Friday, December 2, 2011

Winter-Selling Tips for Overcoming the Gloom

Selling a home in the cold, dreary winter months may not be ideal but there’s still plenty you can do to get a home to standout. 
“Buyers out looking at homes in December or January are, as a group, quite serious about buying,” Laura Ortoleva, a spokesperson for the RE/MAX Northern Illinois, told RISMedia. “Therefore, sellers tend to benefit because each showing is more productive, and fewer showings are needed to sell the property.” 
RE/MAX agents offer some of the following tips when selling a home in winter in a recent article at RISMedia. 
Turn on the lights: Counter winter’s cloudy and short days by turning on all of the lights in a home for each showing. “Also, it’s a great idea to keep the lights on in the front of the house even if no showings are scheduled,” says Marlene Granacki of RE/MAX Exclusive Properties in Chicago. “People are always driving past the house, and keeping it lighted makes it look happy and welcoming.”
Have a place for shoes: Prospective buyers may arrive at the front door with shoes coated in snow or salt. “Make it easy for buyers to deal with their shoes when they arrive,” says Barbara Hibnick of RE/MAX Showcase, Long Grove, Ill. “Put a festive area rug at the front door for a great first impression and so visitors can wipe their feet. Have slippers or disposable booties available, along with a bench or chair, if there is room for one, where a visitor can sit and easily remove or put on their boots.”
Watch for odors: Homes can get stuffy in the winter. “Pet odors can be especially worrisome in winter,” says Mike Mondello of RE/MAX Synergy in Orland Park, Ill. “Use a room fragrance if needed, but nothing too strong, and I recommend that in winter sellers clean more often.”
Don’t make it too toasty: “Don’t blast buyers with hot air,” the RISMedia article notes. Keep the temperature at a comfortable 65 degrees during your showings (although keep in mind that a comfortable temperature for your thermostat can vary form house to house.) Potential buyers will most likely be wearing their winter coats when they tour the house so no reason to make them sweat. 
Source: “10 Ways to Get the Best of Winter When Selling Your Home,” RISMedia (Dec. 1, 2011)

C.A.R. Goes Bilingual in Online Property Search

With the interests of its Spanish-speaking clients in mind, the California Association of REALTORS® has rolled out a Spanish-language property search Web site.

Users of can mine for homes using search parameters such as city, price range, and number of bedrooms or bathrooms. Results are generated as a list or on a map, and driving directions are provided in Spanish. Also, C.A.R. members can forward property links to house-hunters in Spanish.

"With Spanish ranking as the second most widely spoken language in the U.S. and Spanish speakers making up nearly 35 percent of California's population, we recognize the market potential for this home buyer population," said C.A.R. President LeFrancis Arnold.

Source: "C.A.R. Launches Spanish-Language Property Search Website," Enhanced Online News (12/01/11)

Federal Agencies Crack Down on HAMP Fraud

Some scam artists are preying on home owners looking to refinance using the government’s Home Affordable Modification Program. As such, federal agencies are banding together forming a task force aimed at cracking down on con artists who are falsely claiming they can save home owners’ mortgages through HAMP, HousingWire reports.

The new task force recently issued a warning to home owners looking to refinance their mortgage: Only your mortgage servicer can grant you a loan modification through HAMP so don’t be duped by scam artists saying they can help with HAMP. Any third-party promising to guarantee a loan modification or pre-approve a loan modification or trying to charge an advance fee for a loan modification may be involved in a scam, the agencies warned in a public statement.

The task force cautions home owners to "beware of individuals or companies that ask you for payment and tout success rates or claim to be experts in HAMP."

The federal agencies involved in the HAMP fraud investigations are the Office of the Special Inspector General for the Troubled Asset Relief Program, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and the Department of the Treasury.

To check on the validity of companies or individuals who display HAMP seals or logos, call the HOPE hotline, 888-995-HOPE.

Source: “Federal Agencies Form Task Force to Fight HAMP Fraud,” HousingWire (Dec. 1, 2011)

Mortgage Rates Continue to Hover at Record Lows

Averages on fixed-mortgage rates continued to hover near historic lows for the week, while adjustable-rate mortgages inched down slightly to reach new record lows, Freddie Mac reports in its weekly mortgage market survey.

"Mortgage rates were little changed this past week, with the average 30-year fixed-rate mortgage at or below 4 percent for the fifth consecutive week,” Frank Nothaft, Freddie Mac’s chief economist, said in a statement. “The extraordinarily low mortgage rates of the past month may provide a needed spur to housing activity.”

This week, the National Association of REALTORS® reported a 10.4 percent jump in pending home sales in October, the strongest pace since November 2010.

“More optimistic consumers, lower house prices, and bargain mortgage rates may have contributed to the 10.4 percent jump in pending home sales ... and may bode well for future home sales,” Nothaft says.

Here’s a closer look at rates for the week ending Dec. 1:

30-year fixed-rate mortgages: averaged 4 percent, with an average 0.7 point, ticking slightly up from last week’s 3.98 percent average. A year ago at this time, 30-year rates averaged 4.46 percent.
15-year fixed-rate mortgages: averaged 3.30 percent, with an average 0.8 point, holding at last week’s average. Last year at this time, 15-year rates averaged 3.81 percent.
5-year adjustable-rate mortgages: averaged 2.90 percent, with an average 0.6 point, dropping slightly from last week’s 2.91 percent average. Last year at this time, the 5-year ARM averaged 3.49 percent.
1-year ARMs: averaged 2.78 percent this week, with an average 0.6 point, dropping from last week’s 2.79 percent average. A year ago at this time, the 1-year ARM averaged 3.25 percent.

7 Housing Markets Buyers Are Eyeing Online

Sunbelt cities are garnering most of the attention online from potential home buyers, possibly being lured by bargain housing prices.

Several Florida and California metro areas were found to have the highest proportion of home searches from people outside the area, according to, which tracked about 100 million searches on its site from July 1 through Sept. 30.

“Part of the long term trend is Baby Boomers moving toward retirement, and some of those that put off their searches while home prices were skyrocketing in the Sun Belt, are now looking again because prices have fallen so much,” Jed Kolko, chief economist and head of analytics at Trulia, told Forbes.

Overall, the Florida market is showing big improvements recently. For example, the West Palm Beach-Boca Raton metropolitan statistical area (MSA) saw sales jump 34 percent in September compared to the same month last year, while Fort Lauderdale MSA saw an 11 percent increase in sales, Florida REALTORS® reports.

Here are some of the cities that topped the list for most online searches on Trulia, according to Forbes.

North Port-Bradenton-Sarasota, Fla.
Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario, Calif.
Charleston, S.C.
Fort Lauderdale-Pompano Beach, Fla.
Cape Coral-Fort Myers, Fla.
West Palm Beach-Boca Raton, Fla.
Fort Worth, Texas
Find out what other cities topped the list.

Source: “Buyers Have Eyes on These Real Estate Markets,” Forbes (Dec. 1, 2011)
Entrepreneurs are simply those who understand that there is little difference between obstacle and opportunity and are able to turn both to their advantage.

Niccolò di Bernardo dei Machiavelli

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Study Finds Fewer Borrowers Sinking in Negative Equity

The depreciation of home values over the past half-decade has left millions of mortgage borrowers owing more than their home is worth – 10.7 million, according toCoreLogic.
The company released its third-quarter update on negative equity within the U.S. housing market Tuesday. It shows that 22.1 percent of all residential properties with a mortgage were underwater as of the end of September.
That’s actually down from 22.5 percent – or 10.9 million borrowers – at the end of the second quarter, but CoreLogic says the number remains high and makes borrowers more vulnerable to economic shocks such as job loss or illness.
Nevada has the highest negative equity percentage with 58 percent of all its mortgaged properties underwater, followed by Arizona (47 percent), Florida (44 percent), Michigan (35 percent), and Georgia (30 percent).
This is the first quarter that Georgia entered the top five, surpassing California which had been in the top five since CoreLogic began tracking negative equity in 2009.
The top five states combined have an average negative equity ratio of 41.4 percent, while the remaining states have a combined average negative equity ratio of 17.6 percent.
Mortgage borrowers in New York have fared the best through the downturn, with just 6.3 percent in a negative equity position.
Other states on the low end of the spectrum include: North Dakota (6.9 percent), Oklahoma (7.3 percent), Pennsylvania (7.9 percent), and Montana (8.4 percent).
Should home prices continue to fall further, another 2.4 million mortgage borrowers in the U.S. could sink underwater – that’s the number of borrowers CoreLogic says had less than 5 percent equity in their homes, referred to as near-negative equity, in the third quarter.
Together, negative equity and near-negative equity mortgages accounted for 27.1 percent of all residential properties with a mortgage nationwide in the third quarter.
CoreLogic’s report provides additional details on the population of borrowers that are currently underwater.
Of the 10.7 million borrowers in negative equity, there are 6.3 million first liens without home equity loans that have an average mortgage balance of $222,000. They are underwater by an average of $52,000 which equates to an average loan-to-value (LTV) ratio of 131 percent.
The remaining 4.4 million negative equity borrowers hold first liens and home equity loans with an average mortgage balance of $309,000. These borrowers are underwater by an average of $84,000 and have an average LTV of 137 percent.
Given that bank portfolios account for 15 percent of all first lien mortgages, CoreLogic estimates that 1.6 million loans in a negative equity position are held by banks. Collectively these loans are underwater by about $105 billion.
Altogether, the 10.7 million borrowers who owed more than their home was worth at the end of the third quarter were underwater by a total of $699 billion by CoreLogic’s assessment.

Foreclosures Continue to Weigh on Home Values

Distressed homes continue to chip away at overall home prices across the country, but the “plunging collapse of prices seen in 2007-2009 seem to be behind us,” David Blitzer, chairman of the Index Committee at Standard and Poor, said in a recent statement. 
For the third quarter, market research firm CoreLogic reports about 22 percent of all borrowers with residential homes are “underwater,” owing more on their mortgage than their home is currently worth.
"The negative equity portion definitely continues to be one of the major issues for the housing market, [and] the overall economy as well," Anika Khan, an economist with Wells Fargo Securities, told Market News International.
The states with the highest percentage of borrowers with negative equity, according to CoreLogic are:
  • Nevada: 58 percent
  • Arizona: 47 percent
  • Florida: 44 percent
  • Michigan: 35 percent
  • Georgia: 30 percent
"Home prices continue to come down due to the number of distressed transactions, be it short sales or foreclosures or REO, and we expect that pace to continue into 2012," Khan told Market News International.
Source: “Analysts: Distressed Sales Still Weighing On US Housing Market,” Market News International (Nov. 29, 2011)

Boomers More Willing to Help Kids With Down Payments

Two-thirds of baby boomers say they want to help their children or grandchildren with a home down payment, according to a study of more than 1,000 baby boomers age 45 and up conducted by Meredith Research Solutions for Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate. 
In fact, one in five boomers surveyed say they've already loaned their children money, cosigned a mortgage, or given a cash gift for a down payment on a home.
Even baby boomers not considered wealthy are willing to offer help on down payments. While baby boomers who make more than $75,000 a year were found to be the most willing to offer help, 46 percent of baby boomers who make less than $75,000 per year say they also plan to help their child with a future home purchase, according to the survey. 
So why are baby boomer parents so willing to help their children out with a home down payment? About 75 percent of boomers said they believe owning a home is a good investment for their children, and 58 percent said they think it’s still part of the American dream. 

Pending Home Sales Jump in October

Pending home sales rose strongly in October and remain above year-ago levels, according to the National Association of REALTORS®.
The Pending Home Sales Index, a forward-looking indicator based on contract signings, surged 10.4 percent to 93.3 in October from 84.5 in September and is 9.2 percent above October 2010, when it stood at 85.5. The data reflects contracts but not closings.
Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, said improved contract activity is a hopeful sign. “Home sales have been plodding along at a sub-par level while interest rates are hovering at record lows, and there is a pent-up demand from buyers who normally would have entered the market in recent years. We hope this is indicates more buyers are taking advantage of the excellent affordability conditions,” he said.
“Many consumers are recognizing that home buyers in the past two years have had one of the lowest default rates in history. Moreover, continued inventory declines are another healthy sign for the housing market,” Yun added.
The PHSI in the Northeast surged 17.7 percent to 71.3 in October and is 3.4 percent above October 2010. In the Midwest, the index jumped 24.1 percent to 88.7 in October and remains 13.2 percent above a year ago. Pending home sales in the South rose 8.6 percent in October to an index of 99.5 and are 9.7 percent higher than October 2010. In the West the index slipped 0.3 percent to 105.5 in October but is 8.1 percent above a year ago.
“Although contract signings are up, not all contracts lead to closings. Many potential home buyers inadvertently hurt their credit scores and chances of getting a mortgage through easily averted actions, such as cancelling an old credit line while taking on a new one,” Yun said. “Such actions could unwittingly prevent buyers from obtaining a mortgage if their credit score is close to the margins of qualifying, or they might get a loan but with less favorable terms.”

Sabre Real Estate Hires 3 Senior Brokers

Sabre Real Estate Group LLC expanded its Garden City, NY, operations with three recent hires. 

Beth Lamport joined the company as executive vice president. She was most recently a director with Breslin Realty. The retail specialist also served as a broker at Polimeni Realty and two decades at Macy’s (formerly Federal Department Stores) as a marketing executive. 

Lamport’s focus is tenant representation. The Cornell University grad currently works with Ulta Beauty, Trader Joe’s, Tuesday Morning, Pet Supplies Plus, Chili’s, Maggiano’s and PGA Super Store. 

Anthony Russo was hired as a vice president. The broker assumed the role after 15 years with NAI Long Island (formerly Bagnato Realty Services). Russo has represented both landlords and tenants, including Walgreen’s, NEFCU, Davis Vision Optical, Iavarone Brothers Gourmet Markets, Umberto’s of New Hyde Park and GNC. 

Leasing expert Stuart Fagen joined Sabre as managing director. The entrepreneur formerly oversaw the Fagen Group., a retail brokerage company he founded. His 17 year of experience includes stints at Breslin Realty, the Alrose Group as director of acquisitions and leasing specialist with Gould Investors LP. He’s negotiated tenant leases for Walmart, Commerce Bank, Starbucks, AT&T Wireless, EB Games, Yum Brands, Omaha Steaks, Quiznos, Verizon and other retailers. 

Sabre is a full-service retail real estate brokerage firm focused on tenant and owner representation in metro New York.

Farkas Continues Piecing Together Full Service CRE Firm

Just a few weeks after announcing plans to acquire one commercial real estatebrokerage firm and help bank roll another, an investment firm controlled by Andrew L. Farkas has acquired two affiliated multifamily property management businesses - U.S. Residential Group (USRG), in Carrollton, TX; and Pacific West Management (PWM), in Irvine, CA. 

Together, USRG and PWM currently manage 24,000 multifamily units in 12 states. Farkas is combining the operations of USRG and PWM and it will operate as a subsidiary of Farkas' C-III Capital Partners LLC under the U.S. Residential Group name.

C-III commenced operations with the purchase of Centerline Capital Group's institutional real estate debt fund management and commercial mortgage loan servicing businesses in March 2010. Since that time, C-III has successfully launched mortgage origination, investment sales and title insurance businesses and it has expanded its principal investment, loan origination, fund management, and primary and special loan servicing businesses. 

Then this past June, C-III announced that it had entered into an agreement to acquire NAI Global, which is the largest world-wide network of independent commercial property services companies that provide property management, leasing, investment sales brokerage and ancillary commercial real estate services. That transaction has not yet closed. 

In addition, C-III is in exclusive talks to execute "a strategic transaction' that would provide a much needed cash infusion for troubled commercial real estate services firm Grubb & Ellis Co. 

In August, C-III acquired the special servicing and CDO management businesses of JER Partners. 

"The USRG and PWM acquisitions represent C-III's next step in creating a fully diversified commercial real estate services company," said Andrew L. Farkas, CEO of C-III and the former founder and CEO of Insignia Financial Group Inc. 

Financial terms of the transaction were not disclosed. 
Congress Calls for Principal Reductions from GSEs

Congress Calls for Principal Reductions from GSEs

Twenty-one members of Congress sent a letter to Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) Acting Director Edward DeMarco urging him to encourage principal reductions on loans backed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
“We do not urge that the enterprises reduce principal on mortgages as a kindness to homeowners,” the letter stated.
Instead, the congressmen support principal reductions on the basis that they will save taxpayers from some further potential losses.

The lawmakers cite first-quarter data from the GSEs stating 17.7 percent of Fannie borrowers are underwater, as are 19 percent of Freddie borrowers. These borrowers, they say, “are obviously at great risk of eventual default.”
With 44 percent of loans modified in the past two years more than three months past due, according to Freddie Mac data cited in the letter, “[t]he performance of the enterprises’ mortgage modifications leaves much to be desired for homeowners, for the housing market, and for taxpayers,” the letter stated.
The representatives urge DeMarco to disregard the short-term effects of principal reductions on the GSEs’ balance sheets in favor of looking at the long-term positive effects these reductions might have.
They point to an Amherst Securities study that negates the “moral hazard” theory, which hypotheses that offering principal reductions encourages homeowners to default.
“Right now, the FHFA is preventing underwater homeowners with mortgages backed by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac from receiving balance reductions, even when a principal modification would save the investor – in this case meaning taxpayer – money compared to foreclosure,” said George Miller (D-California), one of the representatives who signed the letter
"The pessimist complains about the wind. The optimist expects it to change. The leader adjusts the sails."

John Maxwell

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Housing to gradually improve in 2012, NAR economist says

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Housing to gradually improve in 2012, NAR economist says

Gradual improvement in the housing market is expected next year, with existing-home sales edging up 4% to 5% and new home sales getting an even bigger boost off this year's record lows, the chief economist of the nation's largest real estate group said Friday.

"Tight mortgage credit conditions have been holding back homebuyers all year, and consumer confidence has been shaky recently," Lawrence Yun, chief economist of the National Association of Realtors, said. "Nonetheless, there is a sizeable pent-up demand based on population growth, employment levels and a doubling-up phenomenon that can’t continue indefinitely."

Yun, who made his comments during the annual NAR conference for real estate agents under way in Anaheim, Calif., projected gross domestic product growth of 1.8% for 2011, rising to 2.2% in 2012 with the unemployment rate declining to 8.7% by the second half of 2012.

Mortgage interest rates, he predicted, would gradually rise from record 2011 lows to 4.5% by the middle of 2012.

"Very favorable affordability conditions will dominate next year as well, which will probably be the second best year on record dating back to 1970. Our hope is that credit restrictions will ease and allow more homebuyers to take advantage of current opportunities."

Existing-home sales are forecast to edge up about 1% this year. Based on NAR’s current projection model, existing-home sales would total 4.96 million in 2011. NAR is revising downward existing-home sales totals in recent years although it expects little change to previously reported comparisons based on percentage change.

New-home sales for 2011 are projected at 302,000 this year, a record low, with expectations that they will rise about 23% to 372,000 in 2012.

Housing starts are forecast to rise about 8% to 630,000 from 583,000 in 2011.

With falling inventory, the median home price should rise in 2012, he said. "Home prices have yet to show a definitive stabilization pattern in most areas. Still, given an over-correction in prices, there likely will be moderate appreciation in 2012," Yun said.

Richard Peach, senior vice president at the Federal Reserve Board of New York, said the economy continues to disappoint. "Among the significant structural impediments are the legacy of the housing boom and bust, and fiscal contrition at the state and local level."

He promoted moving foreclosures by giving incentives to military servicemembers.

"My idea is to allocate certificates to 2.5 million service members who served in Afghanistan and Iraq that could be used as a down payment on a foreclosed home in the Fannie or Freddie portfolio," he said. This would help to absorb the inventory and stabilize the housing market.