Month: November 2013

A push to get lenders to reward energy efficiency in homes

http://www.latimes.com/business/realestate/la-fi-harney-20131124,0,7390700.story#ixzz2lgPkkMPQ

Efforts are underway in the appraisal, lending, building and realty brokerage industries — even in Congress — to recognize and value home energy efficiency.

By Kenneth R. Harney

November 24, 2013

LA Times 

WASHINGTON — For the growing numbers of home purchasers who care about energy efficiency, it’s the ultimate “green” goal: Lenders should recognize the net savings that energy improvements provide to property owners and take them into account when they underwrite and set the fees for mortgages. Appraisers should also recognize the added value.

The rationale: Owners of homes that reduce energy consumption pay lower utility bills than owners of energy guzzlers, so why not factor these out-of-pocket savings into calculations of household debt-to-income ratios and appraised valuations? This might permit larger mortgage amounts for energy-efficient homes and help qualify more first-time buyers who are now frequently rejected on debt-ratio grounds.

Though this is commonplace in other countries, it’s a work in progress in the United States. Bipartisan legislation is pending in the Senate — the Sensible Accounting to Value Energy (SAVE) Act — that would require Fannie MaeFreddie Mac, the Federal Housing Administration and other federal mortgage players to revise their rules to better recognize and reward energy savings.

More than 125 local Realtor multiple-listing services across the country are helping out by including “green fields” in their online listing information displays. The green fields allow sellers, buyers, realty agents and appraisers to describe energy improvements or special certifications that a property offers, such as high-performance windows and doors, heavy-duty insulation, Energy Star appliances, and solar, geothermal and other features.

Thousands of appraisers are undergoing “green valuation” training and the country’s largest association in that field, the Appraisal Institute, has created a comprehensive “green addendum” that can be used to translate energy conservation improvements into higher property valuations.

But there’s just been another milestone on the way to seeing green in real estate: A major American private mortgage insurance company plans to jump into green lending, and is gearing up to offer a version of what it already provides to buyers in Canada — cost savings to energy conservers.

Adam Johnston, chief appraiser for Genworth Mortgage Insurance, says his company is determined to incorporate energy savings and green valuations into its underwriting procedures. This is becoming more feasible, he said, because of advances such as the green appraisal addendum, more accurate multiple-listing service listing data and growing acceptance of energy-efficiency standards for homes.

In Canada, Genworth offers buyers a 10% “energy-efficient refund” of their mortgage insurance premiums, a break on debt-to-income ratio calculations in underwriting and online access to discounts on a wide variety of commonly purchased household items.

Here’s an example of how the program works north of the border. On a $300,000 mortgage with a 5% down payment, the total insurance premium comes to $8,250. If you’re buying a house that doesn’t qualify on energy conservation standards, that’s what you’d pay.

But if the home you’re purchasing meets national or provincial energy efficiency guidelines, you may qualify for an $825 refund and have your monthly savings on heating factored into your debt service ratios. Your lender might also approve you for a larger mortgage amount if you need it.

To get the benefits on an existing property, the house must be certified as either 20% more efficient than Canada’s Model National Energy Code for Buildings or 5% more efficient than any applicable provincial standards, whichever is greater.

Johnston said that while there’s no specific starting date yet for Genworth to begin offering mortgage insurance breaks on green-certified homes, it’s coming. By necessity, insurers such as Genworth are highly sensitive to a variety of borrower risk factors, and now they have statistical evidence that people who buy homes with significant energy-saving components present lower risks for lenders and insurers.

A national study tracking payments on 71,000 home loans found that mortgages on energy-efficient properties are 32% less likely to default. Funded by the Institute for Market Transformation and conducted by researchers at the University of North Carolina, the study controlled for other factors that might explain payment performance, including income, home values, credit scores and local utility costs.

Other, subtler factors could be at work — for example, are buyers who care about energy conservation and utility payments inherently more likely to care about keeping current on their mortgage? Who knows?

Bottom line: Though this country is years behind Canada in recognizing and valuing home energy efficiency, there are now determined efforts underway in the appraisal, lending, building and realty brokerage industries — even in Congress — to catch up, sooner rather than later.

 

Pending home sales drop for a fifth week in a row

Limited inventory, falling affordability create massive headwinds

http://www.housingwire.com/articles/28110-pending-home-sales-drop-for-a-fifth-week-in-a-row

November 25, 2013 
house
 Pending home sales, a measure of home sales contracts signed, continued to sink lower in October despite mixed market conditions across the country, making it the fifth consecutive month of declines, the latest National Association of Realtors report said.

The pending home sales index dipped a slight 0.6% to an index score of 102.1 in October, which compares to a revised index score of 102.7 in September. It’s also 1.6% below the 103.8 index reached in October 2012.  The benchmarked index score sits at 100.00, indicating average market levels.

But the drop in the index is not a shock to the industry. Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, said weaker activity was expected.

“The government shutdown in the first half of last month sidelined some potential buyers,” Yun explained. “In a survey, 17% of Realtors reported delays in October, mostly from waiting for IRS income verification for mortgage approval.”

“We could rebound a bit from this level, but still face the headwinds of limited inventory and falling affordability conditions. Job creation and a slight dialing down from current stringent mortgage underwriting standards going into 2014 can help offset the headwind factors,” he added.

Furthermore, as mortgage rates and home prices steadily rise, housing affordability is directly impacted, notedNational Association of Home Builders Chief Economist David Crowein in the latest National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo Housing Opportunity Index.

“Housing affordability is being negatively affected by a ‘perfect storm’ scenario,” NAHB Chairman Rick Judson said. “With markets across the country recovering, home values are strengthening at the same time that the cost of building homes is rising due to tightened supplies of building materials, developable lots and labor.”   

However, housing affordability did not hinder all markets, with modest gains in the Northeast and Midwest. But the small progress was still dampened by declines in the South and West.

In the Northeast, the PHSI climbed 2.8% to an index score of 85.8 in October, and is 8.1% above last year’s levels. The index in the Midwest grew 1.2% to 104.1 in October, and is 3.2% higher than October 2012.

Meanwhile, pending home sales in the South dropped 0.8% to an index score of 114.5 in October, and is 1.5% below year ago levels. The index in the West declined 4.1% in October to a score of 93.3; it’s also 12.1% lower than a year before.

Year-over-year, pending home sales fell 2.2%, reaching the lowest point since May 2011, Anthony Sanders, a professor of finance at George Mason University, said.

“Rising house prices combined with declining real median household income isn’t helping home sales,” Sanders said. “And, of course, falling labor force participation isn’t helping, although house prices continue to rise in spite of it.”

He noted that this is “not a great pending home sales report.” However, Sanders added, “… given a declining labor force participation rate and declining real median household income, it could have been worse.”

Looking ahead, the new year is not expected to bring much improvement, with home sales projected to remain mostly flat. Additionally, NAR expects ongoing home price increases on declining inventory.

Upcoming mortgage rules in January could cause further market headwinds, Yun said. And if another government shutdown hits, the market will face some of the consequences as buyers see more of the same mortgage approval delays.

In addition, annual existing-home sales should be nearly 10% higher this year compared to last year, totaling just above 5.1 million, with a comparable volume expected in 2014.

The national median existing-home price for all of 2013 is estimated to rise 11% when compared to 2012 levels.

Key federal tax aid for homeowners in danger of expiration

Homeowner's tax aidCongress carved out a special exception for owner-occupied housing for five years, and that exception was later extended through Dec. 31. What happens if it expires? (Paul Sakuma / AP)y

November 17, 2013, LA Times

Kenneth R. Harney

WASHINGTON — Haven’t we seen this movie before? On Capitol Hill for the second year in a row, key federal tax assistance for homeowners is heading for expiration within weeks. And there’s no sign that Congress plans — or has the minimal political will — to do anything about it.

In fact, the prospects for extension of popular mortgage-forgiveness debt relief and deductions for mortgage insurance payments and home energy efficiency improvements appear to be more dire than they were last year at this time, when at least there was a formal bill pending to extend them.

This year there is none at the moment. The House and Senate are trying to figure out a budget but are also considering overhauling the entire federal tax system, which could mean that a long list of special-interest tax preferences — including for housing — might be sucked into the tax overhaul vortex and not revived if they expire as scheduled Dec. 31.

Robert Dietz, vice president for tax policy issues at the National Assn. of Home Builders, says the name of the movie is “Groundhog Day” — the Bill Murray classic about deja vu all over again. Remember last year’s New Year’s Eve “fiscal cliff” game of chicken that wasn’t resolved until the wee hours of Jan. 1? The tax benefits for homeowners were ultimately extended, but only for a year. Whether that’s possible again in late December is in doubt.

What’s at stake here? Begin with tax treatment of mortgage debt relief. Before Congress changed the law in 2007, any borrower who had a debt canceled by a creditor would have to report the amount forgiven as ordinary income, subject to federal taxation. If a mortgage lender chose to reduce a homeowner’s principal balance as part of a loan modification — say by cutting $50,000 off the mortgage balance — theIRS would treat that $50,000 as fully taxable income.

That’s despite the fact that the owner never actually received $50,000 in cash, and despite the fact that it was highly likely the owner was already in distress on the loan, facing financial challenges that made payments on the previous balance difficult.

Congress carved out a special exception for owner-occupied housing for five years, and that exception was later extended through Dec. 31. What happens if it expires? It would mean that thousands of people who are in the process of doing short sales on their homes but won’t close until 2014 may be subject to income taxes on the amounts their lenders cancel as part of the transaction. Underwater owners who sign up for short sales in 2014 — or owners who receive cancellation of debt as part of loan modifications — would all be subject to harsh taxes on their phantom “income.”

In California, however, owners waiting for short sales to close appear to be in the clear.

A recent advice letter from the IRS clarified that California homeowners who sell their houses in lender-approved short sales won’t be subject to a tax bill on the canceled mortgage debt even after the Congressional exemption ends. That’s because of a 2011 California law that exempts forgiven mortgage debt in a short sale from being counted as income in the state.

But mortgage debt relief is hardly the only real estate tax benefit set to disappear at the end of December. Also scheduled to terminate unless extended:

•The 10% credit currently allowable for energy-saving improvements you make to your house, including qualified insulation, high-performance windows, doors and roofs. The credits have a lifetime cap of $500.

•The $2,000 credit for newly constructed homes that meet federal standards for energy efficiency.

•The mortgage insurance premium write-off for anyone who takes out a home loan with a down payment below 20%. This includes conventional Fannie MaeFreddie Mac loans, Federal Housing Administration-insured loans and VA guaranty fees. This may be particularly important next year for new buyers who use FHA loans because that agency has recently raised its insurance premiums significantly and withdrawn its previous rule that allowed borrowers to cancel their insurance premiums, as is standard in private mortgage insurance.

Best advice for anyone counting on one or more of these tax benefits in early 2014: Don’t. This time around, it’s possible that some of them may not come back.

California October Home Sales

November 13, 2013
http://dqnewspressreleases.blogspot.com/2013/11/october-california-home-sale-press.html
An estimated 36,468 new and resale houses and condos sold statewide last month. That was up 1.2 percent from 36,027 in September, and down 7.1 percent from 39,254 sales in October 2012, according to San Diego-based DataQuick.

October sales have varied from a low of 25,832 in 2007 to a high of 70,152 in 2003. Last month’s sales were 15.4 percent below the average of 43,092 sales for all the months of October since 1988, when DataQuick’s statistics begin.

The median price paid for a home in California last month was $357,000, up 0.6 percent from $355,000 in September and up 25.3 percent from $285,000 in October 2012. Last month was the 20th consecutive month in which the state’s median sale price rose year-over-year, and the 11th straight month with a gain exceeding 20 percent.

In March/April/May 2007 the median peaked at $484,000. The post-peak trough was $221,000 in April 2009.

Of the existing homes sold last month, 6.6 percent were properties that had been foreclosed on during the past year. It was the lowest level for foreclosure resales since June 2007, also at 6.6 percent. Last month’s figure was down from a revised 7.1 percent in September and 17.1 percent a year earlier. Foreclosure resales peaked at 58.8 percent in February 2009.

Short sales – transactions where the sale price fell short of what was owed on the property – made up an estimated 12.6 percent of the homes that resold last month. That was down from an estimated 13.1 percent the month before and 26.7 percent a year earlier.

The typical monthly mortgage payment that California buyers committed themselves to paying last month was $1,395, down from $1,437 the month before and up from $1,009 a year earlier. Adjusted for inflation, last month’s payment was 39.7 percent below the typical payment in spring 1989, the peak of the prior real estate cycle. It was 51.1 percent below the current cycle’s peak in June 2006. It was 51.2 percent above the February 2012 bottom of the current cycle.

DataQuick monitors real estate activity nationwide and provides information to consumers, educational institutions, public agencies, lending institutions, title companies and industry analysts.

Indicators of market distress continue to decline. Foreclosure activity remains well below year-ago and peak levels reached in the last five years. Financing with multiple mortgages is low, while down payment sizes are stable, DataQuick reported.

Bay Area Home Sales Ease Back; Median Sale Price Edges Higher

dqnews.com

November 13, 2013

La Jolla, CA.–The Bay Area housing market continued its fits-and-starts march toward normalcy last month with ho-hum sales counts and continued price appreciation. Various below-the-surface technical indicators show a market still transitioning from a severely atypical state a few years ago to something more in line with long-term norms, a real estate information service reported.

A total of 7,595 new and resale houses and condos sold in the nine-county Bay Area in October. That was up 6.4 percent from 7,141 the month before, and down 3.9 percent from 7,902 for October a year ago, according to San Diego-based DataQuick.

Last month’s number was 11.2 percent below the October average of 8,553 since 1988, when DataQuick’s statistics begin. Bay Area sales haven’t been above average for any particular month in more than seven years. The most active October was in 2003 when 13,392 homes sold; the least active was in 2007 with 5,486 sales.

The median price paid for a home in the Bay Area last month was $539,750. That was up 1.8 percent from $530,000 in September, and up 29.7 percent from $416,000 in October 2012.

It appears that roughly three-fourths of last month’s 29.7 percent year-over-year rise is the result of an increase in home values. The rest reflects a change in market mix – more mid- to high-end sales and fewer low-cost inland distressed sales.

The peak Bay Area median so far this year was $562,000 in July – the highest for any month since the median was $587,500 in December 2007. The Bay Area’s all-time peak median was $665,000 in June and July 2007, after which it dropped to a low of $290,000 in March 2009.

“At different times in recent years we’ve had various peaks or troughs when it comes to sales volume, prices, foreclosure activity, cash sales, absentee-owner sales, various home loan options, you name it. All of these market components are now trending toward normal. We are still a ways away, but the market is slowly re-establishing equilibrium,” said John Walsh, DataQuick president.

“A lot of market drag can be attributed to skittish market participants, especially buyers and lenders. Comfort levels do rise with more stability and predictability – factors that could contribute to increased activity well into next year and beyond,” he said.

The number of homes sold for less than $500,000 dropped 26.4 percent year-over-year, while the number sold for more increased 15.9 percent, DataQuick reported.

Last month distressed property sales – the combination of foreclosure resales and “short sales” – made up about 14 percent of the resale market. That was about the same as in September and down from about 35 percent a year ago.

Foreclosure resales – homes that had been foreclosed on in the prior 12 months – accounted for 3.6 percent of resales in October, the same as the month before, and down from 11.7 percent a year ago. Last month’s level is the lowest since 3.5 percent in June 2007. Foreclosure resales peaked at 52.0 percent in February 2009, while the monthly average over the past 17 years is 10 percent.

Short sales – transactions where the sale price fell short of what was owed on the property – made up an estimated 10.3 percent of Bay Area resales last month. That was up from an estimated 10.2 percent in September and down from 22.9 percent a year earlier.

In October, Bay Area home buyers put $2.1 billion of their own money on the table in the form of a down payment or as an outright cash purchase. That number hit an all-time high of $2.6 billion in May. They borrowed $3.0 billion in mortgage money from lenders last month.

The most active lenders to Bay Area home buyers last month were Wells Fargo with 14.8 percent of the purchase loan market, RPM Mortgage with 3.8 percent and Stearns Lending with 3.6 percent.

Jumbo loans, mortgages above the old conforming limit of $417,000, accounted for 46.7 percent of last month’s purchase lending, roughly even with a revised 46.8 percent in September, and up from 39.5 percent a year ago. Jumbo usage dropped as low as 17.1 percent in January 2009.

Adjustable-rate mortgages (ARMs), an important indicator of mortgage availability, accounted for 20.5 percent of the Bay Area’s home purchase loans in October. That was the highest since 20.7 percent in August 2008. It was up from a revised 20.2 percent in September, and up from 11.8 percent in October last year. Since 2000, ARMs have accounted for 47.5 percent of all purchase loans. ARMs hit a low of 3.0 percent of loans in January 2009.

Government-insured FHA home purchase loans, a popular choice among first-time buyers, accounted for 11.0 percent of all Bay Area home purchase mortgages in October, up from a 10.5 percent in September and down from 15.8 percent a year earlier.

Last month absentee buyers – mostly investors – purchased 21.8 percent of all Bay Area homes. That was up from 20.8 percent in September, and down from 23.7 percent a year ago. Absentee buyers paid a median $420,000 in October, up 28.6 percent from a year earlier.

Buyers who appear to have paid all cash – meaning no sign of a corresponding purchase loan was found in the public record – accounted for 22.8 percent of sales in October. That was down from 23.0 percent the month before and down from 29.6 percent a year earlier. The monthly average going back to 1988 is 13.3 percent. Cash buyers paid a median $439,500 in October, up 33.2 percent from a year earlier.

San Diego-based DataQuick monitors real estate activity nationwide and provides information to consumers, educational institutions, public agencies, lending institutions, title companies and industry analysts. Because of late data availability, sales were estimated in Alameda, San Francisco and San Mateo counties.

The typical monthly mortgage payment that Bay Area buyers committed themselves to paying last month was $2,109. Adjusted for inflation, last month’s payment was 26.1 percent below the typical payment in spring 1989, the peak of the prior real estate cycle. It was 45.4 percent below the current cycle’s peak in July 2007. It was 67.3 percent above the February 2012 bottom of the current cycle.

Indicators of market distress continue to decline. Foreclosure activity remains well below year-ago and far below peak levels. Financing with multiple mortgages is very low, and down payment sizes are stable, DataQuick reported.

California foreclosures remain below pre-crisis levels

California foreclosures remain below pre-crisis levels

http://www.housingwire.com/articles/27935-california-foreclosures-remain-below-pre-crisis-levels

November 13, 2013

California foreclosure activity inched higher in October but has been hovering around the same benchmark since June, which is at or below pre-crisis levels, PropertyRadarreported.

Notices of default increased 15.3% in the state during the month of October, offsetting the 19.5% drop experienced in September.

Notices of trustee sales increased 4.1% but dropped 59.2% for the entire year. Meanwhile, foreclosure sales jumped 3.9% for the month, while sinking 65.4% for the year.

While the low level of foreclosures seems to be good news, the reality remains that 1.5 million California homeowners are underwater and at risk of default. The numerous laws that either prevent or delay foreclosures thwart economic growth by trapping homeowners with negative equity. Negative equity, in turn, prevents underwater homeowners from selling an existing home or buying another, which keeps much-needed for-sale inventory off the market. 

Little Change Again for Southland Home Prices; Sales Picture Mixed

November 12, 2013
http://dqnewspressreleases.blogspot.com/2013/11/october-southland-home-sale-press.html
Southern California home buying picked up last month compared with September but fell short of a year earlier as sales in inventory-starved, lower-cost markets continued to lag far behind 2012 levels. For the fourth month in a row the region’s median sale price more or less moved sideways, though it was still nearly 22 percent higher than October last year, a real estate information service reported.

A total of 20,150 new and resale houses and condos sold in Los Angeles, Riverside, San Diego, Ventura, San Bernardino and Orange counties last month. That was up 5.4 percent from 19,112 sales in September, and down 4.4 percent from 21,075 sales in October 2012, according to San Diego-based DataQuick.

On average, Southland sales have declined 1.1 percent between September and October since 1988, when DataQuick’s statistics begin.

Last month’s sales were 14.4 percent below the average number of sales – 23,572 – in the month of October. Southland sales haven’t been above average for any particular month in more than seven years. October sales have ranged from a low of 12,913 in October 2007 to high of 37,642 in October 2003.

The median price paid for all new and resale houses and condos sold in the six-county region last month was $383,750, up 0.5 percent from $382,000 in September and up 21.8 percent from $315,000 in October 2012. The $385,000 median this June, July and August was the highest in more than five years.

The median price has risen on a year-over-year basis for 19 consecutive months. Those gains have been double-digit – between 10.8 percent and 28.3 percent – over the past 15 months, and they have been greater than 20 percent for the last 10 months.

October’s median price remained 24.0 percent below the peak $505,000 median in spring/summer 2007.

“Our read on the market is that after playing some rapid catch-up, home prices hit a bit of a mid-summer wall. It took a very specific set of circumstances to trigger price gains of 20 percent or more over the course of a year. We had a pitifully low number of homes for sale, incredibly low mortgage rates and unusually high levels of investor purchases. In recent months each of those drivers has reversed somewhat,” said John Walsh, DataQuick president.

Walsh said it’s still unclear how much the housing market was affected by last month’s partial shutdown of the federal government and fears of a default on the national debt.

“Given the uptick in home buying between September and October, it would be difficult to argue that the latest sales figures reflect a pullback by home shoppers,” Walsh said. “However, we’re reporting deals that closed in October; so it’s possible it will take another month to pick up on any sort of pronounced sales drop-off triggered by last month’s debacle in Washington D.C. Also, mortgage rates drifted lower and the most recent job reports have been decent. Those positives would help offset any negative impacts on housing demand in October.”

It appears that almost all of last month’s 21.8 percent year-over-year increase in the Southland median sale price reflects rising home prices, while a small portion reflects a change in market mix. (This mix change consists of a large increase in mid- to high-end sales over the last year and a big decline in sales of lower-cost distressed properties.)

In October, the lowest-cost third of the region’s housing stock saw a 20.0 percent year-over-year rise in the median price paid per square foot for resale houses. The annual gain was 20.9 percent for the middle third of the market and 20.2 percent for the top, most-expensive third.

Sales activity in the middle and upper price ranges continued to outpace sales in more affordable markets.

Last month the number of homes sold from $300,000 through $800,000 – a range that includes many move-up buyers – rose 15.5 percent year-over-year. The number that sold for $500,000 or more jumped 28.5 percent from one year earlier, while $800,000-plus sales rose 32.9 percent.

In October, 32.1 percent of all Southland home sales were for $500,000 or more, down from a revised 33.2 percent of sales the month before and up from 23.7 percent a year earlier.

The number of Southland homes sold below $200,000 last month dropped 39.6 percent year-over-year, while sales below $300,000 fell 32.2 percent. Low-end deals have been relatively weak largely because of an inadequate supply of homes for sale. Many owners still can’t afford to sell their homes because they owe more than they are worth, and lenders aren’t foreclosing on as many properties, further limiting supply.

Foreclosure resales – homes foreclosed on in the prior 12 months – accounted for 6.3 percent of the Southland resale market in October. That was down from a revised 6.4 percent the month before and down from 16.3 percent a year earlier. Last month’s foreclosure resale rate was the lowest since it was 5.5 percent in May 2007. In the current cycle, foreclosure resales hit a high of 56.7 percent in February 2009.

Short sales – transactions where the sale price fell short of what was owed on the property – made up an estimated 12.9 percent of Southland resales last month. That was the lowest since October 2008, when it was 12.7 percent. Last month’s short sale figure was down from an estimated 13.3 percent the month before and down from 27.2 percent a year earlier.

Absentee buyers – mostly investors and some second-home purchasers – bought 26.5 percent of the Southland homes sold last month, which is the lowest share for any month since it was 25.1 percent in November 2011. Last month’s absentee level was down from a revised 26.9 percent the month before and down from 28.4 percent a year earlier. The absentee share has dropped each month this year since hitting a record 32.4 percent in January. The monthly average since 2000, when the absentee data begin, is 18.4 percent. Last month’s absentee buyers paid a median $316,000, up 1.9 percent from the month before and up 30.8 percent from a year earlier.

In October 6.5 percent of all Southland homes sold on the open market had previously sold in the prior six months. That’s up from a flipping rate of 6.1 percent in September and up from 6.0 percent in October 2012. Flipping peaked at 7.0 percent in February this year and had trended lower most months this year until September. (The figures exclude homes resold after being purchased at public foreclosure auction sales on the courthouse steps).

Buyers paying cash accounted for 27.5 percent of last month’s home sales, down from 28.5 percent the month before and down from 32.8 percent a year earlier. The cash share of purchases has declined each month since hitting an all-time peak of 36.9 percent this February, and in October was at its lowest level since it was 26.2 percent in September 2010. Since 1988 the monthly average for cash buyers is 16.3 percent of all sales. Cash buyers paid a median $337,000 last month, down 0.4 percent month-to-month and up 34.8 percent from a year ago.

Last month Southern California home buyers put $4.3 billion of their own money on the table in the form of a down payment or as an outright cash purchase. They borrowed $5.7 billion in mortgage money from lenders.

The most active lenders to Southern California home buyers last month were Wells Fargo with 8.1 percent of the purchase loan market, Bank of American with 2.7 percent and Prospect Mortgage with 2.2 percent.

There was little change in credit conditions month-to-month in October but the change from a year earlier was significant.

In October 12.0 percent of Southland home purchase loans were adjustable-rate mortgages (ARMs) – the same as in September, exactly double the year-ago level, and the highest for any month since ARMs were 12.6 percent of the market in July 2008. Since 2000, a monthly average of about 31 percent of Southland purchase loans have been ARMs.

Jumbo loans, mortgages above the old conforming limit of $417,000, accounted for 26.3 percent of last month’s Southland purchase lending. That was down a hair from 26.5 percent the prior month and up from 20.7 percent a year earlier. In the months leading up to the credit crunch that struck in August 2007, jumbos accounted for around 40 percent of the home loan market.

Government-insured FHA loans, a popular low-down-payment choice among first-time buyers, accounted for 19.7 percent of all purchase mortgages last month. That was up from 19.0 percent the month before and down from 25.7 percent a year earlier. In recent months the FHA share has been the lowest since early 2008, mainly because of tighter FHA qualifying standards and the difficulties first-time buyers have competing with investors and cash buyers.

DataQuick monitors real estate activity nationwide and provides information to consumers, educational institutions, public agencies, lending institutions, title companies and industry analysts.

The typical monthly mortgage payment Southland buyers committed themselves to paying last month was $1,499, down from $1,547 the month before and up from $1,115 a year earlier. Adjusted for inflation, last month’s typical payment was 37.5 percent below the typical payment in the spring of 1989, the peak of the prior real estate cycle. It was 48.8 percent below the current cycle’s peak in July 2007.

Indicators of market distress continue to decline. Foreclosure activity remains well below year-ago and far below peak levels. Financing with multiple mortgages is very low, and down payment sizes are stable, DataQuick reported.