Friday Five: Housing Markets, Buyers Adjust to New Normal

Home sales rise, foreclosures fall, and the latest national flood insurance deadline looms.

In our Friday Five roundup of top housing news, we look at a return to traditional home sales: With rents on the rise across the country, many are taking advantage of low prices and short sale opportunities to trade in their lease for a mortgage. Also this week, we begin the countdown for national flood insurance reauthorization, which is set to expire at the end of May 2012.

U.S. News & World Report:
Traditional ‘Rules’ of Home Buying Return

House hunters may find themselves in a strange, transitional real estate market that’s emerging from historic lows. Buyers need to show that they’re serious if they hope to secure their dream house amid stiff deal-sniffing buyer competition or sellers so frustrated they may be willing to hold out for a stronger market turnaround. Professionalism and realistic expectations can go a long way toward ensuring a smooth and timely closing transaction.

NPR: Time to Trade the Lease for a Mortgage?

As the home ownership rate has fallen during the real estate downturn, it has also become a very good time to buy a house. Very low interest rates, courtesy of the Federal Reserve, and falling prices are making it even cheaper to buy a house these days. Meanwhile, rents are rising around the country.

Reuters:
Flood Insurance Debate Resumes as Deadline Nears

Federal officials are putting fresh pressure on Congress to take action on the National Flood Insurance Program, whose authorization expires at the end of this month, one day before hurricane season begins. The NFIP has been a political football in Washington for years. For now, the program remains in business with repeated short-term extensions.

HouseLogic: Foreclosure Rates Down 6% Compared with Year Ago

The national foreclosure rate fell 6% in March compared with a year ago as banks stepped up their use of short sales and other strategies to avoid taking back homes. Delinquency rates, which predict future foreclosures, held steady.

The Fiscal Times: The Tax Change That Threatens Home Ownership

“Home ownership is under attack in this country,” say REALTORS® who plan to attend a “Rally to Protect the American Dream” on May 17 in Washington, D.C. REALTORS® are organizing against federal policy moves they say would further cut the number of home owners — like doing away with the mortgage interest deduction, ending federal backing for mortgage purchasers Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and toughening mortgage loan requirements. Loose loan requirements — occasionally with no down payment required — are cited as one key driver of the housing bubble.