Market Updates

Uptick in Lower-End Housing Could Get More Millennials Off Sidelines


Millennials delaying home ownership has been cited as a threat to the housing recovery and the reason for sluggish household formations. But Builder Magazine finds that some of the hottest markets for first-time buyers are those that have had an increase in new homes sold for less than $200,000.More construction in the lower-end housing market may be the key to attracting more Millennial home buyers. Young adults have struggled to break into home ownership in recent years, strapped with high student-loan debt and unable to meet tighter lending standards.

About 36 percent of American adults under the age of 35 own a home, down from 42 percent in 2007, according to the Census Bureau.

In some areas of the country, builders are ramping up supply of homes costing $200,000 or less, often in college towns and areas that have improving job markets.

The following markets have had some of the largest increases in the percentage of new homes sold under $200,000 in the fourth quarter of 2013 and the first quarter of 2014:

  • Jacksonville, N.C.: 11.05%
  • Huntsville, Ala.: 5.94%
  • Killeen-Temple-Fort Hood, Texas: 4.68%
  • Columbia, S.C.: 4.18%
  • Durham-Chapel Hill, N.C.: 3.57%
  • Las Vegas-Paradise, Nev.: 3.04%
  • Columbus, Ohio: 2.65%
  • Lakeland-Winter Haven, Fla.: 2.63%

“Home builders and developers can and will develop offerings that will be in price ranges that can stir interest, but only when their supply chain of lots, materials, labor processes, and manufactured products can be ensured on a speedy and executionally excellent basis,” Builder Magazine reports.

Source: “Entry-Level Bright Spots,” Builder Online (June 2, 2014)

Foreclosures Drop to Lowest Level Since Great Recession


Over the last 12 months, completed foreclosures have fallen to the lowest level since the Great Recession began in 2007, according to CoreLogic’s April National Foreclosure Report, which shows completed foreclosures fell to 599,000 nationwide.

Completed foreclosures – the total number of homes actually lost to foreclosure – was 46,000 nationally in April, down 18 percent from April 2013. Foreclosures still remain elevated by historical standards. Before the housing decline in 2007, completed foreclosures averaged 21,000 per month between 2000 and 2006.

Since September 2008, there has been about 5 million completed foreclosures nationwide.

In April, about 694,000 homes were still in some stage of foreclosure, known as foreclosure inventory. Inventory levels are down 35 percent year-over-year. The foreclosure inventory in April represented 1.8 percent of all homes with a mortgage, according to CoreLogic’s report.

At the current pace, “it will take 14 months to move all of the foreclosed inventory through the pipeline,” says Sam Khater, deputy chief economist for CoreLogic.

“We have now registered two and a half years of continuous decreases in the number of home owners who are in some stage of the foreclosure process,” adds Anand Nallathambi, president and CEO of CoreLogic. “This consistent decline means fewer Americans are experiencing the distress of delinquency and default.”

Every state – except for New York and the District of Columbia – reported double-digit year-over-year decreases in foreclosures, according to CoreLogic.

The following five states have the highest foreclosure inventory (as percentage of all mortgaged homes):

  • New Jersey: 6%
  • Florida: 5.4%
  • New York: 4.6%
  • Hawaii: 3.1%
  • Maine: 3%

Meanwhile, the five states with the lowest foreclosure inventories are Alaska (0.4%); Wyoming (0.4%); North Dakota (0.5%); Nebraska (0.5%); and Minnesota (0.5%), according to CoreLogic’s April report.

Source: CoreLogic

Luxury Home Sales Soar Above Historical Average


Affluent buyers are feeling bullish about housing, as luxury home sales skyrocket, Bloomberg reports. Million-dollar homes in the U.S. are selling at double their historical average, according to data released by the National Association of REALTORS®.

Sales of homes that cost $1 million or more increased 7.8 percent in March compared to a year earlier. Meanwhile, sales of homes that cost $250,000 or less — which represent about two-thirds of the housing market — dropped 12 percent in March year-over-year.

“The real estate market is the ultimate reflection of confidence, wealth, and income,” says Sam Khater, deputy chief economist at CoreLogic.

Transactions for homes costing $2 million or more soared 33 percent in January and February compared to a year earlier, according to an analysis by DataQuick of 25 of the top U.S. metro areas. The transactions were the highest for a two-month period since DataQuick began its tracking in 1988.

“The luxury markets are on fire,” Christie’s International CEO Bonnie Stone Sellers told Bloomberg. “The trends in luxury housing are similar to trends in other luxury goods. Whether you’re buying a third home in Manhattan as a pied-a-terre or another Picasso, these are acquisitions of passion, of lifestyle, and of experience.”

There have been some blockbuster sales recently. The latest to grab headlines was the $147 million sale of an East Hampton’s property, which now carries the title as the priciest home sale ever in the U.S. This came two weeks after the sale of a single-family home in Greenwich, Conn., known as Copper Beech Farm shattered home records at the time at $120 million.

“The stock market is very strong, and this is a way to monetize and concretize some gains,” says Gary Wasserman, CEO of Allied Metals Corp., who is looking to boost his personal real estate portfolio. “We had quite a shock to our collective confidence in 2008 and 2009. The resurgence of the economy has underscored for us that this country remains a very strong place, and that the future remains strong.”


WASHINGTON – May 1, 2014 – Effective today, all buyers of older properties (“pre-FIRM”) will see a premium rate reduction under the Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act of 2014. Instead of jumping to “full cost” for flood insurance, buyers will assume the seller’s October 2013 rate for a pre-FIRM property.

While the lower rates were rolled out with new law, the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) National Flood Insurance Program needs time to digest the new rules and calculate individual homeowner’s flood insurance rates.

However, the National Association of Realtors® (NAR) asked FEMA to create an interim rate – one that would be charged to current homeowners and buyers before the agency finalized the actual rates.

As a result, FEMA extended the rates levied against a home in October 2013, meaning a homeowner or buyer renewing or seeking first-time flood insurance pays the same rate the owner did last October.

According to NAR, this change impacts:

  • All buyers of a pre-FIRM property – not just those whose seller has an existing policy.
  • All recent owners who apply for a new flood insurance policy on a pre-FIRM property.
  • All recent owners who reinstate an old pre-FIRM policy that previously lapsed for any reason.
  • All recent owners who renew a policy on a pre-FIRM property bought or newly insured after the 2012 Biggert-Waters law went into effect.

The change does not yet impact homeowners who already paid a higher flood insurance rate, however. While many can anticipate some kind of refund, FEMA won’t be sending checks until it finalizes the new flood insurance rate numbers. NAR says it will continue to push FEMA to release the refunds as quickly as possible.

© 2014 Florida Realtors®

Hit pause button on law to protect Florida’s economy

ORLANDO, Fla. – Oct. 25, 2013 – The following editorial is from 2013 Florida Realtors President Dean Asher, broker-owner with Don Asher & Associates Inc. in Orlando. It appeared in the Oct. 25, 2013, edition of The Orlando Sentinel:

Hit pause button on law to protect Florida’s economy

The Biggert-Waters Act passed by Congress last year resulted in unintended consequences so severe when they took effect on Oct. 1 that one of the bill sponsors asked her Congressional colleagues to delay implementation. Florida Realtors supports this effort from U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters, a California Democrat.

Hitting the pause button on legislation that is negatively impacting hundreds of thousands of property owners nationwide – and disrupting the housing recovery – is necessary for several reasons:

• The Federal Emergency Management Agency, which administers the National Flood Insurance Program, must complete an affordability study required by the act. FEMA allowed the Biggert-Waters law to take effect without even starting the study and making the required report to Congress.

• Biggert-Waters requires that FEMA issue the most accurate maps on which to base premiums. To date, FEMA has only remapped the East Coast. Yet property owners along thousands of miles of U.S. coastline are receiving notices of substantial premium increases.

• FEMA waited nearly nine months after Biggert-Waters was passed in July 2012 before eliminating rate subsidies for properties purchased after that date. Then the agency retroactively applied it – adding another layer of complexity to an already complicated law, and in effect, changing the rules in the middle of the game for many who bought their home over the past year.

The Biggert-Waters Act was an attempt to shore up the flood insurance program by moving it toward risk-based pricing. Nationwide, we all have a vested interest in stabilizing NFIP and keeping it solvent so the program can continue to help vulnerable homeowners during a catastrophe. Realtors and those who work closely with homeowners understand that, for this program to continue long-term, all property owners would eventually have to pay rates that adequately cover the flood risk on their properties, as long as the risk was accurately identified and fairly assessed on property owners.

But the subsidy phase-outs for existing policyholders were supposedly designed to be gradual and spread out over four to five years, if not longer, to minimize the impacts on homeowners. Yet that’s not what some Florida homeowners are experiencing – many are facing immediate, severe repercussions from the act’s unintended consequences.

Some long-term owners of modest properties in flood zones are worried the sharply higher premiums – up to 3,000 percent in some cases – will force them into foreclosure. Some current homeowners fear being “locked into” their property, unable to sell it in the future, because no one will be able to afford to buy it after learning what their new flood insurance premium would be.

While Congress considers delaying the Biggert-Waters Act, FEMA can take action to ease the effects on homeowners and offer rate relief by:

• Allowing for larger deductibles
• Allowing property owners to opt out of contents coverage

Florida lawmakers and officials also can act to help citizens by:

• Urging the Division of Emergency Management to clarify the remapping process for each community in Florida and put the preliminary maps online
• Urging the state insurance commissioner to research any legal or regulatory issues that may keep private insurers from developing solutions
• Urging the Florida Cabinet to explore the feasibility of Florida opting out of NFIP

The growing real estate market is driving Florida’s economic recovery. To keep the momentum going, something must be done to redress the unintended consequences of Biggert-Waters. If not, Florida’s homeowners, residents and economy will suffer.

© 2013 Florida Realtors®

Gov’t Reopens, Averts Housing Impact


President Barack Obama signed a bipartisan measure early Thursday to end a 16-day partial government shutdown and avert a U.S. default on its debts. The measure had been passed by the House and Senate late Wednesday.

The White House directed all government agencies to reopen immediately.

The government showdown over fiscal policy disputes and the looming default deadline had prompted concern over the impasse’s effects on the housing recovery. Some real estate industry and mortgage experts had predicted that if the government defaulted on its debts, it could send mortgage rates skyrocketing quickly—by one to two full percentage points.

Gary Thomas, president of the National Association of REALTORS®, testified last week before the Senate Banking Committee that a debt ceiling breach could lead to a one-percentage point increase in mortgage rates and potentially could drop homes sales by 450,000 units.

“This is a bump in rates immediately because of the crisis, so it’s going to have a detrimental effect on the housing industry, which obviously has a detrimental effect on the overall economy,” Thomas had testified.

The 16-day government shutdown has taken an estimated $24 billion out of the U.S. economy, according to Standard & Poor’s estimates. After the bill was signed reopening the government, NAR released a statement warning of “residual delays in programs as workers address issues caused by the 16 day lapse,” and pledged to maintain their web page that made shutdown information available for members over the next several days as government operations return to full capacity.

The new legislation, approved by the House and Senate, will fund the government through Jan. 15. However, “the bill’s passage was only a temporary truce that sets up another collision between Obama and Republicans over spending and borrowing early next year,” the Associated Press reports. “It’s the second time this year that Congress has passed legislation to increase the government’s borrowing cap.”

Real estate Q&A: Protect yourself, especially when buying foreclosure

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – Sept. 20, 2013 – Question: We are buying a house from an investor that buys homes after foreclosure and fixes them up. Is there anything extra we need to do to protect ourselves? – Kay

Answer: Yes. This is a popular investor strategy in South Florida and other areas hit hard by the housing crash. This can work out very well if it is properly done, resulting in a profit for the investor and a reasonably priced, newly upgraded home for you.

You as the buyer, however, are smart to be extra-cautious, considering the dangers of both buying a foreclosed property and construction in general.

You will need to carefully review the title insurance commitment to make sure that the foreclosure was performed and concluded properly and that all issues have been cleared up. You will need to go to the city and county and make sure that all permits were properly obtained and closed out, both from this renovation and from the previous owners. Make sure there are no code enforcement issues and that the homeowners’ association is paid up, and the renovations are in compliance with community guidelines.

Pay particular attention if there are any additions to the house, making sure that they were permitted and are up to code. When the renovation is complete, ask for proof that all of the contractors and subcontractors were paid in full.

Have the property inspected with extra care and detail by an experienced inspector, making sure that all of the renovations were properly done with quality materials and that no problems were just covered up. Watch for mold, because the home may have sat empty for months during the foreclosure. Speak to several neighbors about the history of the house. That can be a good way to find any potential problem areas.

About the writer: Gary M. Singer is a Florida attorney and board-certified as an expert in real estate law by the Florida Bar. He is the chairperson of the Real Estate Section of the Broward County Bar Association and is an adjunct professor for the Nova Southeastern University Paralegal Studies program.

The information and materials in this column are provided for general informational purposes only and are not intended to be legal advice. No attorney-client relationship is formed. Nothing in this column is intended to substitute for the advice of an attorney, especially an attorney licensed in your jurisdiction.

Copyright © 2013 Sun Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.). Distributed by MCT Information Services.

FHA cuts mortgage wait times after hard times

WASHINGTON – Aug. 19, 2013 – The Federal Housing Administration (FHA) is making it easier for once-struggling homeowners to qualify for a mortgage backed by the agency.

For borrowers who meet certain requirements, the FHA is trimming to one year the amount of time that homebuyers must wait after a bankruptcy, foreclosure or short sale before they may qualify for a FHA-backed mortgage.

The waiting period had been two years after the completion of a bankruptcy and three years after a foreclosure or a short sale.

But only certain consumers who’ve been in those circumstances will be able to meet the criteria attached to the eased restrictions. Borrowers must be able to show their household income fell by 20 percent or more for at least six months and was tied to unemployment or another event beyond their control. They also must prove they have had at least one hour of approved housing counseling and, among other things, have had 12 months of on-time housing payments.

“FHA recognizes the hardships faced by these borrowers, and realizes that their credit histories may not fully reflect their true ability or propensity to repay a mortgage,” said FHA Commissioner Carol Galante, in a letter to mortgagees announcing the changes.

FHA-backed mortgages are a popular option for first-time buyers and for consumers with lower credit scores who might not otherwise qualify for a loan backed by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac. However, the agency has recently increased the fees tied to FHA-backed loans.

Copyright © 2013 the Chicago Tribune. Distributed by MCT Information Services.

Foreclosures Filings Rise in July Following 78-month Low

By: Krista Franks Brock DSNEWS 8/15/2013

Foreclosure filings increased 2 percent in July, rising from a reported 78-month low in June, according to RealtyTrac’s latest U.S. Foreclosure Market Report.The worst foreclosure rates continue to take place in judicial states, according to the report.

In fact, six of the top 10 foreclosure rates took place in judicial states in July, RealtyTrac found.

“While foreclosures are continuing to boil over in a select group of markets where state legislation and court rulings kept a lid on foreclosure activity during the worst of the housing crisis, the foreclosure boil-over markets are becoming fewer and farther between as lenders have caught up with the backlog of delayed foreclosures in some of the states with more lengthy judicial foreclosure process,” said Daren Blomquist VP of RealtyTrac.

When compared to July 2012, foreclosure filings are still down by 32 percent. Blomquist also pointed out that July’s foreclosure filings are 64 percent below the peak reached in March 2010 but 54 percent above the historical average prior to the housing crisis.

“There are a dozen states, however, where foreclosure activity levels in July were at or below average monthly levels prior to the bubble bursting,” Blomquist added. “Those states include Texas, Colorado, Oklahoma, Indiana, and Michigan, and we expect the number of states in this category to increase in the coming months.”

Nationally, one in every 1,001 homes had a foreclosure filing in July.

Foreclosure starts rose month-over-month in 26 states and were up 6 percent overall.

Bank repossessions rose month-over-month in 29 states and were up 4 percent overall.

Florida ranked No. 1 for foreclosures in July with one in every 328 homes receiving a foreclosure filing during the month. July was the third month in a row Florida claimed the spot. The state’s foreclosure filings have risen in 16 of the last 19 months, according to RealtyTrac.

Despite an 8 percent monthly increase and a 7 percent yearly rise in foreclosure filings in Florida, foreclosure starts fell 28 percent year-over-year in July.

The list of top five states for foreclosure filings over the month was rounded out by Maryland (one in every 598 homes), Ohio (one in every 639 homes), Connecticut (one in every 660 homes), and New Mexico (one in every 678 homes).

Foreclosures in Maryland have been on the rise on an annual basis for the past 13 months, and the foreclosure rate in July was 148 percent greater than the rate recorded a year ago.

On the other hand, foreclosures in Ohio have been declining for the past three months, though the state still claims one of the top spots on the list.

For the first time since February 2007, Arizona did not rank in the top 10. The state slid down to the 12th spot on the list.

Consistent with Florida’s No. 1 ranking for the month of July, Florida metros take 9 of the top 10 spots on the list of large metro areas with the greatest foreclosure rates in July.

Albuquerque, New Mexico, was the only metro outside of Florida to make it on the list. The metro claimed the No. 6 spot with one in every 331 homes having foreclosure filings in July.

Jacksonville, Florida, took the No. 1 spot with one in every 230 homes receiving foreclosure filings in July.
©2013 DS News. All Rights Reserved.

Foreclosure Fears Less Haunting to Housing Recovery


Fears over a large overhang of potential foreclosures that could threaten the housing recovery have failed to materialize — and aren’t likely to do so — according to the Mortgage Bankers Association.

More housing data is supporting that statement: The number of home owners behind on their mortgage payments or facing foreclosure dropped to a five-year low in the second quarter, according to a report released Thursday by the Mortgage Bankers Association.

At the end of June, nearly 6 percent of home mortgages were 90 days or longer past due or in the foreclosure process. That’s down from a 9.7 percent high set in late 2009, and down from 7.3 percent last year at this time.

“At a national level, all of the indicators are good. The numbers are down where they should be down,” says Brinkmann.

While the drop is welcome news to the housing industry, the share of home owners delinquent on their mortgages still remains well above historical levels. Prior to the housing boom, seriously delinquent rates averaged about 2.5 percent.

Some states — particularly those that don’t require foreclosures to go through the courts for approval — are seeing some of the biggest improvements and have returned to near pre-crisis levels. California had a foreclosure rate of 1.6 percent and Arizona’s was 1.5 percent in the second quarter. These mark a drastic improvement for these states, which once were in the top five as worst foreclosure rates in the nation during the housing downturn and now are No. 37 and 38, respectively, MBA reports.

On the other hand, judicial foreclosure states — such as Florida, New York, and New Jersey — continue to battle higher shares of foreclosures.

“If you look at where the problems are centering now, the northeast is more of a center of attention,” Brinkmann says.

Fla.’s housing market continues positive trends in 2Q 2013

ORLANDO, Fla. – Aug. 8, 2013 – Florida’s housing market gained strength in second quarter 2013 with more closed sales, higher median prices, more pending sales and a shrinking supply of homes for sale compared to the same quarter in 2012, according to the latest housing data released by Florida Realtors®.

“Data from the second quarter of 2013 shows that Florida’s housing market is continuing to improve and the growth is boosting the state’s economic recovery,” said 2013 Florida Realtors President Dean Asher, broker-owner with Don Asher & Associates Inc. in Orlando. “We are experiencing an extended run of year-over-year gains in existing home sales (18 months as of June) and Realtors across the state are reporting increased activity in their markets. At 7.1 percent, Florida currently has a lower unemployment rate than the nation. As more jobs are created, it’s providing a stable foundation for future growth in the state’s housing market.”

Statewide closed sales of existing single-family homes totaled 63,173 in 2Q 2013, up 14.7 percent compared to the year-ago figure, according to data from Florida Realtors Industry Data and Analysis department in partnership with local Realtor boards/associations. Closed sales typically occur 30 to 90 days after sales contracts are written.

Meanwhile, pending sales – contracts signed but not yet completed or closed – for existing single-family homes rose 28.5 percent in the second quarter compared to the 2Q 2012 figure. The statewide median sales price for single-family existing homes in 2Q 2013 was $170,000, up 14.1 percent from the same quarter a year ago.

The median is the midpoint; half the homes sold for more, half for less. Housing industry analysts note that sales of foreclosures and other distressed properties downwardly distort the median price because they generally sell at a discount relative to traditional homes.

Looking at Florida’s year-to-year comparison for sales of townhouse-condos, a total of 31,829 units sold statewide in the second quarter, up 7.9 percent from the same three-month period in 2012. Pending sales for townhouse-condos in 2Q 2013 increased 18.8 percent compared to a year ago, while the statewide median for townhouse-condo properties was $129,000, up 16.7 percent over the same quarter last year.

In 2Q 2013, the median days on market (the midpoint of the number of days it took for a property to sell that month) was 51 days for single-family homes and 57 days for townhouse-condo properties.

The inventory for single-family homes stood at a 5-months’ supply for the second quarter; inventory for townhouse-condos was at a 5.2-months’ supply for the same period, according to Florida Realtors.

Florida Realtors Chief Economist Dr. John Tuccillo said, “For those who have been following the Florida real estate market, there’s not much new in these numbers. The market continues its gradual improvement and return to stability. While investors have been the major driving force in the market, we are beginning to see more owner-occupants enter the market. This is an encouraging sign.”

According to Freddie Mac, the interest rate for a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged 3.69 percent for 2Q 2013, down from the previous year’s average of 3.80 percent, according to Freddie Mac.

To see the full statewide housing activity reports, go to  Florida Realtors Media Center  and look under Latest Releases, or download the 2Q 2013 data report  PDFs under Market Data.

Related: NAR: Home prices pick up steam in most metros during 2Q

© 2013 Florida Realtors®

RealtyTrac: 1 in 5 Foreclosures Vacated by Owner

By Esther Cho 6/20/13 DSNews

As the foreclosure process drags on in certain states, sometimes the homeowner will beat the lender and leave before a foreclosure sale date is set.

According to RealtyTrac’s estimate, 167,680 properties in foreclosure have been abandoned by their owner. The total represents 20 percent of all foreclosures.

Adding to this total are the more than 540,000 banked-owned properties still waiting to be sold to a third party.
“Somewhat ironically, efforts to slow the slide of the housing market in previous years are now hampering a smooth recovery by holding back inventory of homes that almost certainly must sell in the future but are not yet listed for sale,” explained Daren Blomquist, VP atRealtyTrac.
With 55,503 vacant foreclosures, Florida alone accounted for 33 percent of the national total.

Next in line was Illinois, which holds 17,672 abandoned foreclosures. California, Ohio, and New York each held around 9,000 vacant foreclosures.
Indiana surpassed other states with the highest share of foreclosures that are sitting empty, at 32 percent. In Oregon and Nevada, 28 percent of foreclosures are owner-vacated. Washington, Georgia, and Michigan followed closely behind, where the share for owner-vacated foreclosures was 27 percent for each state.

“Efforts to prevent unnecessary foreclosures and mitigate their impact on home values have resulted in a foreclosure process that takes an average of 477 days nationwide, and more than two years in some states – which is holding many of these must-sell properties off the market,” Blomquist said.
Among metro areas, Chicago led with 14,717 owner-vacated foreclosures, followed by Miami (13,901), New York (10,074), Tampa (9,998), and Orlando (5,569).

In this current low-inventory environment, the release of these vacant foreclosures should not cause prices to plummet, according to RealtyTrac.

“Even if all these homes flooded the market simultaneously they would likely not cause the once-feared double dip in prices given supply constraints from non-distressed sellers and stronger demand,” Blomquist said. “Given these market dynamics, it’s not surprising to see that Florida, Illinois and New Jersey – states with three of the four longest foreclosure timelines – have all had laws take effect in the last six months that speed up the foreclosure process on vacant properties. These laws should help provide some extra supply and possibly help reduce the threat of another housing price bubble forming in these markets.”

Home Prices Pick Up at Fastest Pace in 7 Years


Home prices nationwide, which includes distressed sales, soared 10.2 percent year-over-year, according to CoreLogic’s February report. It’s the largest year-over-year increase in home prices since March 2006. It also marks the twelfth consecutive monthly increase in national home prices, according to CoreLogic’s report.

When excluding distressed sales, home prices rose 10.1 percent year-over-year in February, according to CoreLogic.

“Nationally, home prices improved at the best rate since mid-2006, marking a full year of annual increases and underscoring the ongoing strengthening of market fundamentals,” says Anand Nallathambi, president and CEO of CoreLogic.

CoreLogic predicts that home prices — excluding distressed sales — will likely rise 11.4 percent year-over-year from March 2012.

“The rebound in prices is heavily driven by western states,” says Mark Fleming, CoreLogic’s chief economist. “Eight of the top ten highest appreciating large markets are in California, with Phoenix and Las Vegas rounding out the list.”

The five states with the highest price appreciation as of February 2013, according to CoreLogic, were:

  • Nevada (+19.3%)
  • Arizona (+18.6%)
  • California (+15.3%)
  • Hawaii (+14.6%)
  • Idaho (+13.5%)

Pending home sales slip on constrained inventory

WASHINGTON – March 27, 2013 – February pending home sales flattened with limited buyer choices, but remained at the second highest level in nearly three years, according to the National Association of Realtors® (NAR).

The Pending Home Sales Index, a forward-looking indicator based on contract signings, slipped 0.4 percent to 104.8 in February from a downwardly revised 105.2 in January, but is 8.4 percent higher than February 2012 when it was 96.6. Contract activity has been above year-ago levels for the past 22 months; the data reflect contracts but not closings.

Before January, the last time the index showed a higher reading was in April 2010 when it was 110.9, shortly before the deadline for the homebuyer tax credit.

NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun said limited inventory is holding back the market in many areas.

“Only new home construction can genuinely help relieve the inventory shortage and housing starts need to rise at least 50 percent from current levels,” he said. “Most local home builders are small businesses and simply don’t have access to capital on Wall Street. Clearer regulatory rules, applied to construction loans for smaller community banks and credit unions, could bring many small-sized builders back into the market.”

The PHSI in the Northeast declined 2.5 percent to 82.8 in February but is 6.8 percent above February 2012. In the Midwest the index rose 0.4 percent to 103.6 in February and is 13.2 percent higher than a year ago. Pending home sales in the South slipped 0.3 percent to an index of 118.8 in February but are 12.1 percent above February 2012. In the West the index increased 0.1 percent in February to 101.4 but is 0.8 percent below a year ago.

Yun projects existing-home sales to rise about 7 percent in 2013 to approximately 5 million sales, which is near the current level of activity.

“The volume of home sales appears to be leveling off with the constrained inventory conditions, and the leveling of the index means little change is likely in the pace of sales over the next couple months,” he said.

The national median existing-home price is forecast to rise nearly 7 percent this year, while mortgage interest rates should remain historically low but trend up slowly and reach 4 percent in the fourth quarter.

© 2013 Florida Realtors®

Lack of Inventory, Not Shadow Inventory, Is the Real Concern


DS News took some time to chat with Daren Blomquist, VP ofRealtyTrac, to get a reading on the current state of the foreclosure market and what is expected to come.

Although foreclosures served to strip homes of their value during the housing crisis, Blomquist says foreclosures will be seen as a welcome sign this year and act as a stimulus.

While this may seem counterintuitive, Blomquist said, “because of the severe lack of inventory available for sale, foreclosures could actually fill that inventory and provide more fuel to the fire that’s been slowly building over the past year as more sales occur.”

Though, he added, “this is assuming foreclosures are being done property,” meaning according to regulation and legislation that’s been passed to protect homeowners.

Currently, Blomquist says there are still a lot of foreclosures that need to be dealt with, but the good news is that foreclosure rates are much lower for newer loans.

RealtyTrac data shows the foreclosure rate for loans originated in 2009 is drastically lower than the rate on loans originated between 2004 and 2008.

For loans originated in 2009 and beyond, the rate is less than 1 percent, while loans between 2004 and 2008 have a foreclosure rate that sits anywhere between 2-5 percent, Blomquist explained.

Even though banks may have a buildup of foreclosures that are yet to hit the market, Blomquist waived off theories that banks are holding onto the properties deliberately and the release of the properties will cause home values to plummet.

“[Banks] are not intentionally holding back. It’s because they’re being so cautious about making sure they’re dotting all their i’s and cross their t’s,” he said.

This, he added, has slowed the process down to a complete halt in some cases and a crawl in others.

As for fears the release of foreclosures will bring down prices, Blomquist isn’t worried this will happen to the market.

“This so called shadow inventory never hit full force, so now I think we’re at a point where the pendulum has swung completely the other way and the housing market needs more inventory, so 2013 would be a serendipitous time for banks to release that inventory,” he said.

Looking ahead, Blomquist says RealtyTrac is still expecting to see around 600,000 REOs in 2013 based on the number of foreclosure starts in 2012, which hit about 1.2 million. Blomquist explained the roll rate is for about 50 percent of foreclosure starts to end up as REOs.

He also says completed short sales are expected to exceed the 2012 number, which will likely be around 1 million.

The foreclosure situation in 2013 also won’t be uniform across the country, but will be on a state-by-state basis, with judicial states dominating much of foreclosure activity in the first half of the year, according to Blomquist.

Then, in the second half of the year, and perhaps into 2014, the spotlight will be on non-judicial states.

Blomquist says this will be because new legislation as seen in California, as well as Oregon, Washington, and Nevada is starting to slow down the foreclosure flow in those areas, which he thinks will result in a backlash of foreclosure activity near the end of this year and into 2014.

Six Reasons Housing Inventory Keeps Declining

By Nick Timiraos January 22, 2013, 11:10 AM

Associated Press
The number of homes for sale fell to 1.82 million at the end of 2012, an 8.5% drop from November.

sales in December dropped by 1% from November, the National Association of Realtors reported on Tuesday, but still stood nearly 13% above the levels of one year ago. That means home sales have risen from the year-ago month for 18 straight months.

For 2012 as a whole, sales were up 9% to 4.65 million units, the highest annual total since 2007.

Prices, meanwhile, are picking up because the number of homes for sale continues to drop despite the sales volume gains. The number of homes for sale fell to 1.82 million at the end of 2012, an 8.5% drop from November and a 21.6% decline from one year earlier, the Realtors’ group said on Tuesday.

Here’s a breakdown of why inventory has continued to drop this year:

Many homeowners are underwater: More than 10 million homeowners owe more on their mortgage than their homes are worth, according to CoreLogic Inc. CLGX -2.05%That pencils out to around 22% of homeowners with a mortgage, or 15% of all homeowners (since not every homeowner has a mortgage). Underwater owners aren’t likely to sell unless they need to move due to changing life (marriage, divorce) or financial circumstances, and they’ll take a hit on their credit for pursuing a short sale, where the bank allows the home to sell for less than the amount owed. Data from CoreLogic show that inventory has been the most constrained in housing markets where there’s the largest concentration of underwater borrowers.

Others don’t have enough equity to “trade up”: Another 10 million homeowners have less than 20% equity in their current residence, meaning they can’t easily “trade up” to their next house. Traditionally, homeowners have relied on home equity to make the down payment on their next home, and to pay their real-estate agent to sell their current home and buy their next one. These “under-equitied” homeowners—meaning they don’t have enough equity to make a move to a more expensive home—have added to the drag on inventory.

Everyone wants to buy at the bottom, but few want to sell: Even those people who do have plenty of home equity are likely reluctant to sell if they think prices will be higher tomorrow. Would you sell your largest asset today if you thought it might be worth 5% more next year? This helps explain why markets such as Denver and Dallas, which didn’t have huge housing bubbles and thus had smaller shares of underwater borrowers, have also seen double-digit inventory declines.

More purchases from investors of all stripes: From the big institutional investors that have been grabbing all the headlines, to the mom-and-pop landlords that have traditionally played a much larger role renting out homes, investors have increasingly bought homes that can be rented out rather than flipped and resold for quick profits. This is further keeping inventory off the market in two ways: homes that are bought at courthouse foreclosure auctions never show up on multiple-listing services when they’re initially sold. They’re also held out of the for-sale pool because they’re being rented out.

Banks have been slower at foreclosing: Banks and other companies that process delinquent mortgages have had trouble proving that they’ve followed state law in taking title to homes ever since the “robo-signing” scandal surfaced in late 2010, and they’ve also had to meet a host of new state and federal rules governing loan modifications and foreclosures from settlements spawned by the robo-scandal. Banks have also become better about approving short sales and loan modifications, which has curbed the flow of foreclosed properties onto the market.

Builders have been putting up fewer homes: Housing starts were severely depressed from 2009 through 2011 and have only recently rebounded off of those low levels. Consequently, there’s been much less new home inventory being added to the market at a time when demand (boosted by increases in household formation) is picking up. If more homes are held off the market—for any of the five reasons above—you can bet that builders will move in to fill the void.

Many of these factors that have been dragging down inventory aren’t signs of “normal” or “healthy” housing markets—but then, we probably haven’t had a normal market for around a decade now. If anything, declining inventory shows that normal supply-and-demand dynamics are returning, which is an important step towards putting a floor under home prices and giving markets time to get back to health.

U.S. new home starts rose 15% in Sept.

WASHINGTON (AP) – Oct. 17, 2012 – U.S. builders started construction on single-family homes and apartments in September at the fastest rate since July 2008, a further indication that the housing recovery is strengthening.

The Commerce Department said Wednesday that builders broke ground on homes at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 872,000 in September. That’s an increase of 15 percent from the August level.

Applications for building permits, a good sign of future construction, jumped nearly 12 percent to an annual rate of 894,000, also the highest since July 2008.

The strength in September came from both single-family construction, which rose 11 percent, and apartments, which increased 25.1 percent.

Construction activity is now 82.5 percent higher than the recession low hit in April 2009. Activity is still well below the roughly 1.5 million rate that is consistent with healthier markets.

Still, the surge in construction suggests builders believe the housing rebound is durable.

Builder confidence reached at a six-year high this month, according to a survey by the National Association of Home Builders. The group’s index of builder sentiment rose to a reading of 41. While that’s still below the level of 50 that signals a healthy market, it has steadily climbed over the past year from a reading of 17.

Sales of new and previously owned homes have been slowly improving this year, and home prices are starting to show consistent gains.

Record-low mortgage rates have encouraged more people to buy. And the Federal Reserve’s aggressive policies could push long-term interest rates even lower, making home buying affordable for the foreseeable future.

Housing is expected to keep improving next year. But many economists say economic growth will stay muted until companies step up hiring and consumers start spending more.

Though new homes represent less than 20 percent of the housing sales market, they have an outsize impact on the economy. Each home built creates an average of three jobs for a year and generates about $90,000 in tax revenue, according to data from the home builders group.

Copyright © 2012 The Associated Press, Martin Crutsinger, AP economics writer.

Zillow: Inventory Shrinking, California Metros Depleting Fastest

BY: ESTHER CHO 10/11/2012

Sellers may begin to have the upper hand in the market as housing inventory shrinks, leaving first-time homebuyers left to compete with investors, a report from Zillow revealed.

“First-time homebuyers are being squeezed out of the market by falling inventory and the rapid influx of investors looking to buy basic homes to rent out to the growing population of people who have recently been foreclosed upon,” said Stan Humphries, Zillow chief economist, in a release Thursday. “Investors are paying in cash and can close sooner, which is more favorable to banks and homeowners looking to sell.”

Inventory across all price levels fell 19.4 percent year-over-year as of September 30, according to Zillow analysis, which tracked the number of homes listed for sale on its site.

Among the 30 largest metros, California cities saw the biggest annual reduction in inventory. When looking at changes across all tier levels (bottom, middle, and upper), Sacramento led with a 42.4 percent decline, with San Francisco ranking second after seeing inventory drop 42.2 percent. San Diego was third due to its 40.7 percent decrease. Cincinnati saw the smallest yearly decline across all inventory tiers, falling 9.5 percent, followed by Portland (-10.8 percent), and St. Louis (-14.5 percent).

Surprisingly, the inventory category that declined the most on a yearly basis was upper tier homes, which fell by 22 percent, while lower tier homes fell 15.3 percent.

Phoenix ranked highest among the 30 metros for having the steepest drop in inventory for homes priced in the bottom tier. In Phoenix, bottom tier inventory plummeted 57.1 percent. Following Phoenix, California cities were most notable, leading with Sacramento, where bottom tier inventory fell 55.4 percent, then San Francisco (-53.2 percent), San Jose (-47.5 percent), and San Diego (-45.4 percent).

Casey Key is ready for its comeback

Deborah Beacham, a Realtor with Michael Saunders and Co., has the $4.8 million listing at 1416 Casey Key Road. The strip of land is becoming more expensive as sales increase and the supply of vailable properties shrinks.

Published: Monday, September 3, 2012 at 1:00 a.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, September 1, 2012 at 5:54 p.m.

CASEY KEY – Home sales on one of the swankiest and secluded strips of sand in Southwest Florida are on the rise, and the prices people are paying for paradise are moving in tandem.

Fourteen single-family homes sold on Casey Key between January and mid-August — equal to the total number of homes sold in all of 2010, and just five sales short of the 19 sold there last year.

Meanwhile, the median sales price for homes on Casey Key during so far this year was $1.85 million, up nearly 20 percent from the median price of $1.55 million in 2011.

Boosting prices is the fact that the number of homes on the market in Casey Key is down about 30 percent from the normal seasonal average. That lack of inventory has not only touched off bidding wars in some cases, but also persuaded some home buyers accustomed to immaculate, ready-to-move-in homes to accept just a little bit less in terms of perfection.

“There is a lot of pent-up demand for waterfront properties,” said Deborah Beacham, a top sales agent with Sarasota-based Michael Saunders & Co. who specializes in luxury, waterfront properties on Casey, Siesta, Bird and Longboat keys.

“We’ve had a lot of properties move that were in very good condition, but now, even if there is some minor things to fix, we’ll move those, too.”

The gyrations within Casey Key’s exclusive housing enclave mimic the dynamics playing out in other cities and communities in the region, whether it be the middle-class neighborhoods in and around North Port, in southern Sarasota County, or the well-manicured subdivisions within Lakewood Ranch, east of Interstate 75 in Manatee County.

So many residences have been sold this year in the two-county region that reported inventory of homes for sale in many places has fallen below six month’s worth. That period — which describes the time it would likely take to sell off all of the homes listed if no new ones were added — is significant because most housing analysts consider a half-year’s inventory to be a balanced market.

At less than six months, the equilibrium has evaporated, in favor of sellers. Less inventory also leads to higher prices.

Earlier this month, the Punta Gorda-Port Charlotte-North Port Association of Realtors Inc. reported sales of existing single-family homes were up 23 percent, and sale prices increased from an average of $116,124 in January to $139,233 in May — in large part because inventory levels were below the six-month equilibrium.

In tony Lakewood Ranch, new-home sales were up 47 percent during the first six months of this year, compared with the same time frame in 2011, with half selling at prices between $250,000 and $350,000.

There, 30 month’s worth of inventory has dropped to less than a six-month level as well.

The sales push there has also hiked demand for new homes, prompting Lakewood Ranch’s master developer to announce in June plans to open a new neighborhood, The Haddington, with 76 lots for new homes.

The same phenomenon is happening on Casey Key, the part-time home to novelists Stephen and Tabitha King and other notable residents.

“We are starting to see some new construction out there as well, as the purchase of some vacant parcels for homes,” Beacham said. “New construction going on trickles down to so many other areas of the economy so we are always happy to see that.”

About 400 single-family homes are on Casey Key, a barrier island that is technically no longer considered an island.

That is because, in the early 1980s, Midnight Pass — which separated Casey Key from Lido Key to the north — was filled in by a pair of homeowners worried the pass would undermine their homes.

A rock jetty at Venice Inlet, by contrast, ensures Casey Key’s separation from Venice, to the south, for quite some time.

Beacham remains hopeful that, like the fortified jetty, the rebound involving single-family home sales on Casey Key will not be short-lived.

In 2009 home sales dipped into single digits on the key — only eight were sold — as recession-weary buyers eschewed seven-figure purchases.

“We are going to have a very strong season coming up, based on what’s happened so far this year,” she said. “And we’ll be ready.”

The Coming Housing Crisis (Yes, Another Crisis)

Alex Charfen

Just when we are beginning to see the signs of a housing recovery and the housing market, critical to our economy, seems ready to return to normal, major markets across the U.S. are about to be impacted by a new housing crisis.

The National Housing Shortage

While this may seem counterintuitive at first glance, our organization has a long history of seemingly counterintuitive projections in housing which have later proven true. We were one of the first organizations to assert that short sales would not only become the preferred foreclosure alternative for homeowners, but that banks would prefer them as well. We were among the first to predict that investors would flock to the housing market beginning in 2010. We feel confident the same will hold true with the housing shortage that we believe will begin affecting some markets in the next 12 months and the majority of major markets within the next three years.

Consider these year over year numbers from the National Association of Realtors comparing the second quarter of 2011 to the second quarter of 2012:

  • Existing home sales are up 8.6 percent.
  • Existing inventory for sale is down 24.4 percent.
  • Median home prices are up 7.3 percent.

Individually, each of these statistics indicates major a market transition. Collectively, they show unprecedented one-year movement in the housing market.

Consider History

According to the U.S. Census, the recent history of housing construction has been relatively consistent: between one and two million homes produced since 1968.

    • Between 1968 and 2008 at least one million homes were constructed each year.


    • The year with the greatest output was 1973 at 2,100,500 homes.


    • The year with the lowest output was 1982 at 1,005,500 homes.


  • The average output between 1968 and 2008 has been 1,531,900 homes.

In 2008, there were 1,119,700 homes constructed. Of course, we now know that 2008 was a pivotal year in the housing market. In 2009 these numbers began to change dramatically.

Between 2009 and 2011 there have only been an average of 647,600 houses built, and every year since the number of homes built has declined. Each year, the Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard University issues a report on the state of he nation’s housing. This year’s report estimates we need between 1.18 million and 1.38 million housing units per year to meet the demand for new household development that will occur between now and 2020.

Using these numbers one can draw the conclusion: We will see a constrained inventory market in the immediate future. Couple this with the fact that housing is more affordable than it has ever been, and interest rates are at record lows, and the picture of an oncoming national shortage becomes much clearer.

Real estate professionals have been shocked by how quickly markets across the country have transitioned from excess inventory to having constrained inventory. The first markets to experience the housing crisis in 2007 and 2008 have been the first to experience the housing shortage in 2012. Markets in Florida, Arizona, Nevada and California are now experiencing constrained inventories. Year-over-year sales in the sub $100,000 price category has plummeted in these areas by as much as 40 percent.

No Fast Acting Solution

The severity of the housing crash is affecting the speed with which the home construction markets are responding to a housing shortage. Companies in the construction supply chain have downsized or disappeared in record numbers. Given the lead times in housing construction due to permitting, manufacture of supplies (drywall, lumber, etc.) and the availability of skilled labor, the speed with which the market can react to demand has slowed considerably.


If you are one of the millions of Americans that have been sitting on the fence waiting for the ideal time to purchase a property, this may be the time to seriously consider making your move. This is true of individual homebuyers, but it is also true of real estate investors as well. In 2010 investors represented 17 percent of the housing market; in 2011 they represented 27 percent, and all indications are that we are in the midst of another major investor purchase increase in 2012. 34 percent of all homes purchase today are purchased all-cash.

For investors, housing today represents an investment class that outperforms every other class of investment in both cash returns and, for the past year, in appreciation of equity.

It may seem bold to be presenting a housing shortage in the middle of what many consider a housing crash; however, the numbers, market conditions and major market inventories are starting to make this startling prediction real.

Alex Charfen is the CEO of the Charfen Institute and the author of the CDPE and CIAS Designations and the AgentGPS Productivity System and the LEAD Experience for business owners and leaders. With over 41,000 members The Charfen Institute is the largest independent membership organization in the history of the real estate industry.

The Charfen Institute has been ranked one of the 500 Fastest Growing Companies in the US in both 2010 and 2011 by Inc Magazine and has been voted by its employees as one of the Best Places to work in Central Texas every year it has been eligible.

Alex is a regular contributor to CNBC and Fox News and is considered one of the foremost experts on the US Housing Market and Foreclosure Crisis. He lives in Austin Texas with his wife Cadey and daughters Reagan and Kennedy.

6 in 10 U.S. cities see foreclosure spike

RVINE, Calif. – July 26, 2012 – RealtyTrac released its Midyear 2012 Metropolitan Foreclosure Market Report. It shows that foreclosure activity in the first half of 2012 increased from the previous six months in 125 of the nation’s 212 metropolitan areas with a population of 200,000 or more.

However, in a year-to-year comparison, foreclosure activity declined in 129 of the metro areas.

California cities made up seven of the 10 highest metro foreclosure rates and 10 of the top 20 metro foreclosure rates during the first half of the year, while Florida accounted for four of the top 20 metro foreclosure rates. Illinois accounted for two of the top 20; and Georgia, Arizona, Nevada and Colorado each had one city in the top 20.

“Increasing foreclosure starts in many local markets helped push total foreclosure activity higher in the first half of this year compared to the second half of 2011,” said Brandon Moore, CEO of RealtyTrac. “Those foreclosure starts are welcome news for prospective buyers and real estate brokers in many local markets where a shortage of aggressively priced inventory has been holding up sales activity. Markets with increasing foreclosure starts will likely see more distressed inventory for sale in the form of short sales and bank-owned properties in the second half of the year.”

Top 10 metro foreclosure rates
Stockton, Calif., posted the nation’s highest metro foreclosure rate at 2.66 percent of housing units (one in every 38) in the first half of 2012, followed by four other California cities: Modesto (2.61 percent), Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario (2.59 percent), Vallejo-Fairfield (2.56 percent) and Merced (2.15 percent).

Florida cities in the top 20 include Orlando (No.12), Miami (No. 13), Cape Coral (No. 17) and Lakeland (No. 18).

In gauging change between the last half of 2011 and the first half of 2012, the Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater area had the highest foreclosure increase at 47 percent.

© 2012 Florida Realtors®

Shadow Inventory Drops to Lowest Level Since 2008, CoreLogic Reports

Esther Cho 6/14/2012

As of April 2012, 1.5 million homes are in shadow inventory, which is a 14.8 percent decrease from last year in April when the number of homes hiding in the shadows was 1.8 million, CoreLogic reported Thursday.

The current level of shadow inventory is at the lowest since October 2008 and represents a supply of four months compared to a supply of 6 months a year ago.

CoreLogic counts shadow inventory, also known as pending supply, by calculating the number of distressed properties that are seriously delinquent, in foreclosure, and held as real estate owned (REO) by servicers, but not currently listed on multiple listing services.

“Since peaking at 2.1 million units in January 2010, the shadow inventory has fallen by 28 percent. The decline in the shadow inventory is a positive development because it removes some of the downward pressure on house prices,” said Mark Fleming, chief economist for CoreLogic. “This is one of the reasons why some markets that were formerly identified as deeply distressed, like Arizona, California and Nevada, are now experiencing price increases. Out of the 1.5 million properties counted as shadow inventory, most are in the seriously delinquent category. With 720,000 seriously delinquent properties, this represents a supply of two months. About 410,000 are in some stage of foreclosure, a supply of 1.1 months, and 390,000 are already in REO, also a supply of 1.1 months. States with the highest decrease in serious delinquencies, which are the main driver of the shadow inventory, were Arizona (-37.0 percent), California (-28.0 percent), Nevada (-27.4 percent), Michigan (-23.7 percent) and Minnesota (-18.1 percent). The actual dollar amount of shadow inventory as of April 2012 was $246 billion, down from $270 billion a year ago and a three-year low.

SEATTLE – May 1, 2012 – Homebuyers are unexpectedly finding more competition this spring in landing their dream home. Bidding wars are increasingly being reported in markets across the country, from California to Florida, The Wall Street Journal reports.

“It’s a little surprising because we thought bidding wars were done with,” Andy Aley, a home shopper in Seattle said. Aley says he was outbid on a home earlier this year, even though he offered to pay $23,000 above the listing price and also waive inspections and other closing conditions.

Homebuyers are frustrated and caught off-guard about the bidding wars re-emerging, real estate professionals report.

“We’re writing a record number of offers, but we’re not seeing a record number of closings and that’s because it’s so competitive,” Glenn Kelman, chief executive of Redfin Corp., told The Wall Street Journal.

Why are things getting so competitive? Many housing markets are seeing a drastic decrease in the number of homes listed for sale, leaving homebuyers with fewer options and more bidding on the same house. Housing analysts say the shortage in supply is from sellers unwilling to take much less for their home than what they originally paid for it and pulling homes off the market. Also, a surge in investors who snatch up homes in bulk in all-cash deals has made the market competitive.

“The bidding wars caused by tight inventory provide the latest evidence that housing demand is starting to pick up after a six-year-long slump,” The Wall Street Journal reports.

National Association of Realtors® latest pending sales report seems to confirm the trend. Pending sales in March reached their highest level in nearly two years and are up 12.8 percent from one year earlier.

Source: “Stunned Home Buyers Find the Bidding Wars Are Back,” The Wall Street Journal (April 27, 2012)

© Copyright 2012 INFORMATION, INC. Bethesda, MD (301) 215-4688

Sarasota Herald Tribune

By Michael Braga
Published: Thursday, April 19, 2012 at 10:30 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, April 19, 2012 at 6:09 p.m.

Luxury sales boost Southwest Florida real estate market

A total of 831 homes and condominiums changed hands in the territory covered by the Sarasota Association of Realtors, up 38 percent from February and 3.8 percent from a year ago, respectively. (AP archive)

By Michael Braga
Published: Thursday, April 19, 2012 at 10:30 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, April 19, 2012 at 6:09 p.m.

Home and condominium sales hit a seven-year high in Sarasota County during March, harkening back to the frenzy of the real estate boom.

That was particularly evident in Southwest Florida’s luxury stratum, where well-heeled snowbirds stopped circling last month and began descending en masse.

They bought 34 homes homes and condominiums selling for more than $1 million in Sarasota County, a 48 percent increase from a year earlier.

Many of those sales were unusually large: A six-bedroom home on Lido Shores sold for $7.1 million. A waterfront house in Cherokee Park for $5.35 million. A penthouse in La Bellasara on Golden Gate Point for $4.6 million.

“Before this season, people were on the diving board. Now, they’re diving in,” said Barbara Ackerman, a Coldwell Banker agent who sold the penthouse.

Michael Saunders, founder of the Sarasota brokerage bearing her name, called it “frugality fatigue.”

“People have been careful and have been saving for the past six years, and now they can see a path to getting the lifestyle they have always wanted,” Saunders said. “I call it the ‘big thaw,’ and it’s resulting in more activity than we’ve seen since 2005.”

Real estate agents in other segments of the market also are busy, but a lack of inventory is hampering sales.

A total of 831 homes and condominiums changed hands in the territory covered by the Sarasota Association of Realtors, up 38 percent from February and 3.8 percent from a year ago, respectively.

In Manatee County, 402 homes and condos sold, up 35 percent from the previous month but down about 3 percent from a year ago, according to Manatee Association of Realtors data.

But prices for homes in both Sarasota and Manatee rose. The median was up 4.4 percent to $174,900 from February in Sarasota County, while the median rose 3.7 percent to $181,500 in Manatee.

Helping prices is a decline in the number of distressed listings — foreclosures and short sales — which, for example, accounted for 32 percent of March sales in Sarasota County compared with 37.4 percent in February.

But inventory is also a major driver, said Bob Davies, an agent with Allison James Estates & Homes in Englewood.

“There’s a lot of people not able to find what they want,” Davies said. “It’s a feeding frenzy as far as I’m concerned. There are far more buyers than good deals because inventories have come down so much.”

In Sarasota County, there were 4,613 single-family homes in the market at the end of March — a 28 percent drop from a year ago. That is a 5.5-month supply compared with 7.6 months last year. A six-month supply in considered the point at which the market is in equilibrium. If inventories drop below that point, prices start to rise, which is happening already.

The last time inventories were this low was in 2004 at the outset of the real estate boom.

“It’s like the whole cycle is starting over again,” said Davies, the Englewood agent. “I had a couple that came down from Wisconsin with little intention of doing anything now. But they saw the inventory come down so much that they decided to buy now instead of waiting.”

Buyers who cannot find exactly what they want are beginning to buy waterfront lots in places like South Gulf Cove and signing contracts with builders, he said.

“I’ve sold no less than 30 waterfront lots in the last four to five months,” Davies said. “The prices have been phenomenal. But lots under $30,000 are disappearing very fast.”

On Siesta Key, the biggest problem is that there are very few affordable listings, said Coldwell Banker agent George Miller.

“There are two listings under $400,000,” Miller said. “Everything has been picked over. If one comes on the market it goes under contract very quickly.”

Miller said 147 homes changed hands on the island during the 12 months ending March 31 — just one less than during the preceding 12-month period. But the median price is now $632,500, up 15 percent from March 2011.

In Venice, the trends are similar, said Charryl Youman, an agent with Prudential Florida Realty

“We are so low on inventory,” Youman said. “That’s why we’ve seen prices go up. Houses are coming on the market — even foreclosures — at higher prices because of lack of inventory.”

Youman said customers are calling her after returning home and asking whether the condo they looked at is still available.

“What’s changed is that people who have gone home are still buying,” she said. “Normally when they go home after season, we lose them.”

“My personal theory is that the buying trend is based on fear,” Youman continued. “It’s always based on fear. First, buyers were afraid prices would go up further so they bought during the boom. Then they were afraid to buy because prices might fall further, and now they’re buying out of fear that they will miss the bottom.”

Statewide, existing home sales dropped 5.7 percent from a year ago, but the median sales price climbed 10.3 percent to $139,000. Condominium sales dropped 12.4 percent while the median rose 20.8 percent to $105,000.

At the state level and in Southwest Florida, the data bodes well for coming months after a winter that was a sea change for Southwest Florida’s residential market, said Judy Green, president and chief executive of Premier Sotheby’s International Realty.

“We have not had a typical season,” Green said. “Typical would have started in January, but it started in November, and we had a strong December. It is just not a normal year.”

Pending sales — a leading indicator of properties that have gone under contract but not yet sold — numbered 1,191 in the territory covered by the Sarasota Association of Realtors, a 12-month high.

In Manatee County, pending sales for homes were up 29 percent from a year ago while up 18.5 percent for condominiums.

Pendings for Saunders’ brokerage in the first quarter were 36 percent ahead of last year.

“My only concern is that we don’t have the inventory going into end of 2012,” Saunders said. “There’s been relatively no new construction the past five years, and in 2011 Florida had an influx of 250,000 new residents.”

Staff writer Michael Pollick contributed to this reportTop 50 Sales Volume per office

The REAL Trends 500 is an annual research report which identifies the country’s largest and most successful residential firms as ranked by closed transaction sides and separately by closed sales volume. This report represents the most trusted standard of measuring the performance of the nation’s leading realty service firms.

Top Firms Ranked by Closed Sales Volume Per Office
Ranking of the 50 firms in the REAL Trends500 by sides or volume with the highest productivity per office (as measured by closed sales volume)




Keller Williams Realty
Allison James Estates and Homes
Keller Williams Realty Alaska
RE/MAX of Boulder
Keller Williams Realty – Willis
Management, Inc.
Keller Williams Realty Boise
Keller Williams Realty McLean
Keller Williams Realty DTC LLC –
Masters Realty LLC
Today Sotheby’s International Realty
Paragon Real Estate Group
Palo Alto
Punta Gorda


San Carlos
San Francisco







Sales Volume Per Office


BofA to Offer Principal Reductions of More than $100K

Krista Franks Brock DSNEWS 3/12/2012

Some Bank of America borrowers may be in for principal reductions in amounts exceeding $100,000, according to the latest developments in the settlement the bank and four other large servicers made with state and federal regulators.

Of the five servicers participating in the settlement, BofA is set to pay the largest portion of the total $25 billion settlement. The bank will pay $3.24 billion to the government and $8.58 billion to borrowers.

Of BofA’s total, $1 billion is part of a separate settlement regarding loan origination issues for Countrywide, which BofA acquired in 2008.

While the other four servicers in the national settlement are being required to diminish principal so underwater borrowers have loan-to-value ratios of 120 percent or less, BofA will be reducing principal for about 200,000 homeowners to fall in line with current market values.

For some deeply underwater borrowers, this may result in reductions of more than $100,000.

The expanded principal reductions may prevent BofA from paying $850 million in penalties, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Fitch Ratings responded to the news stating that the 200,000 principal reductions will be “neutral to negative for some RMBSbondholders and potentially beneficial for the bank.”

Fitch suggests the loans most likely to qualify for the extended principal reductions will be those originated between 2005 and 2007.

“Because the bank has already reserved for penalties, any reversals could help BAC’s income going forward,” Fitch stated. “While the agreement will help the bank reduce the amount of penalties it owes over time, the aggregate best case benefit is moderate from a financial perspective.”

California AG Requests “Good-Faith Pause” on GSE Foreclosures


Insistent that principal reductions are the best line of defense in loss mitigation, California Attorney General Kamala Harris is calling on Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to halt foreclosures in her state while the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) considers whether principal reductions are an appropriate strategy for the GSEs.

In a recent letter to FHFA Acting Director Edward DeMarco, Harris requested a “good-faith pause on foreclosure sales in California” while the FHFA continues to investigate the pros and cons of principal reductions.

Real estate agents will now submit offers online on behalf of clients, receive receipt confirmation, and track the status of submitted offers through the website. HomePath is the GSE’s REO disposition operation.

In November 2010, Fannie Mae launched the HomePath Online Offers pilot in Orlando, Florida; San Diego, California; and Detroit, Michigan. Active Data Technologies, Inc., the developer of the offer platform, commented just five months after the launch that the technology was seeing positive results in these three test markets.

Now, the Online Offers feature is available for all Fannie Mae-owned properties across the nation through HomePath.

“Collecting offers online through will provide greater transparency for homebuyers and their agents,” said Jay Ryan, VP for REO at Fannie Mae. “Our online platform will make it easier to sell properties to owner occupants, which is a major factor in helping to stabilize communities across the nation.”

George Philbeck, a real estate professional with Keller Williams Advantage II Realty in Orlando, has been using Online Offers since the pilot launched in 2010.

“As an agent, I believe Online Offers is efficient, informative and user-friendly,” Philbeck said. “With Online Offers, my clients’ offers are guaranteed to make it to the right person at Fannie Mae for review. It has worked very well for me and for my clients.”

Real estate professionals representing buyers are able to connect directly with Fannie Mae’s listing agents through the HomePath website. The buyer’s agent can also find information on the site regarding financing and incentive options offered through HomePath.

The HomePath site offers a wide selection of properties, including single-family homes, condominiums, and town houses.

Brad Geisen, president and CEO of Active Data Technologies, called HomePath Online Offers a “step in the right direction” by automating the transaction process to move inventory quicker and get the housing market on the road to recovery faster.

California has been particularly hard hit by the housing crisis. About a half million homes in California have been foreclosed, and another half million are either in foreclosure or on the brink of foreclosure, according to Harris.

While the recent national settlement secured $12 billion for principal reductions and short sales, this will not help the 60 percent of California homeowners whose mortgages are owned by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac.

DeMarco has expressed hesitation toward principal reductions and consistently insisted that he does not have the power to demand the GSEs employ the strategy.

However, he did recently share FHFA’s analysis of the method, which did not determine that “principal reduction never serves the long-term interest of the taxpayer when compared to foreclosure.” DeMarco maintained that forbearance ensures better returns for investors.

Harris urges DeMarco to pursue further analysis and in the meantime to suspend foreclosures in California so GSEborrowers “will have an opportunity to reduce the principal on their homes should your analysis find – as I believe it must – that principal reductions by those enterprises are in the best interest of homeowners and taxpayers,” according to her letter.

Housing Inventory Down 22% from Year Ago Levels

Carrie Bay DSNews 1/24/2012

At the national level, the inventory of for-sale single-family homes, condominiums, townhouses, and co-ops dropped by 22.29 percent over the last year, according to new statistics released by

The site concludes that at the close of 2011, there were 1.89 million single-family homes on the market, down 6 percent from just one month prior.

The median age of the inventory in December increased by 7.02 percent from November, but says the

bump is largely seasonal reflecting the end of the homebuying season.

The median age of existing inventory during December was 122 days, which is down nearly 4 percent when compared to a year ago. notes that median list prices, which have remained essentially unchanged since June, are up by 5.03 percent nationally on a year-over-year basis.

Each of these developments can be viewed as “a positive sign that the housing market is holding its own at the national level,” according to

Patterns differed across the 146 metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs) monitored by Over the past several months, the site reports an increasing number of markets have registered year-over-year increases in median list prices while fewer markets have experienced year-over-year declines.

Still, markets remain fragile, according to, particularly in light of the large number of potential foreclosures and the recent uptick in delinquency rates in November.

Orlando Realtors See Dramatic Rise in Short Sales and Median Price

Carrie Bay DSNEWS 1/17/2012

The overall median sales price of existing homes in Orlando, Florida, was $115,000 in November, up 9.52 percent from a year earlier. The Orlando Regional Realtor Association (ORRA) attributes the gain to an increase in short sales, which are now changing hands with smaller discounts.

The number of short sale transactions in November 2011 jumped 39.38 percent compared to November 2010, and the median price of short sales improved by 7.07 percent, from $99,000 to $106,000, according to the local Realtor group.

“The increase in completed short-sales transactions is heartening,” said Mike McGraw, ORRA chairman.
According to McGraw, short sales currently make up 73 percent of homes under contract and pending closing.

“The very tight current lending conditions plus under-value appraisals are still causing both enormous slowdowns and outright contract cancellations among short sales,” McGraw commented. “The sooner these short sales are processed through the system, the better it will be for the normal home market.”

Regardless, McGraw says “an improved median sales price in any category is good for homeowners and home sellers, but it also means that buyers are going to encounter proportionally higher asking prices.”

Since January of this year, Orlando’s overall median price has increased by 21.18 percent.
The median price of non-distressed homes closing in November was $148,000, a decrease of 7.50 percent from November 2010, according to ORRA. The trade group says non-distressed home sales accounted for 40 percent of all transactions during the month.

The median price for REOs sold during the same period was $81,999, up 4.12 percent from a year earlier. Bank-owned properties made up 23 percent of all sales.

ORRA reports that homes of all types spent an average of 99 days on the market before coming under contract in November 2011, and the average home sold for 94.74 percent of its listing price. In November 2010 those numbers were 96 days and 94.13 percent.

Overall inventory is down 33.28 percent compared to November 2010. ORRA says at the current pace of sales, there is a 5.20-month supply of homes in Orlando’s inventory.

New REO Inventory in 2011 = 804,423 Homes

By Carrie Bay 1/11/12 DSNEWS

RealtyTrac’s year-end report released Thursday shows foreclosure filings – including default, auction, and bank repossession notices – were reported on 1,887,777 U.S. properties in 2011. Of that total, 804,423 homes were taken back by lenders as REO.

Last year’s tally of nearly 1.9 million properties with a foreclosure filing seems staggering, but it’s actually the lowest reported since 2007. It’s 34 percent below 2010, 33 percent below 2009, and 19 percent below the 2008 total.

RealtyTrac’s newly appointed CEO Brandon Moore describes foreclosure activity last year as being in “full delay mode.”

“The lack of clarity regarding many of the documentation and legal issues plaguing the foreclosure industry means that we are continuing to see a highly dysfunctional foreclosure process that is inefficiently dealing with delinquent mortgages – particularly in states with a judicial foreclosure process,” Moore said.

These delays, however, may be coming to an end. Moore says there were strong signs in the second half of 2011 that indicate lenders are finally beginning to push stalled foreclosures through in select local markets.

“We expect that trend to continue this year, boosting foreclosure activity for 2012 higher than it was in 2011, though still below the peak of 2010,” Moore said.

Despite signs that some markets are experiencing a pickup in foreclosures, RealtyTrac’s analysis shows that processing timelines continued to increase.

On the national stage, properties foreclosed in the fourth quarter took an average of 348 days to complete the process, up from 336 days in the third quarter and up from 305 days in the fourth quarter of 2010.

RealtyTrac says the length of the average foreclosure process has increased 24 percent from the third quarter of 2010, when lenders began to re-evaluate foreclosure procedures as a result of documentation and affidavit errors.

New York holds the title of ‘longest foreclosure process in the nation’ – an average of 1,019 days.

New Jersey documented the nation’s second longest end-to-end foreclosure process, at 964 days. Florida has the third longest at 806 days. Foreclosure activity in both these states dropped more than 60 percent from 2010 to 2011.

All three states with the longest foreclosure timelines employ the judicial foreclosure process.

Texas continues to register the shortest average foreclosure process of any state, at 90 days, but that still represents an increase from 86 days in the third quarter and 81 days in the fourth quarter of 2010.

At 106 days, Delaware has the second shortest foreclosure timeline in the nation, and Kentucky lays claim to the third shortest, at 108 days.

More than 6 percent of Nevada housing units (one in 16) had at least one foreclosure filing in 2011, giving it the nation’s highest state foreclosure rate for the fifth consecutive year. That’s despite a 31 percent decrease in foreclosure activity from 2010.

Arizona registered the nation’s second highest foreclosure rate for the third year in a row, with 4.14 percent of its homes (one in 24) receiving at least one filing in 2011.

California registered the nation’s third highest foreclosure rate for all of 2011, with 3.19 percent (one in every 31 homes).

Other states with 2011 foreclosure rates ranking among the nation’s 10 highest include: Georgia (2.71 percent), Utah (2.32 percent), Michigan (2.21 percent), Florida (2.06 percent), Illinois (1.95 percent), Colorado (1.78 percent), and Idaho (1.77 percent).

Pending Sales Increase May Point to Budding Market Recovery

Krista Franks DSNews 11/30/2011
The National Association of Realtors’ (NAR) pending home sales index reported strong positive movement over the month of October, rising 10.4 percent from September.

The index, which measures sales contracts but not closings, is also 9.2 percent above its rate a year ago.

In recent months, comparing year-over-year pending home sales was difficult because the homebuyer tax credit in 2010 skewed the results. NAR’s chief economist, Lawrence Yun, says October’s data allows for an “apples to apples” comparison in year-over-year data.

Thus, the monthly and year-over-year increase in sales contracts in October is a positive indication for the market.

However, actual closings might not match contract signings, Yun warns. Historically, he says, contract signings have aligned closely with contract closings, but in the past couple of years friction in the market has widened the gap.

Nonetheless, “I’m actually encouraged by these numbers,” Yun says. This could be the first sign of sustained recovery in the market, he says.

Pending home sales rose in three of four regions in October, falling only in the West, which experienced a 0.3 percent decline to 105.5. The rate, however, is 8.1 percent higher than last year.

The Midwest experienced the greatest increase in contract signings in October, rising 24.1 percent to 88.7. The region’s pending home sales are 13.2 percent above their rate last year.

Pending home sales in the Northeast rose 17.7 percent to 71.3 for the month. The rate is up 3.4 percent from last year.

The South experienced an 8.6 percent increase in October arriving at 99.5 for the month, which is 9.7 percent above the rate recorded in October 2010.

Yun says one factor that may drive purchases is rent rates, which are not only rising but accelerating.

In the past when rental rates rose, home prices rose with them. However, Yun says homes are currently undervalued while rents continue to rise, making home buying an attractive option for some.

“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,” Yun says. “We hope this is indicates more buyers are taking advantage of the excellent affordability conditions.”

Are We an Industry Afraid of Our Shadows?

Carrie Bay 11/14/2011

Estimates of the industry’s shadow inventory vary widely, but one thing analysts do agree on is that the overhang is massive and will likely weigh on market dynamics for years to come.

Measurements of soon-to-be repossessed and foreclosed homes that have yet to hit the market range from 1.6 million by CoreLogic’s assessment to as high as 8.2 million from Amherst Securities. Much of the discrepancy stems from the different calculations used by the various companies and how they determine which loans will inevitably default and sink into the shadows.

The analysts at Capital Economics factor into their equation the number of permanently vacant homes that are held off the market as reported by the Census Bureau, but only those over and above the “normal” level. They also add in homes that are already going through the foreclosure process and those where the borrower is at least 90 days delinquent on their payments, allowing for what the analysts say is a “relatively generous” cure rate of 25 percent.

Capital Economics’ assessment falls in the middle of the estimate range, and the company’s analysts say “if anything, by erring on the side of caution our measure is probably an underestimate.”

They put the industry’s shadow inventory at 4.3 million homes as of the end of the second quarter of this year. That’s down from the company’s peak reading of 4.7 million in the first quarter of 2010.

With more than four million homes waiting in the wings to eventually be added to the supply of properties for sale, any normalization in the visible housing inventory is several years out, which will limit meaningful price gains for the foreseeable future, according to Capital Economics.

The company says even by its cautious measure, it is quite clear that a very large number of homes will be joining the visible inventory at some point – a visible inventory that already currently holds an excess of about 1 million properties for sale.

At current rates of sale, it would take more than 18 months to clear both the visible and shadow inventory, according to Capital Economics.

Jed Smith, managing director of quantitative research with the National Association of Realtors (NAR), says he’s seen a leveling off of distressed properties at the multiple listing service (MLS) level in recent months.

Approximately three years’ worth of data indicates that distressed sales have settled in the 30 to 35 percent range, according to Smith.

“This suggests that financial institutions are feeding the properties into the market on a relatively constant basis, and given current economic conditions no great surge of shadow inventories has appeared,” Smith said in a recent blog post.

While a deliberate and calculated release of the shadow inventory limits the likelihood of a detrimental price shock to an already weak market, Smith says the bad news is that the problem appears likely to be with us for the next two to three years, suggesting future price appreciation may be slow.

Capital Economics adds that policymakers have started to think about ways to reduce the shadow inventory in an orderly manner, namely officials within the administration have been consulting with industry stakeholders and inventors on plans to convert the government-owned REO stock to rental properties.

But, Capital Economics analysts say given the sheer number of homes in the shadow inventory, reducing the excess by 500,000 or so will do little more than make a dent in the supply overhang.

Bank of America Launches ‘Test-and-Learn’ Short Sale Program in Florida

By: Carrie Bay 10/12/2011

Bank of America has begun a pilot program in Florida offering extra incentive payouts to distressed homeowners who agree to and successfully close on a short sale.

Incentive payments for relocation assistance range between $5,000 and $20,000. The program is being offered on a limited basis for investor-approved, pre-offer short sales.

Bank of America is calling it a pilot “test-and-learn” program.

A spokesperson for the bank explained that Florida is experiencing higher foreclosure rates than other parts of the country, and is therefore seen as a “viable market to gauge incremental short sale response and completion rates when presenting homeowners with relocation assistance at closing.”

If successful in Florida, Bank of America says the “test-and-learn” could be expanded to other states.

The short sale must be initiated between September 26 and November 30, 2011 and close by August 31, 2012.

Florida homeowners who qualify for the “test-and-learn” program will receive a solicitation mailer directly from Bank of America, or may learn about the program if they are working with a real estate agent who handles pre-approved short sales for BofA.

The bank has a dedicated team of short sale specialists standing by to help agents determine if their homeowner client qualifies for the short sale relocation assistance at: 877.459.2852.

Bank of America has already been offering short sale payouts in the state of Florida, albeit for smaller amounts.

Susie Kirkland with RE/MAX Southern Realty in Destin says she’s closed five transactions within the past couple of months through what BofA calls its Cooperative Short Sale Program. The bank awarded Kirkland’s short sellers $2,500 upon closing.

BofA is even extending short sale incentives to some investors. Steve Kravitz of Bankers Realty Services, Inc. in Fort Lauderdale just completed a short sale transaction last week on an investment property. BofA offered the non-occupant owner/seller $3,600.

Kravitz says his client had been late on a few payments, but there was no foreclosure filing on the property. BofA and other lenders are looking to short sales earlier on in the process, and getting ahead of the foreclosure crisis in areas where the system is already bogged down with distressed properties.

“We’ve had cases here where we’ve gotten short sales through where there haven’t even been any late payments at all,” Kravitz said.

Kravitz says short sales just make sense for a market as hard-hit as Florida. Not only can a short sale be more cost efficient when lenders are facing a foreclosure timeline of nearly two years, but it “gets more product and better product out to buyers,” he says.

He explained that oftentimes, a foreclosure property can sit vacant for more than a year, whereas with a short sale, the home is typically occupied up until a week or a few days prior to changing hands, which translates to a better quality home in better shape.

Kravitz says banks are becoming “more cooperative” and approving short sales more quickly. The investment property short sale Kravitz closed last week took just 45 days.

Other lenders are also extending incentive payouts to short sellers in Florida and some other hard-hit states such as California.

In July, reported that Wells Fargo, JPMorgan Chase, and Citi were all offering extra relocation assistance to borrowers opting for a short sale in certain markets.

Robert Valenzuela with Century 21 Schwartz Realty in Key Largo, Florida, says he’s completed six short sale transactions in which the seller was given money to help with relocation, the largest of which was a $45,000 payment from Chase Bank.

Join The Discussion

Featured Listings

Sorry we are experiencing system issues. Please try again.

Compare listings