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Houston Mortgage Refinance

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The fourth most populous city in the United States, Houston defines the term "urban sprawl" with 2.2 million people living in an area of 600 square miles. But greater Houston is even bigger - Houston is the major city within the larger Houston-Sugar Land-Baytown metropolitan area that is home to 5.9 million people.

Districts within Houston include Uptown, Texas Medical Center, Midtown, Greenway Plaza, Energy Corridor, Westchase, and Greenspoint. But a distinctive characteristic of the Houston housing market is that the city has no formal zoning laws - you can build just about anything anywhere. Houston is notoriously automobile dependent (according to the U.S. Census Bureau, 71.7% of residents drive alone to work), but one benefit of the lack of controls and the wide-open spaces is that the city has plenty of affordable housing. Because prices have been historically low for basic housing, the city's real estate market has been less affected by the nationwide real estate crisis. The rate of new building is robust; according to Builder magazine, in 2008 Houston issued 42,697 building permits and in 2009 was ranked first in a nationwide list of healthiest housing markets.

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Mortgage refinance - Houston

Mortgage rates are at all-time low levels. There has never been a better time to refinance and lower your mortgage payment. If you have an adjustable rate mortgage (ARM) you can refinance and get a low fixed rate. You don't need perfect credit to apply.

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Across the Houston area, the real estate market is rebounding after a dip in 2009, and prices are inching up. The Houston Association of Realtors reports increases in single-family homes in March, April and May of 2010. While some boost is due to the federal homebuyers tax incentive, which placed a June 30 deadline for closings, some analysts are confident that the Houston market will continue to experience growth. The biggest increase in sales took place in the $80,000 to $150,000 price range - affordable to many working families (can you imagine what $80,000 would buy in New York City? Maybe a parking place in a crummy garage).

The foreclosure rate in Houston, and throughout Texas, has remained low during the recession. According to the Texas Mortgage Bankers Association (TMBA), at the end of 2009 two percent of Texas home loans were in the foreclosure process, compared with a national rate of 4.58 percent. Of all states, only seven, including Texas, has a foreclosure rate of two percent or lower. And the national scourge of sub-prime mortgages seems to have bypassed Texas; the TMBA reports that while sub-prime loans represent nearly eleven percent of all Texas loans being serviced, there is little evidence that indicates sub-prime mortgages defaulted at higher rates than prime mortgages.

In Houston, home prices are still depressed. In May 2010 the average single-family home cost $209,920, a slight decrease from May 2009 even though prices had been inching up for the previous 12 months. Buyers have many properties to choose from; in May the total number of available properties ("active listings") was 51,185, a significant increase from the previous month. This surge of homes on the market, say analysts, may be a positive symptom of seller confidence in the market. Turnover is relatively quick: Houston has a 6.8-month inventory of single-family homes, in contrast to the national number of 8.4 months.

Townhouses and condominiums remain available and affordable. The average price of a townhouse/condo is $162,945, up from a year ago. The pace of sales is picking up, with 552 units sold in greater Houston in May 2010, up significantly from 395 sold in May 2009.

Homeowners who are looking to refinance have a variety of options, and from Trulia we get a snapshot of refinancing rates as of June 2010. For a $300,000, 30-year fixed rate refinance, annual percentage rates (APRs) range from 5.109% at Preferred Bank to a low of 4.484% at LenderFi.com. Other competitive lenders include AimLoan.com, AmeriSave Mortgage, and CapWest Mortgage. Fees and points vary. Homeowners who have experienced a sharp drop in home values may have to wait until home values rise again before considering refinancing.

Despite relatively strong performance through the recession, analysts say that for the next year Houston will remain a sluggish real estate market with lots to choose from - which good news for bargain hunters and motivated buyers.