowners," said HomeAdvisor CEO Chris Terrill. "Post-Sandy, we have seen an 87 percent increase - as compared to what we saw after Hurricane Irene - in requests for generator installation, roof repair, tree removal and siding repair in the areas most heavily impacted by the storm.

Since these repair categories are in such high demand, we anticipate storm chasers to target these specific tasks and homeowners should be on alert in the coming weeks."
HomeAdvisor's Four Warning Signs a Contractor May Not Be Reputable: 
  • The most common contractor fraud involves "storm chasers" that go door-to-door soliciting work they never plan to provide. Don't accept offers from any traveling or door-to-door salespeople. 
  • A reputable contractor will never ask for cash and will never require that the entire job be paid "up front." 
  • Be wary of contractors who use scare tactics such as signing for repairs that they say are urgent. Before agreeing to any additional costly repairs, seek other opinions. 
  • Get written estimates and don't always go with the cheapest price. Dramatically cheaper prices may indicate contractor fraud is present in one form or another.  
Four Questions Homeowners Should Ask a Contractor Before Signing an Agreement: 
  • How long have you been in business? 
  • Are you licensed and registered with the state? 
  • Can you provide a list of references? 
  • Do you belong to any professional associations? 
Source: HomeAdvisor
 

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Metro Area Home Prices, Sales Increase

November 13, 2012 3:08 am

Growth in metropolitan area median home prices increased in the third quarter, and more areas are showing gains, according to the latest quarterly report by the National Association of REALTORS®.

The median existing single-family home price rose in 120 out of 149 metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs) based on closings in the third quarter compared with the same quarter in 2011, while 29 areas had price declines. In the second quarter, 110 areas showed increases from a year earlier, while in the third quarter of 2011 only 39 metros were up.
Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, said the growth in home prices gets down to supply and demand. "Housing inventories have been gradually trending down from a record set in the summer of 2007," he said. "Earlier this year, a broad equilibrium began to develop in most areas between home\buyers and sellers, which led to a sustained upturn in home prices. We expect fairly normal appreciation patterns in 2013, but there is a risk of price acceleration if builders are unable to increase supply to meet the needs of our growing population and household formation."
The national median existing single-family home price was $186,100 in the third quarter, up 7.6 percent from $173,000 in the third quarter of 2011, which is the strongest year-over-year price increase since the first quarter of 2006 when the median price rose 9.4 percent. In the second quarter, the price increased 7.2 percent from a year earlier.
The median price is where half of the homes sold for more and half sold for less; medians are more typical than average prices, which are skewed higher by a relatively small share of upper-end transactions.
Some of the price gain resulted from a smaller share of distressed home sales in the market, but the higher prices significantly reflect a market recovery. Distressed homes - foreclosures and short sales which generally sell at deep discounts - accounted for 23 percent of second quarter sales, down from 30 percent a year ago.
A separate breakout of income requirements to buy a home on a metro area basis shows buyers in the vast majority of areas had ample income in the third quarter, assuming they could meet stringent mortgage credit standards.
Total existing-home sales, including single-family and condo, rose 3.2 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.68 million in the third quarter from 4.54 million in the second quarter, and were 10.3 percent higher than the 4.25 million pace during the third quarter of 2011.
At the end of the third quarter, 2.32 million existing homes were available for sale, which is 20.0 percent below the close of the third quarter of 2011 when 2.90 million homes were on the market.
According to Freddie Mac, the national commitment rate on a 30-year conventional fixed-rate mortgage averaged a record low 3.54 percent in the third quarter, down from 3.80 percent in the second quarter and 4.31 percent in the third quarter of 2011.
A breakout of incomes required to purchase a median-priced existing single-family home by metro area shows the typical buyer had more income than necessary in the third quarter. Income amounts are determined using several down payment percentages, assuming a mortgage interest rate of four percent and 25 percent of gross income devoted to mortgage principal and interest.
In the condo sector, metro area condominium and cooperative prices - covering changes in 54 metro areas - showed the national median existing-condo price was $180,800 in the third quarter, up 7.7 percent from the third quarter of 2011. Thirty-three metros showed increases in their median condo price from a year ago and 21 areas had declines.
First-time buyers purchased 32 percent of all homes in the third quarter, down from 34 percent in the second quarter; they were 32 percent in the third quarter of 2011.
Source: The National Association of REALTORS®

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Builder Confidence in the 55+ Housing Market Continues to Improve

November 12, 2012 3:08 am

Builder confidence in the 55+ housing market for single-family homes showed significant improvement in the third quarter of 2012 compared to the same period a year ago, according to the National Association of Home Builders’ (NAHB) latest 55+ Housing Market Index (HMI). The index more than tripled year over year from a level of 12 to 36, which is the highest third-quarter reading since the inception of the index in 2008.

“Many builders and developers in the 55+ housing segment are reporting an increase in demand from consumers,” said NAHB 50+ Housing Council Chairman W. Don Whyte. “We are seeing improvement in certain parts of the country where people are moving off the fence and either purchasing a home or renting an apartment that is designed to more specifically suit their lifestyle.”

There are separate 55+ HMIs for three segments of the 55+ housing market: single-family homes, multifamily condominiums and rental apartments. Each index measures builder sentiment based on a survey that asks if current sales, prospective buyer traffic and anticipated six-month sales for that market are good, fair or poor (high, average or low for traffic). An index number below 50 indicates that more builders view conditions as poor than good.

Although all components of the 55+ single-family HMI remain below 50, they at least doubled from a year ago: present sales climbed 25 points to 36, expected sales for the next six months increased 27 points to 42 and traffic of prospective buyers rose 20 points to 33.

The 55+ multifamily condo HMI had a significant increase of 13 points to 23, which is the highest third-quarter reading since the inception of the index in 2008; however, condos remain the weakest segment of the 55+ housing market. All 55+ multifamily HMI components increased considerably compared to a year ago as present sales rose 13 points to 22, expected sales for the next six months jumped 19 points to 29 and traffic of prospective buyers climbed 11 points to 22.

Meanwhile, the 55+ multifamily rental indices, which already recovered substantially last year, showed continued but more modest increases in the third quarter: present production climbed six points to 31, expected future production increased nine points to 35 and current demand for existing units and expected future demand improved two points to 42 and 44, respectively.

“Like other segments of the housing industry, the market for 55+ housing is continuing on a steady upward path, driven by improving conditions in additional markets around some parts of the country,” said NAHB Chief Economist David Crowe. “While we expect the upward trend to continue as the recovery broadens, the speed of the recovery is being constrained by factors as tight mortgage credit, making it difficult for potential 55+ customers to sell their current homes, and shortages of inputs to construction such as buildable lots that are beginning to emerge in some market areas.”

Source: National Association of Home Builders

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Mortgage Rates Settle in Near Record Lows

November 12, 2012 3:08 am

Freddie Mac released the results of its Primary Mortgage Market Survey® (PMMS®), showing fixed mortgage rates mixed following the monthly employment report but continuing to hover near their record lows over the past six weeks. Last year at this time, the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged 3.99 percent, dropping below 4.00 percent for the first time since Freddie Mac started reporting its weekly mortgage rates survey in 1971.

News Facts
• 30-year fixed-rate mortgage (FRM) averaged 3.40 percent with an average 0.7 point for the week ending November 8, 2012, up from last week when it averaged 3.39 percent. Last year at this time, the 30-year FRM averaged 3.99 percent.
• 15-year FRM this week averaged 2.69 percent with an average 0.7 point, down from last week when it averaged 2.70 percent. A year ago at this time, the 15-year FRM averaged 3.30 percent.
• 5-year Treasury-indexed hybrid adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) averaged 2.73 percent this week with an average 0.6 point, down from last week when it averaged 2.74 percent. A year ago, the 5-year ARM averaged 2.98 percent.
• 1-year Treasury-indexed ARM averaged 2.59 percent this week with an average 0.4 point, up from last week when it averaged 2.58 percent. At this time last year, the 1-year ARM averaged 2.95 percent.
• Average commitment rates should be reported along with average fees and points to reflect the total upfront cost of obtaining the mortgage. Borrowers may still pay closing costs which are not included in the survey.

"Mortgage rates remained near record lows following the employment report for October. The economy added 171,000 jobs, above the market consensus forecast, and the two prior months were revised up a combined 84,000. The Labor Department also reported that the unemployment rate ticked up to 7.9 percent and that average hourly wages were unchanged," says Frank Nothaft, vice president and chief economist for Freddie Mac.

Source: Freddie Mac

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