Thursday, December 24, 2009

REALTOR® Magazine-Daily News-Another Big Gain in Existing-Home Sales

REALTOR® Magazine-Daily News-Another Big Gain in Existing-Home Sales

Tax Credit Gets Buyers Off the Fence

The new $6,500 move-up Homebuyer Tax Credit is apparently motivating buyers, according to a Campbell Communications survey of 1,500 real estate practitioners.

Existing home owners accounted for 41 percent of home purchases in November, up from 38 percent in October, the survey found.

“Current home owners jumped at the credit,” says survey research director Thomas Popik.

Source: Housing Wire, Austin Kilgore (12/22/2009)

Economy Improving in 4th Quarter

Economy Improving in 4th Quarter
The economy grew 2.2 percent in the third quarter. The U.S. Commerce Department had previously estimated a 2.8 percent growth rate. Officials attributed the discrepancy to consumer caution, saying that consumers simply didn’t spend as much.

Many analysts still believe the economy is likely to improve in the current quarter, growing at an estimated 4 percent, or perhaps, even 5 percent. Fourth quarter results will be released Jan. 29.

Companies stocking depleted inventories will drive fourth-quarter growth, but the results will continue to reflect consumer caution. "We expect a better performance in the fourth quarter, but the core problems for the economy – bust banks and a massively overleveraged consumer – have not gone away," says Ian Shepherdson, chief economist at High Frequency Economics.

Source: Associated Press, Jeannine Aversa (12/22/2009)

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Coming Soon: More Foreclosures

More than 1.7 million homeowners were verging on foreclosure this fall, making it likely that these houses will soon end up on the market one way or the other, driving down overall housing values.

"We're going to be dealing with high levels of distressed (sales) in the marketplace for at least a couple of years," says Mark Fleming, chief economist of researcher First American CoreLogic, which has been studying the problem.

Some real estate practitioners say they fear that this onslaught is coming.

"We've been in recovery mode for most of the year. How many foreclosures do they have to dump on the market to affect that? I don't know," says Deborah Farmer, owner of StarLight Realty in Tampa, Fla. "Any house priced under $225,000 will be affected by a large increase in foreclosures in this market."

Source: Associated Press, Alan Zibel (12/17/2009)

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

For Sale: 3BR/2+1BA Single Family House in Roslyn, NY, $699,000

For Sale: 3BR/2+1BA Single Family House in Roslyn, NY, $699,000

Imagine Living in this three bedroom home on Main Street in Historic Village of Roslyn on over a quarter acre of land. While you enter the front door you walk threw the dining room which leads you to through the Living room to the eat in kitchen where there is a powder room. There are two staircases that bring you to the second floor which features three nice sized bedrooms with two full bathrooms. Since there are three working fireplaces you will not need to use the heat, which is Gas with a separate Hot Water Heater. This property is Walking distance to the LIRR and the immaculate town of Roslyn Village where there is plenty of transportation. Roslyn School district, 1.5 Car garage, plenty of storage.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

For Sale: 1BR/1BA Co-Op in Glen Oaks, NY, $205,000

For Sale: 1BR/1BA Co-Op in Glen Oaks, NY, $205,000

For Sale: 1BR/1BA Co-Op in Glen Oaks, NY, $205,000

For Sale: 1BR/1BA Co-Op in Glen Oaks, NY, $205,000

Home Values Have Been Stabilizing

U.S. homes lost $489 billion in value during the first 11 months of 2009. That’s significantly less than the $3.6 trillion lost during 2008 and evidence that home values are stabilizing, says, online real estate research firm.

Properties in 48 of the 154 markets tracked by Zillow rose in value this year, but Zillow’s Chief Economist Stan Humphries believes prices could decline again in 2010.

“We believe that demand will come under downward pressure as mortgage rates creep back up after the first quarter and that housing supply will experience upward pressure as the volume of foreclosures continues to remain high. Both these factors will challenge the recent stabilization of home prices," Humphries said in a statement.

Areas where home prices rose the most in 2009 were:
  • Boston
  • Providence
  • Denver, Colo.
  • Atlanta, Ga.
  • Rochester, N.Y.

Areas where homes continued to lose the most value:
  • Los Angeles
  • Chicago
  • New York
  • Miami-Fort Lauderdale
  • Phoenix

Source: (12/0920/09)

Friday, December 4, 2009

How to Get the Best REO Deal

How to Get the Best REO Deal
REO and short-sale properties can be money pits when offers take forever to close and vacant properties are trashed.

Here are some suggestions for expediting the deals:
  • The best short-sale deals are those where the bank has pre-approved the sale price. The property may still take a long time to close, but not as long as it would otherwise.
  • Buyers of a short-sale should be prepared for multiple offers. If the short-sale property is an attractive one, the lender will continue to market the property even after signing a sales contract. And if it gets a better offer, it may sell the property without giving the original buyers a chance to negotiate.
  • Seek out houses protected by the Cash for Keys program, which gives short-sale and foreclosed owners money to prevent them from trashing the place on the way out.
  • Inspections are important. If a home has been vacant, get the property re-inspected prior to closing.
  • Buyers shouldn't focus on price alone. Homes that are in poor neighborhoods, have serious maintenance issues, or have terrible floor plans aren’t bargains despite the price.

Source: Inman News, Bernice Ross (11/30/2009)

Parents Should Consider Homes as Gifts

Parents Should Consider Homes as Gifts
Parents who are looking for a gift to give their kids this holiday season should consider a house.

With prices in the cellar, this could be a terrific year to give a down payment or even the whole home.

The Internal Revenue Service says a married couple can each give gifts of $13,000 of money or property without triggering taxes for the gift givers or the recipients. That means a married couple can give another married couple a total of $52,000 a year. To maximize that they can give $52,000 in December and another $52,000 in January for a total of $104,000 to be used on a property before the federal tax credit expires.

This would buy a house in some parts of the country and be sufficient for a down payment in most others.

Source: The Wall Street Journal, June Fletcher (11/27/2009)

Harvard Economist Predicts Prices Will Stay Low

Harvard Economist Predicts Prices Will Stay Low
Harvard University economist Edward Glaeser discusses with Money Magazine where home prices will move next. He argues that older, colder cities are unlikely to come back because their initial growth was tied to transportation costs. Now that few goods are moved by water, their productivity – and number of residents – has declined.

Today, cities are likely to grow because they are located in warm areas where people want to live, Glaeser says. Cities like Atlanta, Dallas, and Houston that have a vibrant economy and a lenient building environment have gone through the housing meltdown with less of a decline in prices. These cities, he says, are likely to continue to attract residents, while their flexible approach to building regulation will keep home prices moderate.

But Glaeser doesn’t foresee property values rising to previous levels even in attractive locales. “The harsh reality is that real estate prices that go up come down. I've found that for every real $1 increase in local market prices over a five-year period, prices go down 32¢ over the following five years,” Glaeser says.

Source: Money Magazine, Lisa Gibbs (11/25/2009)

Loan Modification Success Said to be Overlooked

Loan Modification Success Said to be Overlooked
A report from the voluntary, mortgage industry-driven Hope Now program says the mortgage industry has assisted 2.7 million homeowners in 2009 with mortgage modifications or repayment plans outside of the federal programs.

The statement released Wednesday lacked many details about what kind of help servicers were offering. "What are the circumstances?" asks economist Joel Naroff, with Naroff Economic Advisors. "It's a large number, but they're probably not helping a lot of people who we'd think of as getting a modification. They might just be rewriting a mortgage to more of a fixed rate."

The Executive Director of Hope Now Faith Schwartz says industry efforts to solve the foreclosure problem are significant. "We've got to talk about what else is going on in the market. That's the bigger picture," she says.

Source: USA Today, Stephanie Armour (12/03/2009)

Fed: Economy Improving, Commercial Still Weak

Fed: Economy Improving, Commercial Still Weak
The U.S. economy has “improved modestly” since early October, the Federal Reserve said Wednesday in releasing its monthly “beige book” survey of regional economic conditions.

The Fed said residential real estate sales increased everywhere but the Northeast. Also, fewer homes overall were being built.

The report also said commercial real estate was worse than the residential market, with conditions reported to have weakened in virtually all districts, with “rising vacancy rates, downward pressure on rents, and little, if any, new development."

Overall, the Fed reported that the labor market remained weak in most areas, but it noted improvement in some areas and an uptick in retail sales.

Source: The Wall Street Journal, Sudeep Reddy (12/03/2009)

Mortgage Applications Rise Over Thanksgiving

Mortgage Applications Rise Over Thanksgiving
Mortgage applications rose last week, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association weekly survey.

On a seasonally adjusted basis, mortgage loan applications increased 2.1 percent compared to the previous week. The seasonally adjusted purchase index increased 4.1 percent from the previous week, while the refinance index rose 1.7 percent.

On an unadjusted basis – reflecting the Thanksgiving holiday – the purchase index decreased 30.4 percent compared with the previous week and was 34.9 percent lower than it was the same week a year ago.

Mortgage rates continued to decline, with 30-year fixed rates reaching their lowest level since May.

30-year fixed-rate mortgages decreased to 4.79 percent from 4.82 percent;
15-year fixed-rate mortgages decreased to 4.27 percent from 4.32 percent;
1-year ARMs decreased to 6.56 percent from 6.66 percent.

Source: Mortgage Bankers Association (12/02/2009)

Remodelers Say Business Is Picking Up

Remodelers Say Business Is Picking Up
Home remodeling business is picking up all over the country. Contractors began noticing the trend at the end of what was a long, slow summer.

The reason for the upturn is that home owners, unable to sell properties, are deciding to stay and fix up the deficiencies. An added incentive is the $1,500 federal tax credit for energy-related improvements.

The National Association of Home Builders' Remodeling Market Index, a measure of contractor confidence, rose slightly last month and its futures index also increased, indicating contractors are more confident that business is improving.

Kermit Baker, chief economist for the American Institute of Architects and Senior Research Fellow at Harvard University's Joint Center for Housing Studies, agrees that the remodeling industry hit bottom during the summer, but he doesn’t expect substantial improvement until Spring 2010.

Source:, Les Christie (12/04/2009)

30-Year Rates Hit Record Low

30-Year Rates Hit Record Low
The average interest rate for 30-year mortgages has fallen to the lowest level since Freddie Mac began compiling its weekly survey in 1971, declining to 4.71 percent this week from 4.78 percent a week ago.

Rates also were more attractive for 15-year fixed loans, which fell from 4.29 percent to 4.27 percent, but many consumers may not have qualified for them because they now face higher credit standards from lenders.

Still, the Mortgage Bankers Association's index of application demand, which rose 2.1 percent on a seasonally adjusted basis during Thanksgiving week from the previous week, shows that consumers were looking to take advantage of mortgage rates at a historic low.

Source: USA Today, Stephanie Armour (12/04/09)

Banks Start to Embrace Short Sales

Banks Start to Embrace Short Sales
Even before the government put pressure on them to embrace short sales, more banks were starting to take their lumps, do the short-sale deals and move on.

Three years into the housing meltdown, short sales have tripled to 40,000 in the first six months of 2009, compared to the same time period a year ago, according to data from the Office of Thrift Supervision and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency.

Wells Fargo, Bank of America Corp., and JPMorgan Chase & Co. this year have hired and trained more staff to handle short sales and also developed software for expediting them.

“It’s really finally dawning on banks that they’re better off with a short sale,” said Richard Green, director of the Lusk Center for Real Estate at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. “I think banks were in denial.”

Source: Bloomberg, John Gittelsohn and Margaret Collins (12/4/2009)

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Indicators Suggest More Housing Weakness

A new report from the Federal Housing Financing Agency indicated that home prices were flat in September compared to August.

Some analysts saw this and other factors as a sign that home prices are likely to fall again.

Predicting a new 10 percent decline, John Silvia, chief economist at Wells Fargo, said, “There is no clear, easy way out for housing. Contrary to my hopes, housing prices and the housing market in general will weaken again.”

Meanwhile, the Federal Reserve continues to predict that unemployment will remain above 9 percent through 2010. Minutes of its most recent meeting show that Fed officials are unwilling to raise the overnight federal funds rate from its current level of zero for fear of pushing up mortgage rates and adding to the malaise.

Source: The New York Times, David Streitfeld, Edmund L. Andrews and Javier C. Hernandez (11/24/2009)

Real Estate Market FAQs

Got questions about where real estate is headed? Here are informed answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about today’s housing market.

When will housing hit bottom?
There isn’t any single answer to this question. It depends on where you live. Home prices are rising again in the most convenient suburbs of such cities as New York and Washington, D.C. In other places that are in less demand, prices continue to fall.

How can I figure out the value of my home?
Talking to a real estate professional and/or hiring an appraiser is the best idea. But even after getting a professional opinion, it is hard to tell what a home will sell for until you put it on the market.

Is now a good time for a renter to buy a home?
It could be. Prices in many areas are down significantly from their peak a couple of years ago. Plus, Congress has extended the tax credit for first-time home buyers and added a $6,500 credit for many previous owners of homes who sign a contract to buy by April 30, 2010.

Should I invest in foreclosed homes?
A foreclosure can be a risky buy, even for the most experienced real estate investors. Use caution.

Source: The Wall Street Journal, James R. Hagerty (11/17/2009)

Tax Credit Quandaries Answered

The complexity of new home buyer tax credits leaves potential buyers with many questions. Here are answers to some of the most confusing:

How does a current home owner qualify for the $6,500 credit?
Buyers must have lived in their homes for at least five out of the last eight years. The home they buy must become their primary residence, but buyers don’t have to sell their previous home. They can use the previous home as a rental or a second home and still claim the credit.

Does the new home have to be more expensive than the one the buyer currently owns?
No. It is fine to use it to downsize. If the property sells for more than $800,000, the buyers don’t qualify.

Can buyers who are building a new home claim the credit?
Yes, although the contract must be in place by April 30 and the buyer must move in by July 1.

Can buyers claim the credit if they purchase a home from a relative?
No. The legislation prohibits taxpayers from claiming the credit if the sale is between “related parties,” including parent, grandparent, child, or grandchild.

Source: USA Today, Sandra Block (11/24/2009)

Existing-Home Sales Record Big Gains

Driven by the home buyer tax credit, existing-home sales showed another big gain in October with a strong uptrend established over the past seven months, according to the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®. At the same time, inventories have continued to decline.

Existing-home sales—including single-family, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops—surged 10.1 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 6.10 million units in October from a downwardly revised pace of 5.54 million in September, and are 23.5 percent above the 4.94 million-unit level in October 2008. Sales activity is at the highest pace since February 2007 when it hit 6.55 million.

Tax Credit Fuels Surge

Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, was surprised at the size of the gain. “Many buyers have been rushing to beat the deadline for the first-time buyer tax credit that was scheduled to expire at the end of this month, and similarly robust sales may be occurring in November,” he said. “With such a sale spike, a measurable decline should be anticipated in December and early next year before another surge in spring and early summer.”

Now that the tax credit has been extended and expanded, potential buyers have until April 30 to have a contract in place. “There is still a large pent-up demand that can be tapped before the tax credit expires. Our recent consumer survey further shows that 13 percent of successful first-time buyers had a previous contract that was cancelled or fell through—there likely are many more buyers who were attempting to purchase but simply ran out of time,” Yun said.

Historically low interest rates also are boosting the market. “Mortgage interest rates last month were the third lowest on record dating back to 1971,” Yun noted. According to Freddie Mac, the national average commitment rate for a 30-year, conventional, fixed-rate mortgage fell to 4.95 percent in October from 5.06 percent in September; the rate was 6.20 percent in October 2008. Last week, Freddie Mac reporter the 30-year rate dropped to 4.83 percent.

Inventory Declines

NAR President Vicki Cox Golder said strong demand by first-time buyers is creating some unusual conditions. “In parts of the country, especially in Southwestern states but also in Florida and suburban Washington D.C., we’ve been getting many reports of multiple bids in the lower price ranges with foreclosed properties getting absorbed quickly,” she said.

“In fact, low-end inventory has become very tight in many areas and in some cases buyers are becoming more aggressive. In this kind of environment it’s important to work with a REALTOR® who can walk you through the process and help you negotiate a satisfactory deal,” Golder said.

Total housing inventory at the end of October fell 3.7 percent to 3.57 million existing homes available for sale, which represents a 7.0-month supply at the current sales pace, down from an 8.0-month supply in September. Unsold inventory totals are 14.9 percent below a year ago.

“The supply of homes on the market is now at the lowest level in over two-and-a half years – we’re getting closer to a general balance between buyers and sellers,” Yun said. The last time the relative housing inventory was this low was in February 2007 when it also was at a 7.0-month supply.

Existing Home Price by Type

The national median existing-home price for all housing types was $173,100 in October, down 7.1 percent from October 2008. Distressed properties, which accounted for 30 percent of sales in October, continue to downwardly distort the median price because they usually sell at a discount relative to traditional homes in the same area.

“In the second half of 2010, if home values show consistent stabilization or even a modest increase, then home sales could remain at normal healthy levels because consumers would no longer be worried about a price overcorrection,” Yun said.

He added that low home prices also are contributing to extremely favorable affordability conditions. “With the abnormal drop in home prices over the past few years, the price-to-income ratio has fallen below the historic trend line,” Yun said. “This is adding to the buying power of the typical family, with affordability conditions this year at the highest on record dating back to 1970, but prices are beginning to flatten and are poised to rise next year.”

Single-family home sales rose 9.7 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.33 million inOctober from a pace of 4.86 million in September, and are 21.4 percent above the 4.39 million-unit pace in October 2008. The median existing single-family home price was $173,100 in October, down 6.8 percent from a year ago.

Existing condominium and co-op sales surged 13.2 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 770,000 units in October from 680,000 in September, and are 40.8 percent above the 547,000-unit level a year ago. The median existing condo price was $172,900 in October, which is 10.4 percent below October 2008.

Regional Views

Here’s a look at existing-home sales figures in different regions of the United States:

Northeast: Existing-home sales rose 11.6 percent to an annual level of 1.06 million in October, and are 27.7 percent higher than October 2008. The median price in the Northeast was $235,400, down 2.6 percent from a year ago.

Midwest: Existing-home sales surged 14.4 percent in October to a pace of 1.43 million and are 28.8 percent above a year ago. The median price in the Midwest was $146,600, a gain of 1.1 percent from October 2008.

South: Existing-home sales rose 12.7 percent to an annual level of 2.30 million in October and are 25.7 percent higher than October 2008. The median price in the South was $151,100, down 6.3 percent from a year ago.

West: Existing-home sales increased 1.6 percent to an annual rate of 1.31 million in October and are 12.0 percent above a year ago. The median price in the West was $220,200, which is 14.7 percent below October 2008.


Saturday, November 14, 2009

Application Index for Purchases Falls

Application Index for Purchases Falls
Mortgage applications rose 3.2 percent on a seasonally adjusted basis last week compared with the previous week, but most of the increase was in refinances.

The seasonally adjusted purchase index declined 11.7 percent from the previous week and is at its lowest level since December 2000. On an unadjusted basis, the purchase index fell 13.7 percent compared with the previous week and was down 21.6 percent compared to the same week a year ago.

The refinance index increased rose 11.3 percent and represented 71.5 percent of total applications.

Overall, interest rates declined:
  • 30-year fixed-rate mortgages decreased to 4.90 percent from 4.97 percent.
  • 15-year fixed-rate mortgages remained unchanged at 4.33 percent.
  • 1-year ARMs increased to 6.85 percent from 6.83 percent.

Source: Mortgage Bankers Association (11/12/2009)

Foreclosures Decline for Third Month

Foreclosures Decline for Third Month
Foreclosures were filed on 332,292 U.S. properties in October, a decrease of 3 percent from September, but still up nearly 19 percent from October 2008, according to foreclosure sales site RealtyTrac.

October marks the third-straight month of declines in foreclosures, which many see as an encouraging sign that the worst of the foreclosures are behind us. Still, some skeptics predict another wave. “The real issue is we don’t know what inventory banks are holding that they have yet to put on the market,” said Stephen Miller, chair of the economics department at the University of Nevada at Las Vegas, during an interview with Bloomberg News.

States with the highest foreclosure rates are Nevada, California, Florida, Arizona, Idaho, Illinois, Michigan, Georgia, Maryland and Utah.

Four states accounted for 52 percent of the nation’s total foreclosure activity in October: California, Florida, Illinois, and Michigan. The rest of the states in the top 10 for actual numbers of foreclosures were Nevada, Arizona, Georgia, Texas, Ohio, and New Jersey.

Source: RealtyTrac (11/12/2009)

Distressed Sales Remain a Concern

Distressed Sales Remain a Concern
Twenty-nine percent of recent buyers purchased a home in foreclosure or through a short sale, according to the latest REALTORS® Confidence Index. REALTORS® who participated in the survey are also concerned about a growing number of foreclosures and the hurdles buyers face in short sales.

The RCI is a key indicator of housing market strength based on a monthly survey of more than 50,000 REALTORS®; in a typical month there are more than 3,000 usable responses. Practitioners are asked about their expectations for home sales, prices, and market conditions; they also share their insights regarding buyer preferences and financing options and how those factors are influencing real estate markets nationwide.

“REALTORS® are on the front lines with buyers and sellers in today’s market and have valuable insights into real estate trends,” NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® President Charles McMillan said. “The volume of distressed sales that our members are reporting underscores the importance of the recent tax credit extension. By putting cash in the hands of financially healthy home buyers, the credit will continue to help draw down inventory and stabilize home prices to encourage a strong and sustainable housing recovery.”

Despite the high volume of distressed sales, REALTORS® report that their buyers encounter various challenges associated with these types of sales. Buyers who present a short sale offer can wait months before hearing whether their offer will be accepted. In addition, REALTORS® are also seeing increased competition for foreclosed properties, and multiple bids are sometimes driving sales prices over list prices.

Aside from the demand for short sales and foreclosed homes, today’s buyers are increasingly interested in a home’s energy efficiency and proximity to transportation corridors, reflecting concerns about rising energy costs. Many REALTORS® are seeing a growing preference among buyers for smaller homes, as people look to downsize and cut expenses.

Mortgages insured by the Federal Housing Administration are the primary lending vehicle for many buyers; 24 percent of recent buyers used an FHA loan to finance their purchase. However, more than one in five recent buyers—21 percent—paid all cash.

Source: NAR

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Google Maps Expands Real Estate Info

Google has been improving the usability of real estate information in its Google Maps function.

Users can now select the “real estate” option from the “more” button on the top right of any Google Map. They’ll automatically see balloons on the maps of listings, as well as a pop-up real estate refinement panel on the left.

From there, they can refine what they are searching for by checking the boxes for renting or buying, apartment or house, as well as price range, square footage, numbers of bedrooms and bathrooms, and foreclosure listings.

Google is also inviting real estate practitioners to list homes on Google Maps.

Source: eWeek, Clint Boulton (10/30/2009)

Pending Home Sales Continue to Rise

Pending home sales rose again, marking eight consecutive monthly gains – the longest streak since measurement began in 2001, according to the National Association of REALTORS®.

The Pending Home Sales Index,* a forward-looking indicator based on contracts signed in September, rose 6.1 percent to 110.1 from a reading of 103.8 in August, and is 21.2 percent higher than September 2008 when it stood at 90.9.

The gain from a year ago is the largest annual increase on record, and the index is at the highest level since December 2006 when it was 112.8.

Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, said the momentum is understandable.
“What we’re witnessing is a rush of first-time buyers trying to beat the expiration of the tax credit at the end of this month,” he said. “Home values will stabilize sooner rather than over-correcting. That, in turn, will mean wealth stabilization for the vast number of middle-class families and lay the foundation for a durable economic recovery.”

Watch a video interview of Yun as he talks about these latest pending-home sales trends.

NAR estimates approximately 3 million renters are now financially well-qualified to buy a median-priced home. “As long as buyers do not overstretch and stay well within their budget, a sizable pent-up demand can be tapped among financially qualified potential buyers,” Yun said. “Although the tax credit is greatly reviving the existing home market, new-home sales may continue to struggle as home builders hold back production to drive down inventory. In addition, there remains an ongoing credit crunch for construction loans.”

The Pending Home Sales Index in the Northeast slipped 2.0 percent to 83.6 in September but remains 16.9 percent above September 2008. In the Midwest the index rose 8.1 percent to 98.2 in September and is 17.8 percent higher than a year ago. In the South, pending home sales increased 4.9 percent to an index of 109.7 and is 22.8 percent above September 2008. In the West the index jumped 10.2 percent to 143.8 and is 23.7 percent above a year ago.

Yun added that strong near-term reports should not be overstated. “We’re clearly not out of the woods because an excess of homes remains on the market despite recent improvements,” he said. “Although current inventory is getting closer to price equilibrium, foreclosures will continue to enter the pipeline. An extended and expanded tax credit would help absorb this incoming inventory.”


Obama Signs Extended Tax Credit into Law

Expected to contribute approximately $22 billion to the economy, Congress overwhelmingly passed a bipartisan measure this week extending the $8,000 home buyer tax credit to April 30, 2010.

The legislation, which is part of a larger bill that also extends unemployment benefits, was signed into law by President Obama today.

More people are now eligible to take advantage of the law, which includes a $6,500 tax credit for buyers who are current home owners and have lived in their home for five of the past eight years.

Income limits for eligible home buyers were also expanded to $125,000 for single buyers and $225,000 for couples, up from $75,000 for individuals and $150,000 for couples. Qualifying home prices are capped at $800,000.

NAR's Government Affairs Division has compiled facts on the changes made to the current tax credit. NAR members sent more than 500,000 letters to leaders in Congress and made nearly 13,000 telephone calls to Senate offices last weekend to encourage support. So far this year, REALTORS® have spent nearly $14 million lobbying Congress, according to federal campaign finance records compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics.

Sen. Johnny Isakson, a Georgia Republican and a former member of NAR, was key in extending the credit, as well as pushing it through initially. Other prominent boosters include the National Association of Homebuilders and the Mortgage Bankers Association.

Listen to NAR President Charles McMillan's podcast announcement.

NAR economists estimate that approximately 2 million people will take advantage of the tax credit this year.

Sources: NAR and The Associated Press, Julie Hirschfeld Davis (11/06/2009)

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Vacant Homes Up Slightly

Vacant homes in the U.S.—including foreclosures, residences for sale, and vacation properties—rose to 18.8 million in the third quarter, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

The record high for vacancies was 18.95 million in the first quarter of this year. There were 18.4 vacancies in the third quarter last year.

In total, there were 130.3 million homes in the U.S. in the third quarter, according to the census. About 2 million were for sale, 4.6 million for rent, and 4.6 million were vacation homes that are only used a portion of the year.

Source: Bloomberg, Kathleen M. Howley (10/29

Foreclosures Tricks and Treats

HGTV’s real estate Web site has identified what it calls the “tricks and treats” of buying a foreclosure:

Tricks to avoid:
  • Just because a foreclosure has a low price tag doesn’t mean it’s a bargain. Many need lots of expensive repairs.
  • Buying a foreclosure property isn’t for amateurs. Buyers need a knowledgeable real estate practitioner to guide them through the process.

Foreclosure treats:
  • Well-maintained foreclosures priced at 50 percent or less of their market value make homeownership very affordable.
  • Building a relationship with a lender’s REO (real estate owned) department can help when it’s time to make a deal.

Source: (10/29/2009)

NAR Lauds Extension of Higher Loan Limits

The NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® thanked Congress for speedy action in passing a congressional resolution yesterday that would extend the current higher Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and FHA loan limits through 2010. The present loan limits would expire at the end of 2009 and revert to previous lower limits.

“NAR commends both houses of Congress for their quick action in continuing these higher limits during a time for recovery in the housing market and national economy. The higher limits, along with the home buyer tax credit extension, are necessary to keep the markets moving at this critical time,” said NAR President Charles McMillan.

“Home sales have shown significant movement upwards in the past six months and reduced inventory in some segments of the housing market, but not in all. Home purchases in the middle-income and higher brackets have not moved much, and those markets must improve before we can experience a fully sustained housing recovery. These higher loan limits will help motivate qualified home buyers to purchase in those markets,” McMillan said.

The resolution would extend the present conventional loan limits for Fannie and Freddie through the 2010 calendar year at 125 percent of local median home sales prices, up to a maximum of $729,750 in high-cost areas. The floor for FHA is $271,050; the floor for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac conforming loan limits is $417,000.

The resolution now goes to President Obama, and he is expected to sign it today or Saturday to avoid a government shutdown.

Source: NAR (10/30/2009)

For Sale: 2BR/1BA Co-Op in Bayside, NY, $235,333

For Sale: 2BR/1BA Co-Op in Bayside, NY, $235,333

For Sale: 1BR/1BA Co-Op in Douglaston, NY, $157,777

For Sale: 1BR/1BA Co-Op in Douglaston, NY, $157,777

For Sale: 1BR/1BA Single Family House in Elmont, NY, $149,000

For Sale: 1BR/1BA Single Family House in Elmont, NY, $149,000

For Sale: 1BR/1BA Single Family House in Elmont, NY, $149,000

For Sale: 1BR/1BA Single Family House in Elmont, NY, $149,000

For Sale: 3BR/2.5BA Single Family House in Elmont, NY, $469,777

For Sale: 3BR/2.5BA Single Family House in Elmont, NY, $469,777

For Sale: 6BR/3BA Multi-Family in Rosedale, NY, $599,777

For Sale: 6BR/3BA Multi-Family in Rosedale, NY, $599,777

For Sale: 1BR/1BA Single Family House in Douglaston, NY, $249,777

For Sale: 1BR/1BA Single Family House in Douglaston, NY, $249,777

For Sale: Retail/Commercial in Whitestone, NY, $700

For Sale: Retail/Commercial in Whitestone, NY, $700

For Sale: 1BR/1BA Co-OLittle Neck in Little Neck, NY, $173,777

For Sale: 1BR/1BA Co-OLittle Neck in Little Neck, NY, $173,777

For Sale: 1BR/1BA Co-OGreat Neck in Great Neck, NY, $269,777

For Sale: 1BR/1BA Co-OGreat Neck in Great Neck, NY, $269,777

Imagine Moving into this beautiful one bedroom waterfront co-op with a doorman overlooking Manhasset Bay. You will notice the camera's throughout the building demonstrating its security features. The maintenance is $650 and if you would like a parking spot, the seller can transfer his spot and the maintenance will be $700. The unit is on the second floor and has a large formal dining room. The kitchen and bathroom has been newly renovated.

For Sale: 9+BR/9+BA Single Family House in Lattingtown, NY, $3,399,999

For Sale: 9+BR/9+BA Single Family House in Lattingtown, NY, $3,399,999

For Sale: 1BR/1BA Co-Op in Bayside, NY, $244,750

For Sale: 1BR/1BA Co-Op in Bayside, NY, $244,750

Imagine Living In This Great 915-Sq Ft Junior 4 In The Heart Of Bay Terrace. This Unit Features Hardwood Fls Throughout, Lg Walk-In-Closets, & A 20-Ft Terrace. Maintenance Inc Elec, & Is Approx. $1,074.05/Month, & 40% Ded. Building Inc Laundry Rm & Priv Outdoor Pool, Priv Outdoor Prking May Be Added For $40-45/ Mnth, And/Or Indoor Garage For $60-66/Month. In addition, there are three bus stops within two blocks, including an express bus to Midtown Manhattan.

For Sale: 4BR/2BA Single Family House in Port Washington, NY, $599,000

For Sale: 4BR/2BA Single Family House in Port Washington, NY, $599,000

For Sale: 3BR/1.5BA Single Family House in Farmingdale, NY, $429,000

For Sale: 3BR/1.5BA Single Family House in Farmingdale, NY, $429,000

Mint Split Level Situated In Exclusive Damin Park...This 3 Bedroom Home Features Newly Updated Kitchen With Granite Countertops, Hardwood Floors, New Oil Burner & Hot Water Heater, Washer, Dryer. New Brick Driveway/Walkway And Steps. Huge Backyard With Brick Patio And Brick Grill. Alarm System And In-Ground Sprinklers.

For Sale: 1BR/1BA Co-Op in Glen Oaks, NY, $205,000

For Sale: 1BR/1BA Co-Op in Glen Oaks, NY, $205,000

New Fan Light Kits, New Kitchen Sink, Storage In Attic, New Modular Bathroom, Renovated Kitchen, Large Closets

For Sale: 3BR/1.5BA Single Family House in Massapequa, NY, $449,999

For Sale: 3BR/1.5BA Single Family House in Massapequa, NY, $449,999

Monday, October 26, 2009

Contact info for Forclosures

Here is the contact info for forclosures by bank.

Chase Foreclosures

Wamu (Chase) Foreclosures

Bank of America Foreclosures

Countrywide (Bank of America) Foreclosures

Wells Fargo Foreclosures

HSBC Foreclosures

IndyMac Foreclosures

Ocwen Financial Foreclosures

M&T Bank Foreclosures

Wachovia Foreclosures

Compass Bank Foreclosures

Fannie Mae Foreclosures

Freddie Mac Foreclosures

HUD Foreclosures

US government Foreclosures

Coldwell Banker Foreclosures

Regions Bank Foreclosures

Citibank Foreclosures

FDIC Foreclosures

Sallie Mae Foreclosures

Branch Bank and Trust Foreclosures

GRP Financial Services Foreclosures

People's Bank Foreclosures

National City Mortgage Foreclosures

Taylor Bean Foreclosures

US Bank Foreclosures

Low Prices Changing New Home Market

The market for new homes is so weak that many builders aren’t building much of anything unless they have a signed contract.

Inventories are at 7.5 months, their lowest since 1992, according to the National Association of Home Builders.

Getting the market back to where it was before the meltdown may take years because prices continue to be so depressed by joblessness, says Mark Zandi, chief economist of Moody's

The new home market is likely to recover in two years, according to Jay Brinkmann, chief economist of the Mortgage Bankers Association. But even then custom homes may not be a big factor, says NAHB Chief Economist David Crowe, because prices are so low, builders won’t be able to afford to build them.

Source: The Wall Street Journal, June Fletcher (10/24/2009)

Goldman Sachs Predicts Further Declines

By slowing mortgage foreclosures and giving a first-time home buyer tax credit, the U.S. government has driven up home prices by 5 percent, investment bank Goldman Sachs said Friday in a market report.

Goldman believes these supports won’t keep home prices up forever. “The risk of renewed home-price declines remains significant,” wrote Goldman economist Alec Phillips, “and our working assumption is a further 5 percent to 10 percent decline by mid-2010.”

Source: The Wall Street Journal, James R. Hagerty (10/24/2009)

Tax Credit Extension Considered in Senate

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Nevada Democrat, is supporting a four-month extension of the home buyer tax credit.

Two other proposals in the Senate would, respectively, extend the credit through June and, most generously, increase the deduction to $15,000 and open it up to all home buyers and those with higher incomes.

One or more of these proposals is likely to come up for a vote in the next week attached to a measure that would extend unemployment benefits for 20 weeks.

Source: The Wall Street Journal, Corey Boles (10/23/2009)

Report sees increase in Long Island home sales

More Long Island homes were sold in the past three months than in the same period last year, the first time that's happened in more than a year, according to third-quarter reports due out Thursday.

The 6,062 third-quarter sales added up to a 7.3 percent jump over the 5,647 deals a year ago and a 42 percent hike compared with the preceding quarter, according to data from Manhattan-based Miller Samuel appraiser in reports commissioned by Prudential Douglas Elliman Real Estate.

Jonathan Miller, head of the appraisal firm, and real estate veterans Wednesday saw several factors beefing up the housing market: more stability on Wall Street, a big factor in Hamptons sales; budding consumer confidence; a first-time home buyers tax credit; historically low mortgage rates; and more affordable listing prices.

However, Miller cautioned: "The surge, while an important sign, is sort of a catch-up. We had low activity prior to that, and this is simply a release."

Lately, sales figures have become more important than median closing prices in forecasting the housing market's direction. If more and more homes sell in the next few quarters, that lowers inventory, which then drives up prices.

In the past three months, Long Island median closing prices began recovering from the preceding quarter, which showed some of the sharpest drops in years, Miller's data show.

The median for Nassau and western Suffolk was $375,000, a 9.6 percent drop from the $415,000 a year ago but a 4.2 percent increase from the $360,000 in the preceding quarter, according to the third-quarter reports. For the Hamptons and North Fork, the $700,000 median was a 4 percent drop from the $729,000 a year ago but a 2.9 percent uptick from the preceding quarter's $680,000, figures show.

Despite recent talk about Wall Street bonuses returning to record levels, Jay Flagg, senior managing director at Prudential'sSouthampton office, said that hasn't had much impact in Hamptons deals.

Flagg said he's seen the Hamptons-buying pool change from being dominated by investment bankers to consultants, investors and celebrities, all drawn to lower prices.

"Our very high end is still not robust at this point," he said. I think I can count on two hands the number of sales in Southampton Village over $5 million - two hands and one foot probably," Flagg said. "In 2007, we probably had two or three a month of $5 million and above."

Friday, October 23, 2009

Buyers Must Hurry to Meet Credit Deadline

There’s still time for a first-time home buyer to complete a transaction before the tax credit expires Nov. 30, says Diann Patton, consumer spokeswoman for Coldwell Banker Real Estate.

But home buyers who have to apply for a mortgage should make sure they have all the necessary paperwork in hand. Patton advises that they’ll need to have tax returns, income verification and bank statements, as well as completed applications forms ready to submit.

Buyers in a hurry to claim the credit should also avoid short-sale properties, Patton says, because that process can delay closings.

Source: USA Today, Sandra Block (10/13/2009)

Congress Debating the Tax Credit

Congress is considering expanding and extending the $8,000 first-time homebuyer tax credit, which expires Nov. 30.

More than 1.8 million home buyers will have used the credit by the end of November, including an estimated 355,000 who wouldn’t have bought a home without it, according to the National Association of REALTORS® and other analysts.

Mark Zandi, chief economist for, is among those in favor of extending the credit. Zandi would also make it available to all homebuyers. "The most fundamental argument for the credit is that nothing works in the economy if housing is falling," Zandi said. "[The credit] is a good insurance policy. It's vital to stem the housing price declines."

Opponents argue that the tax credit is too expensive and doesn’t help enough people.
Extending the credit through the end of 2010 and making it available to single filers earning up to $150,000 and joint filers earning up to $300,000 would cost an estimated $16.7 million. Some in Congress propose using unspent money from the $787 billion stimulus bill to pay for it.

Source:, Les Christie (10/14/2009)

Economists Predict Housing Recovery

Economic forecasters predict that 2010 will be the first year since 2005 for housing to contribute to the growth of the U.S. economy, according to a survey released by the National Association for Business Economics.

Home prices are expected to rise 2 percent next year, but forecasters don’t believe the increase in prices will discourage homebuyers.

More than 80 percent of economists surveyed by the NABE think the recession is over and recovery has begun, but they expect the expansion to be slow because unemployment persists.

Source: Associated Press, Mae Anderson (10/12/2009)

Good Housing News Predicted

All the leading indicators say housing is definitely on the mend, economists reported in advance of the official release of several pieces of good news expected this week.

Bloomberg News surveyed 53 economists and asked them where they expected the numbers to fall. Here are their predictions:
  • Construction starts in September are expected to hit a 610,000 annual rate, the most since last November.
  • Sales of existing homes likely rose to a two-year high.
  • Because of fear of a relapse, the Federal Reserve is predicted to leave interest rates low for a few more months.
  • Building permits, a sign of future growth, probably rose to a 590,000 annual pace, also the highest level since November, the Commerce Department is likely to announce.
  • The National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo index is expected to rise to 20 from 19, the economists say.

Google Inc. plans to resume hiring and acquisitions after its third-quarter sales beat analysts’ estimates. CFO Patrick Pichette says: “We weathered what is an incredible recession. If you have all this behind you, the only outcome you should have as management is: ‘OK, let’s build now.’”

Source: Bloomberg, Courtney Schlisserman (10/18/2009)

Practitioners Say Luxury Market Is Up

The luxury home market is picking up, according to real estate practitioners all over the country.

This trend is strictly anecdotal – no hard data yet. In fact, the National Association of REALTORS® say sales of homes priced above $2 million fell 39.1 percent in August compared to the previous year.

But Barbara Feldman, vice president with Saunders & Associates in Long Island, N.Y.’s community of Bridgehampton, says, "We've seen a significant upturn in activity in the last four to six weeks.”

And Charleston, S.C., associate Pat Broghamer with RE/MAX Advanced Realty, says buyers are “making investments in beach homes.”

Kevin Schmidtchen, an associate with Sotheby's International Realty in Santa Barbara, Calif., echoes the sentiment: "We've started to see a fair amount more pending and closed sales here in just the last two to three months."

Source: Investor’s Business Daily, Kathleen Doler (10/15/2009)

Friday, October 16, 2009

Owners Still Try to Price Homes High

Real estate practitioners in the heart of foreclosure hotspots are talking turkey about pricing to their clients.

"I don't sugar-coat anything. I don't tell people what they want to hear. I tell them what they have to hear," says Mike Aubrey, an associate with RE/MAX Metropolitan Realty in North Potomac, Md.

"[Setting the initial price too high] is not only a waste of time, but you stigmatize your property," says Joe Manausa, president of Century 21 First Realty in Tallahassee. "People wonder why nobody bought it, why it's been on the market so long."

In fact, setting a price too high is “downright willful negligence,” Manausa declares.

Source: Inman News, Mary Umberger (10/14/2009)

Foreclosures: Down But Still Elevated

Mortgage foreclosure filings declined in September for the second-straight month, but September was still the third-highest monthly total behind July and August since real estate data firm RealtyTrac began keeping count in January 2005.

September filings were down 4 percent from August, according to a report released Thursday, but they were up 29 percent compared to August 2008. Third-quarter filings were 5 percent higher than the second quarter.

One in every 136 U.S. housing units received a foreclosure filing during the third quarter. "Bank repossessions, or REOs, jumped 21 percent from the second quarter to the third quarter, corresponding to jumps in defaults and scheduled auctions in the previous two quarters," James J. Saccacio, CEO of RealtyTrac, said in a statement.

Nevada’s foreclosure rate led the nation, followed by Arizona, California, Florida, Idaho, Utah, Georgia, Michigan, Colorado, and Illinois.

Unemployed homeowners are driving the increase.

Source: Reuters News, Julie Haviv (10/15/2009)

Congress Debating the Tax Credit

Congress is considering expanding and extending the $8,000 first-time homebuyer tax credit, which expires Nov. 30.

More than 1.8 million home buyers will have used the credit by the end of November, including an estimated 355,000 who wouldn’t have bought a home without it, according to the National Association of REALTORS® and other analysts.

Mark Zandi, chief economist for, is among those in favor of extending the credit. Zandi would also make it available to all homebuyers. "The most fundamental argument for the credit is that nothing works in the economy if housing is falling," Zandi said. "[The credit] is a good insurance policy. It's vital to stem the housing price declines."

Opponents argue that the tax credit is too expensive and doesn’t help enough people.
Extending the credit through the end of 2010 and making it available to single filers earning up to $150,000 and joint filers earning up to $300,000 would cost an estimated $16.7 million. Some in Congress propose using unspent money from the $787 billion stimulus bill to pay for it.

Source:, Les Christie (10/14/2009)

Keeping Mortgage Loans in the Family

Low-interest intra-family loans can be the best way for parents to help their children purchase a property.

The strategy makes the purchase more affordable, increases the size of the home a cash-strapped purchaser can afford, and helps the parent leverage his gift to reduce a taxable estate.

The parent must charge interest at a market rate on family loans, says Ken Kilday, an adviser with USAA Wealth Management, or face IRS penalties. But parents can then take the $13,000—$26,000 for a couple—that can be gifted without eating into the gift exemption and apply it annually toward paying off their child’s loan.

Kilday also suggests that parents put in their will that upon their death, the loan be fully forgiven.

Source: Dow Jones Newswires, Taylor Smith (10/15/2009)

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Credit Crunch Stalls Affordable Housing

Credit Crunch Stalls Affordable Housing
Tougher Federal Housing Administration standards and falling investor interest in the federal Low Income Housing Tax Credit program has stalled construction of affordable housing. And even when it is built or rehabilitated, it's become difficult for potential buyers to get financing.

"This is a national tragedy," said Judith A. Kennedy, president and chief executive of the National Association of Affordable Housing Lenders.

Affordable-housing giant Enterprise Community Partners and other nonprofit community development leaders have been lobbying Congress to change tax rules to broaden the appeal of the tax credits.

Sandy Marenberg, a real estate practitioner who owns Marenberg Enterprises, has found it particularly frustrating that he’s unable to find buyers able to qualify for loans to buy energy-efficient properties selling for about half their cost to build.

"The pendulum's gone from giving loans to everybody, whether they deserve it or not, to only giving loans to the overqualified. The folks in between are getting turned down, and many of them would be fine home owners," he said.

Source: The Baltimore Sun, Jamie Smith Hopkins (09/28/2009)