Thursday, December 20, 2007

Daily Real Estate News | December 20, 2007

Fed's New Loan Laws Don't Please Much of Anybody

Critics of the lending industry say the regulations released Tuesday by the Federal Reserve aren’t tough enough.

For one, they don’t help the millions of homeowners who currently have subprime mortgages and can’t afford to pay them.

The sweeping changes, to take effect early next year after a 90-day public comment period, will impose new restrictions on all of the country's mortgage lenders, brokers, and loan servicers.

"On the core provisions, the rules are weak and very burdensome to consumers," said Alys Cohen, staff attorney at the National Consumer Law Center.

The rules aren't tough enough on the lending industry for Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., chairman of the House Financial Services Committee.

"We now have confirmation of two facts we have known for some time," Frank said. "One, the Federal Reserve system is not a strong advocate for consumers, and two, there is no Santa Claus. People who are surprised by the one are presumably surprised by the other."

Source: USA Today, Noelle Knox (12/19/2007)

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Daily Real Estate News | December 19, 2007

House Passes 3 Key Housing-Related Bills

The U.S. House on Tuesday passed three bills that will have a big impact on the real estate industry. All three have passed the Senate and President George W. Bush is expected to sign them.

The bills are:

  • The Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act of 2007. This legislation waives taxes by creating a three-year exception for borrowers whose mortgages are modified, with a portion of their debt forgiven, to avoid foreclosure or other financial distress.

"In sending this bill to the president, Congress made a good decision today that will affect many Americans who find themselves in a truly bad situation,” NAR President Richard (Dick) Gaylord said in an NAR public statement on the issue. “As the leading advocate for housing issues, NAR believes that changing the IRS code is an issue of fundamental fairness. It will relieve a tax burden at a time when an individual or family has experienced a true economic loss arising from the sale or loss of their home."

  • Mortgage Insurance Tax Deductibility. This bill makes mortgage insurance premiums tax deductible for all mortgages originated for the next three years. Mortgage insurer Genworth Financial estimates that this tax break is worth $350 to the average taxpayer who has purchased a home with less than 20 percent down.

  • Terrorism Risk Insurance Act. Federal backstops for terrorism insurance, passed initially after the Sept. 11 attacks, have been extended for another seven years. The bill also expands the program's protection by including domestic terrorism. The insurance and real estate industries have pushed for an extension, saying federal guarantees to help cover catastrophic losses are crucial to stimulating the investment needed to spur economic growth.

Source: The Associated Press, Jim Abrams, and Dow Jones International News and REALTOR® Magazine Online (12/18/2007)

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Daily Real Estate News | December 18, 2007

Fed to Unveil Mortgage Protection Plan

The Federal Reserve is introducing its new mortgage protection plan today to help bailout struggling borrowers.

The rules it’s proposing are particularly aimed at protecting those who might find subprime loans their only alternative because of low income or poor credit.

The Fed proposes these regulations:

  • Barring or restricting lenders from penalizing subprime borrowers who pay their loans off early.
  • Forcing lenders to make sure that borrowers, especially subprime ones, set aside money to pay for taxes and insurance.
  • Barring or limiting loans that do not require proof of a borrower's income.
  • Setting new standards for how lenders determine a borrower's ability to repay a home loan.

The plan, if ultimately adopted, offers Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, who took over the helm in February 2006, an important opportunity to put his imprint on the Fed's regulatory powers.

Source: The Associated Press, Jeannine Aversa (12/18/07)

Daily Real Estate News | December 17, 2007

Groups Warn Seniors to Beware of Reverse Mortgages

The U.S. senior community is warming up to reverse mortgages, but the product's increasing popularity also is breeding a new crop of unscrupulous brokers, lenders, and loan agents who are taking advantage of the nation's elderly.

In general, reverse mortgages allow home owners who are 62 and older to borrow against their home equity without having to repay the money until the home is sold or the borrower dies or permanently moves out.

But the mortgages have some groups concerned. Speaking at a recent hearing before the Senate Special Committee on Aging, legislators and consumer advocates warned that, without better loan counseling and tougher government oversight, a flood of older home owners could be pressured into taking out inappropriate loans — just as millions of mortgage borrowers were persuaded to accept subprime loans that are now going into default at a rapid clip.

"We have gone through a savings and loan collapse, a stock market bubble and are currently in the middle of a lending mess," noted Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) at the hearing. "Our goal is to make sure that the reverse mortgages don't become the scandal of the next decade."

National Reverse Mortgage Loan Association President Peter Bell says the perceived problem may be somewhat overblown. But he concedes that some sales agents who are finding themselves unemployed due to the housing downturn could be picking up jobs in the reverse mortgage sector but may have "a different type of mentality about moving transactions through quickly."

Source: Buffalo News, Tony Pugh (12/17/07)

Daily Real Estate News | December 17, 2007

Senate Passes FHA Reform Bill

The FHA Modernization Act of 2007, passed Friday by the U.S. Senate, would give borrowers a safer alternative to riskier mortgage products while also helping many home owners who may be facing foreclosure, according to the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®.

“A reformed FHA is positioned to help home owners who face unaffordable mortgage payments as a result of resetting adjustable subprime loans and help bring stability to local markets and economies,” says NAR President Richard (Dick) Gaylord.

NAR has long supported FHA modernization legislation that would increase loan limits, reduce or eliminate the statutory 3 percent minimum cash down payment, and give FHA increased flexibility and the ability to streamline certain programs, in addition to strengthening the loss mitigation program.

In addition, the increase in FHA mortgage loan limits would help first-time home buyers, minority buyers, and people who do not qualify for conventional mortgages, according to NAR. Increased loan limits would also help people living in high-cost areas; current FHA limits make the program unusable in these areas, Gaylord says.

Gaylord says that FHA has made mortgage insurance widely available to individuals regardless of race, ethnicity or social status during periods of prosperity and economic depression. The FHA program makes it possible for higher risk yet creditworthy borrowers to obtain prime financing.

The House had passed its own FHA bill Sept. 18. House leaders now will have to decide whether to clear the more limited Senate legislation or insist on a conference to reconcile the competing versions.

Source — REALTOR® Magazine Online

Monday, December 17, 2007

!!!SOLD!!! Affordable Housing in Brookings, SD

1736 Torrey Pines Drive, Brookings, SD
Listing # 07-635

!!! SOLD!!!

Brookings, SD Real Estate for Sale!

List Price: $152,400

Why pay rent when you could afford to own a brand new home! Torrey Pines Drive is currently under construction and will feature quality homes starting at a base price of $149,900. Each home features a split foyer floor plan with 2 bedrooms and 1 bath on the main level. The lower level features a finished family room and space for the future finish of 2 more bedrooms and a bathroom. Not Actual Home Picture!

List Price: $152,400
Possession Date: TBD
Legal: Lot 7D, Block 9, Moriarty Fourth Addition, City of Brookings, County of Brookings, South Dakota
Realtor.COM Type: Residential Single Family

Descriptive Information
Area: Residential
Style: Split Foyer
Year Built: 2007
SqFt ML: 980
SqFt. LL: 980
SqFt LL Finish: 250
Total Finished SqFt: 1230
Taxes: 0
Tax Year: 2007
Garage Type: Attached, 2 Stall
Garage Remarks: Opener Included
Total Bedrooms: 2
Total Bathrooms: 1
Total Full Baths: 1

Directions
Travel south on 17th Avenue S. Go past the 17th Ave S. & 12th St. S. intersection. Torrey Pines Dr. will be the first street on the East (left hand side) of the road.


For more information or to schedule a viewing of this property please call me, Justin Fjeldos, at (605) 691-1240 or email Justin@BrookingsHomes.com

This property is listed by David Kneip of Best Choice Real Estate, Brookings, SD.





Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Brookings housing market still booming, say Realtors

'Market's really, really good in Brookings' ; home sales doing well, few foreclosures



BY JOHN KUBAL
Published in The Brookings Register on Friday, September 28, 2007

The news about real estate nationwide has of late been less than good. The market is headed south and will soon be in the tank or is there already. But not so in Brookings, say a pair of Realtors and members of the East Central Board of Realtors, past-president Scott Hodges and President Ryan Krogman.

Hodges, who has been in real estate for more than 30 years, said, "Our situation is entirely different; and yet I have customers and clients that are making comments to me all the time about their perception that the market is bad."

"And it's really, really not in Brookings; our market's really, really good in Brookings. It's just not mirroring what we're seeing in the national media."

He added that prices are not down and inventories and foreclosures are not up.

Smiling, Hodges said, "For the first time ever, being 48th in the nation is a good thing; because we're 48th in the nation in foreclosures, in South Dakota." The only states with lower foreclosure rates are North Dakota and Vermont.

Only about 50 houses are for sale in the city of Brookings. That's not a lot for a city like Brookings with a population of about 20,000.

Nationwide the real estate market might be considered a "buyer's market ," but not so in South Dakota. Hodges said, "In Brookings, it hasn't been (a buyer's market). It's not unusual for us still to get multiple offers on properties when they come on the market; it's not unusual for properties in Brookings to still sell over their list price."

Turning to some numbers, Krogman noted that locally property appreciated about 6 percent.

Also noting that the real estate market does not mirror the national scene, he added that homeowners who want to upgrade or people wanting to build a new home will not have to take a loss on their investment.

And, on average, homeowners who sell are realizing 98.9 percent of the list price of their property. Krogman added, "If we were seeing a big drop in values, we'd see that lower like 80 percent, or 75 percent.

"But we're still staying real strong; on some properties, we're getting over (the) asking price." Krogman said it would be good to have more houses on the market : such as 80 in Brookings and 120 to 130 in the area.

Assessment, appraisal factors in home's sale price

Joyce Dragseth, Brookings County Director of Equalization, explained, "The equalization office of each county is charged by state statute to value all property in the county at market value."

She added, "If the market goes up, we would have to follow it up; or if the market goes down, we would also have to follow it down.

"So if this recession that the rest of the country is talking about ever hits Brookings, we will have to follow that with our assessments. It's a yearly job to study each neighborhood and what we need to do with it. One neighborhood might need a 2 percent adjustment; another neighborhood might need a 5 percent adjustment."

The statute does allow some leeway: "We have to be at 85 percent of market (value)," Dragseth said.

However, she pointed out that the Department of Revenue, which oversees her office, "really stresses that we be at 90 to 95 percent."

That magic number is arrived at by taking all sales and dividing the assessed value by the sale price to come up with a ratio. The city of Brookings has "probably 300 house sales a year." To date in 2007 there have been 230 sales.

Dragseth also pointed out that South Dakota is an "ad valorem" state, meaning that "property is taxed by value for government purposes to pay for services."

While Dragseth's county-run office works on a "mass appraisal" basis, private appraisers work on a more individual for-hire basis.

Location, location, location still key

Patrice Gabel, a certified general appraiser and president of Hansen & Gabel Appraisers, on Sixth Street in Brookings, explained, "We're hired by banks, private individuals , attorneys. That's pretty well our client base, but mostly the banks, mortgage lenders.

"And it's either for a refinance situation or a sale, potential sale, divorce, estate purposes for the IRS and things like that." An appraisal of property is in some ways like a military inspection: It includes measuring the interior and exterior, noting (literally, writing down a lot of information) the condition of the interior and exterior, improvements and the age of the improvements.

Also to be factored in is "location , location, location," with a focus on comparable listings and sales of like properties in the "immediate neighborhood." Three to five properties are likely to put an appraiser in an appropriate "range of values."

Viewed with an appraiser's eye, what is Gabel seeing in Brookings?

"We're not seeing any depreciation in the marketplace," Gabel said. "We're not seeing appreciation as high as it had been in the past years, but properties are still appreciating as long as they're being maintained."

Show me the money

In the end, all real estate transactions come down to the dollars. What got a lot of home owners nationwide in over their heads were such fanciful financing initiatives that include ARMs adjustable-rate mortgages where over time a buyer's monthly house payment can become a moving target and "sub-prime lending" to "people with questionable credit." Included, too, are "interest-only " options, where the principle is not being paid down. Bottom line across the nation: Too many buyers have too much house and too little money. That's not often the case in Brookings, where mortgage dollars tend to be obtained in more convential fashion.

Connie Bridges, a mortgage loan officer at First Bank & Trust, said, "We want to make sure that our borrowers can afford the payments . Typically, around here they can.

"They've got two income earners in the household. And we look at ratios; we want to make sure that we're not getting them overextended. We look at a 28 percent debt-to-income ratio on the house and then 36 percent for total debt with everything. We look at insurance and taxes as well."

She added, "First of all. we want to be sure they're comfortable with the payments."

In Brookings, foreclosures are "pretty rare."

Reporter John Kubal may be reached at jkubal@brookingsregister.com

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Daily Real Estate News | August 30, 2007

Markets Where a Flipper Can Make a Buck

Flipping went out of fashion last year, leaving thousands of flippers in trouble in many areas, but an analysis by Forbes magazine shows that there are markets all over the country where investors can still turn a profit if they pick their properties wisely.

Forbes calculated whether a market is ripe for flipping by using data from Moody's Economy.com to calculate a market's rate of sales against inventory, and to determine supply and demand. Then it looked at current and new-home construction numbers through the end of 2008, based on data from the National Association of Home Builders; the magazine sought out markets where planned new home construction is low.

Then Forbes used price appreciation data from the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® to get a sense of short-term market direction. Finally, it examined Moody's figures on investor share. The higher the share of investors, the more sellers outweigh buyers, which is bad news in a bearish market.

The results identified the following markets as the best candidates for flipping. Here are the best markets, along with the price in each market that would make a home a candidate for a quick turnover.

1. Seattle, $385,000
2. San Francisco, $759,000
3. Raleigh, N.C., $225,000
4. Houston, $150,000
5. Austin, Texas, $175,000
6. San Antonio, $150,000
7. Boston, $389,000
8. Los Angeles, $590,000
9. New York, $489,000
10. Portland, Ore., $295,000

Source: Forbes, Matt Woolsey (07/26/2007)

Daily Real Estate News | August 30, 2007

Lead-Based Paint Still a Serious Concern

Highly toxic lead-based paint was banned in 1978 but remains in about 24 million housing units, says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In 1992, Congress passed a law requiring the EPA to write a regulation that would implement mandatory training for renovation contractors. The EPA didn’t even propose the regulation until 2006 and hasn’t yet adopted it.

EPA spokeswoman Enesta Jones says the EPA is currently gathering and reviewing feedback about its proposed "Lead Renovation, Repair, and Painting Program" and hopes to issue a final rule by early 2008.

Under the EPA's proposed regulations, contractors working in most pre-1978 homes would be trained in the use of lead-safe work practices; renovators and firms would be certified; and training providers would be accredited.

The EPA recommends that anyone renovating a home built before 1978 test their home for potential lead hazards. The agency also warns against using belt sanders, propane torches, high-temperature heat guns, dry scrapers or dry sandpaper because they could create lead dust and fumes.

Work areas should be sealed off completely.

Once the renovation is complete, a clearance examination performed by a contractor is necessary to check for harmful levels of lead-contaminated dust.

Source: USA Today, Angela Haupt (08/29/2007)

Daily Real Estate News | August 29, 2007

Mortgage Applications Decline Even as Rates Drop

Last week was another slow week for the mortgage business with the Market Composite Index, a measure of loan application volume, falling 4 percent on a seasonally adjusted basis to 615.2 from 641.1 the previous week.

On an unadjusted basis, the index decreased 5.3 percent compared with the previous week, but it was up 10.6 percent compared with the same week one year earlier.

The refinance share of mortgage activity increased to 40.4 percent of total applications from 39.9 percent the previous week.

The average interest rate for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages decreased to 6.41 percent from 6.49 percent. The average contract interest rate for 15-year fixed-rate mortgages decreased to 6.10 from 6.20 percent. The average interest rate for one-year ARMs increased to 6.51 from 5.84 percent.

Source: REALTOR® Magazine Online

Daily Real Estate News | August 28, 2007

Mortgage Ads Send Mixed Messages

Dozens of mortgage lenders have shut down their subprime operations, but you wouldn’t know it from Internet and television advertising where lenders are declaring, "Bad Credit? Call Today!”

"It's been a common feature of advertising," says Allen Fishbein, director of housing and credit policy at the Consumer Federation of America. "They offer their products not around interest rates but among monthly payments, ease of access, among 'you're more likely to get a yes with us than with others.' I don't think that has changed in this environment."

Lenders are defending themselves. "It's important to point out that there are loan options available for borrowers with lower credit scores in today's market," Darren Beck, senior vice president of marketing for LendingTree.com, told the Boston Globe.

While there's nothing wrong with lending money to people with bad credit, government officials are concerned about independent mortgage brokers who try to trick people into purchasing properties they can't really afford, says David Nahmias, U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Georgia, who has worked on mortgage fraud cases.

The Federal Trade Commission continues to investigate any cases of lending institutions misleading people with their mortgage-related advertising, says Peggy Twohig, associate director for the division of financial practices at the agency. "It depends on exactly what they say, how they say it, how big and bold things are titled, and what is said in the small print,” she notes.

Source: Boston Globe, Nancy Trejos (08/25/07)

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Daily Real Estate News | August 27, 2007

Mortgage Interest Tax Deduction Falls Under Fire

Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.) recently confirmed his plans to roll out legislation in September to wipe out an existing tax break for owners of large houses.

Under the measure, owners of residences measuring 3,000 square feet or bigger — as many as 8.6 million residential properties nationwide, according to 2003 federal government data — no longer would be able to claim a tax deduction on mortgage interest. Dingell's aim is to discourage wasteful energy use and help curtail pollution tied to climate change.

But housing industry officials warn that the current slump in the sector makes now a particularly challenging time to tinker with the deduction.

Doing so "would have repercussions for the housing market as a whole," according to Mary Trupo, NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® spokeswoman.

Source: Deseret Morning News (Utah) (08/27/07)

Monday, August 27, 2007

Daily Real Estate News | August 24, 2007

Mortgage Rates Drop to Three-Month Lows
Freddie Mac reported that 30-year fixed home loans moved down this week to 6.52 percent, from 6.62 percent a week ago. That's the lowest level in three months. Meanwhile, interest rates on 15-year fixed mortgages dropped to 6.18 percent from last week's average of 6.3 percent.
Source: San Diego Union-Tribune (08/24/07)

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Daily Real Estate News | August 23, 2007

Presidential Hopefuls Weigh In on Credit Crunch

What to do about the credit crunch? How to deal with the lackluster housing market? Those are two hot questions for presidential candidates.

Here’s what the candidates have said about the issue of housing and mortgage credit:

Democrats
  • Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. seeks hedge fund transparency.
  • Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.) urges more “truth in lending” such as plain-talk, no fine-print disclosures for new home owners.
  • Sen. Christopher J. Dodd (Conn.) advocates an end to prepayment penalties and extension of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac’s role.
  • Former senator John Edwards (N.C.) wants to change the bankruptcy laws to allow filers to shed mortgage debt.
  • Sen. Barack Obama (Ill.) seeks a federal fund to bail out home owners in foreclosure. The money would come from penalties invoked upon irresponsible lenders.

Republicans

  • Former New York mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani doesn’t support government intervention, but does think there should be more transparency in the process.
  • Sen. John McCain (Ariz.) suggests more education and some help for those who are in foreclosure because they were misled.
  • Former Mass. Gov. Mitt Romney believes the government should simplify the mortgage process, ensure strong oversight and punish those who are “bad actors.”

Source: The Washington Post, Jeffrey H. Birnhaum (08/23/2007)

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Daily Real Estate News | August 22, 2007

Mortgage Crisis: What Went Wrong?

Nearly 2 million mortgages are scheduled for rate increases this fall and that’s expected to send foreclosures soaring.

President Bush has blamed the failure of borrowers to read the fine print. But many experts say the problem runs much deeper. The mortgage business has long been a tug of war between a social commitment to broad homeownership and the efforts of private financial operators to earn money.

Robert Kuttner, co-editor of The American Prospect and a senior fellow at Demos, a New York-based think tank, says the government should resume directly subsidizing starter mortgages and construction of homes for moderate-income buyers. He says these programs need to combine careful credit assessment with counseling, rather than relying totally on the private mortgage industry. He says he also would prevent irresponsible, speculative lenders from selling mortgages in the secondary market.

“We've now had an experiment in the claims made for mortgage deregulation, extending over three decades, and deregulation flunked," Kuttner says. "America needs to restore a system in which government supports homeownership — and makes sure that mortgage lenders serve as responsible creditors, not predators.”

Source: The Associated Press, Nathan K. Martin (08/19/07)

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Daily Real Estate News | August 21, 2007

Foreclosure Rate Continues to Climb Nationally

Foreclosure filings rose 9 percent from June to July and were up 93 percent year-over-year, according to RealtyTrac Inc., which tracks and sells foreclosures.

Five states — California, Florida, Michigan, Ohio, and Georgia — accounted for more than half of the total foreclosure filings, according to RealtyTrac CEO James J. Saccacio. However, Florida's foreclosure filings fell 9 percent between June and July.

Nevada had the highest foreclosure rate, one filing for every 199 households.

The national foreclosure rate in July was one filing for every 693 households, according to RealtyTrac.

— REALTOR® Magazine Online

Monday, August 20, 2007

Daily Real Estate News | August 20, 2007

Time Shares Selling at Record Pace

Times shares are selling at a record pace, according reports from people in the industry. Florida is particularly hot.

David Siegel, CEO of Central Florida Investments, which owns the Westgate Resorts time-share group, says sales have risen 25 percent this year over last. In addition, a recently released study by Price Waterhouse Coopers reports that sales of new time shares in Florida rose from $1.6 billion in 2002 to $2.6 billion in 2005.

Howard Nusbaum, president of the American Resort Development Association, says people have become comfortable with the idea of owning a week-a-year property, rather than the whole thing.

"The baby boom and those that follow them … these are people who are used to buying pizza by the slice," he says.

Uncertain economic times contribute to the appeal of time shares, because they lock in the cost of a vacation. “These are affordable investments that can be financed over five to seven years," says Peter Yesawich, chairman of Ypartnership, which markets timeshare for developers. "They are also seen as a hedge against the future inflated cost of vacations."

Source: Orlando Sentinel, Christopher Boyd (08/19/2007)

Daily Real Estate News | August 20, 2007

Landscaped Lots 'Very Important' to Buyers

The housing downturn has many builders, real estate agents, and home sellers paying close attention to landscaping as a way to generate buyer interest and boost sales prices.

Research by the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® says landscaping is "very important" to almost 20 percent of buyers, and University of Washington-Seattle researcher Kathleen Wolf says landscaped lots sell for about 7 percent more.

The exact amount depends on location, with Palm Beach, Fla.-based real estate agent Nancy Macaluso noting that palm trees and flowers can boost a home's price by 10 percent to 15 percent in comparison to the sales prices of properties without such landscaping.

However, most appraisers and tax assessors do not include landscaping in their valuations; and there are no standards governing how arborists and landscape experts calculate a plant's value.

Still, home owners are shelling out hundreds of dollars for yard appraisals as part of their marketing strategies, and builders are expanding their landscaping budgets.

Experts say sellers would be wise to maintain their yards, as unkempt trees and shrubs can conceal views that have the potential to boost sales prices by tens of thousands of dollars.

Source: Wall Street Journal, June Fletcher (08/17/07)

Daily Real Estate News | August 17, 2007

30-Year Mortgages Inch Up This Week

A jump in interest rates has ended a three-week run in lower borrowing costs, reports Freddie Mac. According to the mortgage finance giant, the average interest on 30-year fixed loans rose to 6.62 percent this week from 6.59 percent last week.

Meanwhile, the rate for the 15-year fixed mortgages, which are common in refinances, floated up to 6.3 percent from 6.25 percent over the one-week period. Also on the rise were five-year adjustable-rate mortgages, which nudged up to 6.35 percent from 6.33 percent, and one-year ARMs, which bumped up to 5.67 percent from 5.65 percent.

Source: San Jose Mercury News (Calif.), Martin Crutsinger (08/17/07)

Daily Real Estate News | August 16, 2007

Best Vacation-Home Spots for Price Growth

Buying a vacation home in a blue-chip locale is a safe bet if you're looking for solid price growth, according to Forbes.com, which compiled a list of the five fastest-appreciating regional vacation areas in the West, Midwest, East Coast, and South.

The magazine selected the areas with help from NeighborhoodScout.com, a Rhode Island-based real estate research site. NeighborhoodScout pinpointed neighborhoods with desirable locations, near beaches, lakes, or mountains, and with amenities and services that cater to a vacationing crowd. Then it identified which locales had the fastest median home price appreciation over the past five years.

The village of Water Mill, N.Y., in Bridgehampton, appreciated the fastest. The median home price there is $1.38 million; it increased in value at an average of 21 percent a year over the last five years. In the Midwest, Victoria, Minn., which is surrounded by lakes, grew an average of 18 percent a year.

The north end of Key Largo, Fla., has appreciated at 27 percent a year, on average, making it the fastest-growing vacation spot in the South. Moran, Wyo., situated between Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks, has seen 35 percent average increases in annual value since 2002, putting it at the top of appreciation in the West.

Here are the top five destinations in the key regions and the median price of property there.

Northeast
1. Water Mill, Bridgehampton, N.Y., $1.38 million
2. Avalon, N.J., $1.25 million
3. Napeague/Amagansett, East Hampton, N.Y., $862,129
4. Borough Center, New Hope, Pa., $647,041
5. Orange Street/Union Street, Nantucket, Mass., $1.57 million

West
1. Moran, Wyo., $1.13 million
2. Emerald Bay, Laguna Beach, Calif., $2.8 million
3. Sunnyside-Tahoe City, Calif., $2.8 million
4. Stateline, Carson City, Nev., $1.3 million
5. Wailea-Makena, Hawaii, $1.75 million

Midwest
1. Victoria, Minn., $435,000
2. Martell/Olivet, River Falls, Wis., $271,063
3. City Center, Orr, Minn., $281,998
4. Blue Mounds, Wis., $280,000
5. Jenkins, Pine River, Minn., $380,000

South
1. North Key Largo, Key Largo, Fla., $2.8 million
2. Pine Ridge/Pelican Bay, Naples, Fla., $1.6 million
3. Captiva, Fla., $2.1 million
4. Unison/Philomont, Bluemont, Va., $804,298
5. Williamsburg, Va., $949,900

Source: Forbes.com, Matt Woolsey (08/09/07)

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Daily Real Estate News | August 15, 2007

Finding a Mortgage Is Getting Tougher

Borrowers with good credit but without 5 or 10 percent to put down are likely to be shocked at the rate they're offered, if they're offered a mortgage at all.

Lenders are eliminating certain products altogether as well as requiring higher credit scores and down payments, more extensive appraisals, larger savings accounts, and additional income verification.

To Washington state appraiser Bill Hanson, the shift is dramatic. He says lenders are "asking for unrelated information, such as permit numbers for remodeling work," he says. "Before they would ask: 'Is the home still there and does the roof leak?'"

"We thought the dust was going to settle, but instead, it just blew up," says Mitchell Reiner, president of Mortgage Associates, a Los Angeles-based lender that does business in 48 states. "Everyone is being affected."

Source: The Wall Street Journal, Jonathan Karp (08/14/2007)

Daily Real Estate News | August 15, 2007

Women Call Shots When House Hunting

U.S. women control or influence $7 trillion in consumer spending annually and make 85 percent of all purchase decisions, according to marketing experts. Single women accounted for 22 percent of all home purchases made between July 2005 and June 2006.

What do women want when they are house hunting?

Women respond best to a holistic approach when buying a house, says Richard Peterson, a psychiatrist who specializes in investment psychology. “They handle global impressions better” than men.

Men's ability to make multifaceted decisions, on the other hand, is diminished when they have to rely on "more than three to four factors," imaging studies of the brain show, Peterson says. For example, when men shop – an activity that requires dealing with an array of facts and feelings – stress hormones increase and focus dwindles.

Here are some things that work and don’t work when a woman is the customer.
  • Stimulate the senses. Men like quick factoids an bullet points, but this approach is the antithesis of a woman’s preference for seeing, touching and talking. Instead, try videos, testimonials, livability surveys, and newsletters detailing community activities.
  • Patience is key. Women like to return multiple times to a property they are considering. Each visit brings a new set of questions.
  • Enthusiasm sells. Women like to be excited about the property.
  • Spousal approval goes one way. If she likes it, chances are he’ll like it, but the opposite isn’t necessarily true.

Source: The Los Angeles Times, Diane Wedner (08/12/2007)

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Daily Real Estate News | August 14, 2007

Foreclosure Rates Continuing to Rise Nationwide

RealtyTrac, which sells foreclosed properties nationwide, released its midyear report, showing that California and Ohio cities account for 10 of the top 20 metropolitan areas in rate of foreclosures.

Foreclosure activity appears to be moderating in parts of the country where it initially skyrocketed, including Texas and South Carolina, "but the overall trend is toward escalating foreclosure rates, with 82 of the top 100 metro areas reporting year-over-year increases in the number of homes affected by foreclosure,” says James J. Saccacio, CEO of RealtyTrac.

Here are the metropolitan areas with the top 20 rates of foreclosure from January to June 2007.

Stockton, Calif.
Detroit/Livonia/Dearborn, Mi
Las Vegas/Paradise, Nev.
Riverside/San Bernardino, Calif.
Sacramento, Calif.
Denver/Aurora, Colo.
Miami
Bakersfield, Calif.
Memphis, Tenn.
Cleveland/Lorain/Elyria/Mentor, Ohio
Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
Atlanta/Sandy Springs/Marietta, Ga.
Fort Worth/Arlington, Texas
Fresno, Calif.
Indianapolis
Dayton, Ohio
Dallas
Akron, Ohio
Oakland, Calif.
Columbus, Ohio

Source: REALTOR® Online (08/14/2007)

Daily Real Estate News | August 13, 2007

Buy Retirement Home Now, Move in Later

With prices in many areas at a low ebb, it might make good financial sense for Baby Boomers to buy their retirement homes now, even if they're still years away from actually moving. They can find renters who will pay the bills until they're ready to live there.

Here’s some advice for people who are considering this strategy:
  • Shop carefully. It's best to buy a home that can be rented for a rate that, after tax considerations, will cover the mortgage, real estate taxes, and insurance.
  • Study up on housing trends. Ask the local or state planning department for demographic and economic data. The information can reveal facts that will influence whether or not to buy. For example, big companies going out of business or military base closings can be bad news.
  • Don’t forget maintenance. Consider who’ll take care of the house in the owner’s absence. Property managers charge 6 percent to 15 percent of the monthly rent. Family members may be willing to do the job for free, but they could be ill equipped to do the job if the don't have any experience.
  • Consider financing. Boomers with sufficient equity in their current homes can tap it to either buy their retirement home outright or secure a much lower mortgage rate compared with a loan at the rate often offered to buyers of investment property.

Source: The Washington Post, Belly L. Kass, Esq. (08/11/2007)

Daily Real Estate News | August 10, 2007

Builders Sweeten the Deal With Incentives

The latest survey taken by the National Association of Home Builders indicates that 56 percent of builders are now offering incentives, up from about 45 percent a year ago.

As home builders juice up their efforts to unload inventories, the most common incentives they're offering include paying two years of property taxes and insurance or several months of mortgage payments. Other popular incentives include basement and garage upgrades and the addition of pools. Plus, 15 to 20 percent off the purchase price is being given in many areas.

Builders generally try to avoid outright price markdowns, in part because it angers prior home buyers who don't want prices in their subdivisions forced down. These days, however, some builders have had to resort to them "because it's all about avoiding bankruptcy for some," says Gene Rivers, a Keller Williams associate in Tallahassee, Fla.

Getting a Good Deal

Here are some tips for getting the best deals from builders:
  • Buy a finished home: Builders want these off their books.
  • Get a pre-approval letter: This shows a builder that the buyer has financing already in place.
  • Close quickly: Wrap up a purchase within 30 days; builders want to sell before the next bank payment is due.
  • Avoid contingencies: Don't make a purchase contingent on selling a home or finding financing.

Source: The Wall Street Journal, Jeff D. Opdyke (08/09/07)

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Daily Real Estate News | August 9, 2007

Inventory's Still Rising in Most U.S. Markets

The number of homes on the market in the 18 major U.S. metro areas rose 1.2 percent in July from the previous month, and were up 19 percent from a year earlier, according to a report by real estate Web site ZipRealty, based in Emeryville, Calif.

While the inventory is still keeping a lid on prices in most areas, the supply of unsold homes didn't increase as rapidly in July as it has been, says ZipRealty CEO Pat Lashinsky.

The biggest increase was 6.1 percent in Seattle, which until now hasn’t been much affected by the housing slowdown. Sellers are reluctant to trim their asking prices, and "buyers are sitting on the sidelines, trying to figure out what's going on," he told The Wall Street Journal.

Meanwhile, the Boston metro area showed a decline of 2.8 percent in July. Here’s how inventory is moving in ZipRealty’s 18 key cities:
  • Baltimore +3.6 percent
  • Boston -2.8
  • Chicago +1.2
  • Dallas -0.1
  • Houston +0.7
  • Las Vegas +3.0
  • Los Angeles +3.0
  • Miami +0.2
  • Minneapolis -0.2
  • Orange County, Calif. +2.0
  • Orlando, Fla. +0.8
  • Phoenix +0.5
  • San Francisco +3.7
  • Sacramento, Calif. +3.0
  • Seattle +6.1
  • San Diego +2.3
  • Tampa, Fla. -0.9
  • Washington, D.C. +0.1
  • All 18 metro areas +1.2

Source: The Wall Street Journal, James R. Hagerty (08/09/2007)

Daily Real Estate News | August 8, 2007

Mortgage Apps Rise After Mid-Summer Slowdown

After a couple of down weeks, the number of mortgage applications rose 8.1 percent last week on a seasonally adjusted basis from 607.1 to 656.5, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association weekly survey.

On an unadjusted basis, the index increased 7.7 percent compared with the previous week and was up 18 percent compared with the same week a year ago.

The refinance share of mortgage activity increased slightly to 39.9 percent of total applications from 39.4 percent the previous week.

The average interest rate for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages decreased to 6.41 percent from 6.50 percent. The average interest rate for 15-year fixed-rate mortgages decreased to 6.16 from 6.20 percent. The average interest rate for one-year ARMs decreased to 5.69 from 5.73 percent.

Source: REALTOR® Magazine Online

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Daily Real Estate News | August 7, 2007

What Buyers Want: Top Home Preferences

More home buyers want extra garage space with two or more spaces in their homes, according to the “2007 Profile of Buyers’ Home Feature Preferences,” which was released Tuesday by the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®.

The number of buyers expressing a desire for oversized garages grew 16 percentage points since NAR's last survey of buyer preferences in 2004. About 57 percent of home buyers surveyed now say they want an oversized garage. What's more, among buyers who purchased homes without big garages, 56 percent said they would have paid more for an oversized garage, compared to only 6 percent in the 2004 survey.

NAR's latest home buyer preference survey, which reports responses from buyers who purchased homes in 2006, asks buyers about the importance of 75 home features and room types.

What They're Shopping For

Other priorities for today’s home buyers include:
  • Air conditioning: three out of every four respondents surveyed ranked this as “very important.”
  • Master bedroom walk-in closet: 53 percent of buyers rated this as an important feature in a home.
  • Hardwood floors and granite countertops: each gained 7 percentage points in popularity since the 2004 survey; 28 percent and 23 percent, respectively, of buyers labeled these home features as very important.
  • Cable/satellite TV-ready: 46 percent, a growth of 6 percentage points from the 2004 survey, said this was important.
  • Energy efficiency: especially among new-home buyers — 65 percent of new-home buyers said energy efficiency home features are very important compared to 39 percent for buyers of existing homes.

Buyers also said they're willing to pay more for these extras. For example, 65 percent of buyers said they would be willing to pay a median $1,880 extra for a home with central air conditioning. One out of four buyers also was willing to pay a median of $4,760 more for waterfront property.

Regional Preferences

What home buyers want in the South, however, is not always what buyers in the West want. The survey identified some of the following regional preferences in home features:

  • Home buyers in the South and Midwest viewed central air conditioning as a priority, with 91 percent and 81 percent, respectively, saying this feature was very important.
  • Sixty-six percent of buyers in the South thought a walk-in closet in the master bedroom was very important, while 61 percent of Midwesterners valued an oversized garage.
  • In the Northeast, the highest percentage of buyers placed a premium on a backyard or play area (53 percent), followed by central air conditioning at 41 percent.
  • Two-thirds of buyers in the West want oversize garages (66 percent), followed by central air conditioning at 59 percent.

Fixing up the Nest

According to the survey, nearly six out of 10 recent home buyers took on remodeling or home improvement projects within three months of their purchase. Close to half of home buyers who remodeled or made improvements updated their kitchen, and nearly half remodeled or improved their bathroom.

New-home owners spent a median of $4,350 on home improvement or remodeling projects undertaken within three months of purchase.

“The fact that a majority of home buyers quickly remodel key areas of their homes ties into the fact that their home is a good, long-term investment,” says Paul Bishop, NAR manager of real estate research. “Regardless of market conditions in the short term, when purchased for the long term, housing is one of the safest investments consumers can make.”

Indeed, more than half of home buyers said they believe their home has high investment potential, and another four out of 10 say it has moderate investment potential. Only 3 percent felt their home’s investment potential was low.

Generational Differences

Age was the biggest differentiation in what buyers were looking for in a home. Buyers 75 years old and older wanted a single-level home (74 percent) that was less than 10 years old (43 percent) with a walk-in closet in the master bedroom (74 percent).

On the other hand, most buyers between the ages of 25-34 wanted a backyard or play area (60 percent).

More than half of buyers over 65 wanted a separate shower enclosure in the master bathroom, compared to only one-fourth of buyers ages 25-34.

Also, older buyers placed a higher priority on energy efficiency home features than did younger buyers — 63 percent of buyers 75 and older said it was very important, but only 32 percent of buyers who were 18-24 agreed.

Home Growth

Overall, the survey also revealed that while homes are getting bigger, the number of bedrooms is shrinking. From 2004 to 2006, the size of the typical home purchased increased by about 100 square feet to 1,840 square feet, while the median number of bedrooms dropped from four to three during that same period.

The median age of the home reported in the current survey is 12 years, down from 15 years in 2004.

Real estate practitioners see hundreds, if not thousands, of houses with their buyer clients every year and know exactly what buyers are looking for in a home, says NAR President Pat V. Combs. “This insight is one more way REALTORS® add value to the real estate transaction,” Combs says.

— REALTOR® Magazine Online

Daily Real Estate News | August 7, 2007

Remodelers Prefer the Old to the New

A growing number of remodelers are turning to used products, as the number of reused-material stores around the country has doubled in the last five years from 150 to 300, according to the Building Materials Reuse Association.

The stores are popular because well-made products — some of them from new construction sites and others from previous eras — can be purchased at a fraction of current retail cost.

Many of the sites are run by nonprofit organizations and get all or most of their products from donations, many of which come from homes that have been torn down or "deconstructed" instead of being demolished.

Still, not all reusable material is cheap. For instance, Mountain Lumber in Ruckersville, Va., which manufactures products from reclaimed wood, charges an average of about $3,000 for flooring for a 300-square-foot kitchen and about $8,000 for an 800-square-foot one. And that's just for the product — the company does not do installation.

Source: The Washington Post, Allan Lengel (08/04/07)

Daily Real Estate News | August 6, 2007

Pros and Cons of Living by Water

While demand never seems to disappear for waterfront property, the slowing real estate market has presented some great deals by lakes and oceans.

“The desire to look out your window and see water will always be there and will always be an added incentive for someone to purchase a home," says Richard Swerdlow, Miami-based chief executive of Condo.com, an online marketplace for buying and selling condos.

But there are drawbacks to living the waterfront life. Among them: premium property prices, high insurance rates (especially if you're near a flood zone), and costly maintenance because moist air corrodes pipes and eats away at paint. But there are just as many perks.

Tonja Demoff, author of the book Bubble Proof: Real Estate Strategies That Work in Any Market, offers these five reasons for considering coastal property.
  • Ocean properties are in high demand and are often a great investment either for resale or rental income.
  • Fewer mosquitoes and insects as the ocean breezes push the critters westward.
  • Wonderful environment for children, away from the pollution of the city and a sedentary lifestyle.
  • Great exercise potential for people of all ages, be it swimming or walking along the shore or coast.
  • Ocean breezes make the hottest summer day feel cooler.

Source: Newsday, Laura Koss-Feder (08/03/2007)

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Daily Real Estate News | August 2, 2007

Tips for Renting Out a Vacation Home

A vacation property construction boom over the past few years has boosted the overall number of vacation homes, but falling home values have made renting out these homes for extra cash an appealing option.

The result is a glut of places to spend a vacation. One expert is urging home owners who want to rent out their properties to consider off-season business.

The second and third weeks of September and the third and fourth weeks of October are going to be great weeks especially in Florida; Georgia; Myrtle Beach, S.C.; Hilton Head, N.C.; the Tennessee mountains; and Branson, Mo. and the Ozarks, predicts Christine Karpinski, author of How to Rent Vacation Properties by Owner.

Karpinski has this advice for home owners considering the rental game:
  • Post lots of photos and information on your Web page. Make sure the information you provide is complete and accurate, and don't exaggerate. That will help avoid disappointment from renters who expect more than there is. "I, as a consumer, would not rent a place without seeing photos of each bedroom and the living room," she says.
  • Replace the furniture often. The normal wear and tear on upholstery and linens can prove a turn-off for vacationers. They're much more satisfied when everything is crisp and new.
  • Hire a caretaker. You need someone on-call nearby if there's distance between you and your rental property. That way, if there's a problem — the heat goes off, the oven won't light, etc. — there's someone who can offer quick problem solving.

Source: BusinessWeek Online, Maya Roney (07/18/07)

Daily Real Estate News | August 2, 2007

More Buildings Go Green

Energy efficient homes might still be the exception, but green building is gaining momentum, according to the U. S. Green Building Council and the National Association of Home Builders.

In fact, green building has become a $12 billion industry, according to USGBC estimates. A decade ago, USGBC says, its value was “negligible.”

A survey of local home building associations shows that more than 97,000 homes have been built and LEED-certified since the mid-1990s using voluntary, builder-supported green building programs nationwide. That’s a 50 percent increase since 2004 when the last survey was conducted, according to NAHB.

And the increase doesn't show any signs of slowing. The U.S. Green Building Council recently welcomed its 10,000th member into the organization, which encompasses builders, universities, government agencies, and nonprofit organizations devoted to green construction.

Both NAHB and USGBC are in the process of developing its own set of standards and guidelines for sustainable residential green construction and to further promote the green industry.

—By Camilla McLaughlin for REALTOR® Magazine Online

Daily Real Estate News | August 2, 2007

Home Values for the Top 20 Markets

The annual growth rate in prices of existing single family homes across the United States continued to decline for the 18th consecutive month in May, according to the Standard & Poor’s/Case-Shiller Home Price Index.

Overall, the top 20 cities in the index declined 2.8 percent year-over-year, although five of the cities showed increases.

Cities measured by the index where values have increased in the 12 months are Atlanta, Charlotte, Dallas, Portland, and Seattle. Detroit continues to lead the metro areas in growth rate declines, down 11.1 percent from a year ago.

Here are the top 20 metropolitan areas and the percent of change in their real estate values over the last year:
  • Atlanta: 1.7 percent
  • Boston: -4.3 percent
  • Charlotte: 7 percent
  • Chicago: -0.6 percent
  • Cleveland: -2.8 percent
  • Dallas: 1.8 percent
  • Denver: -1.4 percent
  • Detroit: -11.1 percent
  • Las Vegas: -4.1 percent
  • Los Angeles: -3.3 percent
  • Miami: -3.3 percent
  • Minneapolis: -3.5 percent
  • New York: -2.3 percent
  • Phoenix: -5.5 percent
  • Portland: 5.7 percent
  • San Diego: -7 percent
  • San Francisco: -3.4 percent
  • Seattle: 9.1 percent
  • Tampa: -6.7 percent
  • Washington, D.C.: -6.3 percent

— REALTOR® Magazine Online

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Daily Real Estate News | August 1, 2007

NAR: Market Shows Signs of Improvement

The market is likely to stabilize in the months ahead, according to the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®’ forward-looking indicator on pending home sales.

The Pending Home Sales Index, based on contracts signed in June, was 5 percent higher from the downwardly revised May index of 97.5, but is still 8.6 percent below June 2006 when it stood at 112. Nevertheless, this 5 percent monthly gain is the largest in more than three years, since a 6.1 percent increase was recorded in March 2004.

Lawrence Yun, NAR senior economist, says it’s encouraging that the increase occurred in all four major regions of the United States. “However, it is too early to say if home sales have already passed bottom,” he says. “Still, major declines in home sales are likely to have occurred already and further declines, if any, are likely to be modest given the accumulating pent-up demand.”

The index is a leading indicator for the housing sector, based on pending sales of existing homes. A sale is listed as pending when the contract has been signed but the transaction has not closed.

What Happened Regionally

Here’s a breakdown of what the PHSI showed across the country:
  • West: the PHSI increased 8.6 percent in June to 103.6, but was 5.5 percent below a year ago.
  • Northeast: the index rose 3.1 percent from May to 96, which is 2.4 percent lower than June 2006.
  • South: the index increased 4.7 percent in June to 111.6, but was 12.7 percent below a year ago.
  • Midwest: the PHSI rose 3.5 percent in June to 92.5, which is 8.2 percent lower than June 2006.

— REALTOR® Magazine Online

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Daily Real Estate News | July 31, 2007

High Home Prices and High Tax Rates Go Together

The parts of the United States where home prices are highest – New York, Boston, Washington, D.C., San Diego, Los Angeles, the San Francisco Bay Area, and Hawaii – are also areas where residents pay the highest taxes.

New York City high-earning residents face a 6.85 percent top state income tax and a 3.65 percent top city tax. That’s before facing a 35 percent federal tax rate. The California state income tax is 9.3 percent, kicking in at $43,500. And for people who make more than $1 million a year, California adds another 1 percent.

As a result, some big-city millionaires are taking their money and moving. Outgoing California millionaires of recent years include Netscape's founder, Jim Clark, who moved to Florida, and eBay's Pierre Omidyar, who moved to Nevada.

Says Rich Karlgaard, publisher of Forbes magazine: “Markets decide house prices. People decide tax rates. I have a hunch we'll see a Blue State tax revolt soon.”

Sources: Forbes, Rich Karlgaard (08/13/2007)

Monday, July 30, 2007

Daily Real Estate News | July 30, 2007

Foreclosures Up 55% in First Half of 2007

There was one foreclosure filing for every 134 U.S. households during the first half of the year, according to RealtyTrac’s midyear report.

The report shows that foreclosure filings — including default notices, auction sale notices, and bank repossessions — rose to 925,986 for the first six months of 2007. That’s an increase of more than 55 percent over the same time last year, and a jump of 30 percent over the last half of 2006.

“Despite a slight drop in June, foreclosure activity shows no sign of slowing down,” says James J. Saccacio, CEO of RealtyTrac, an Irvine, Calif.-based company that manages an online database of foreclosures. “Based on the rate of foreclosure activity in the first half of 2007, we could easily surpass 2 million foreclosure filings by the end of the year, which would represent a year-over-year increase of over 65 percent.”

Nevada, Colorado, California posted the highest foreclosure rates. Nevada’s rate doubled from the prior six months to a total of 25,208 filings — or one filing for every 40 households. Colorado was slightly better, at one filing for every 60 households. Calfironia had the third-highest rate, with one filing per 69 households, but topped the list for the total number of foreclosures filings: 189,560.

Other states in the top 10 include Michigan, Florida, Ohio, Georgia, Arizona, Connecticut, and Indiana. A complete state-by-state listing is available on RealtyTrac's Web site.

Source: RealtyTrac; Irvine, Calif

Daily Real Estate News | July 30, 2007

Survey Digs into Details of International Buyers

International buyers — foreign citizens who legally enter the United States to purchase a home — are making up a growing share of business for real estate practitioners, according to new research by the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®.

NAR’s 2007 Profile of International Home Buying Activity shows that a quarter of REALTORS® report more international business in 2006 than five years ago. Nearly one in five respondents sold a home to an international client in the past year, and one-third say they believe foreign retirees are an increasingly important market in the United States.

“Just as many U.S. residents are looking overseas for retirement and second homes, people in other countries are considering a home in this country,” says NAR President Pat V. Combs. As international boundaries of homeownership dissolve, you must stand ready to serve an increasingly diverse and multicultural marketplace, she adds.

The research explored the characteristics of second-home purchases in the United States made by international clients. Here are six of the top findings, which reveal important trends that will help you tap into the expanding international niche:

  • Stronger preference for condos and apartments. In 2006, most international home buyers purchased single-family homes or townhomes, and like most domestic home buyers, they financed their purchase. However, they showed stronger preferences for condos/apartments when compared to U.S. home buyers; 22 percent of international buyers purchased condos/apartments, versus 12 percent of U.S. buyers.
  • More pay in cash. Twenty-eight percent of foreign buyers bought their houses with cash, compared to 8 percent of U.S. buyers.
  • Purchase pricier homes. The median sales price of homes purchased by international buyers was $299,500, which is significantly higher than the U.S. median of $221,900 during the same period.
  • Homes used for vacation, investment. Forty-seven percent of all international buyers purchased homes exclusively for vacation, while 22 percent were motivated primarily by investment. Nearly a third of foreign buyers cited both vacation and investment as reasons for their purchase. International homeowners spent an average of 4.2 months of the year in their U.S. property in 2006.
  • Buyers from Mexico most prevalent. A third of all international buyers are from Europe, but buyers from Asia and North America (outside the United States) each represent about one-fourth of the total market. Sixteen percent of all international buyers are from Latin America. By individual country, most buyers come from Mexico (13 percent), the United Kingdom (12 percent) and Canada (11 percent).
  • Florida leads the pack. Foreign buyers purchase homes across the United States, but 52 percent of sales in 2006 were concentrated in three states: Florida (26 percent), California (16 percent), and Texas (10 percent). The South attracted nearly half – 49 percent – of international buyers last year, while 31 percent purchased homes in the West.

For more information, visit NAR’s International department on REALTOR.org.

— REALTOR® Magazine Online

Friday, July 27, 2007

Daily Real Estate News | July 27, 2007

Mortgage Rates Drop This Week

Freddie Mac reports a decrease in the 30-year fixed mortgage rate to 6.69 percent during the week ended July 26 from 6.73 percent the previous week. Interest on 15-year fixed loans recorded a slight decline to 6.37 percent from 6.38 percent.

Meanwhile, the five-year adjustable mortgage rate dipped to 6.3 percent from 6.35 percent, and the one-year ARM tumbled to 5.69 percent from 5.72 percent.

Freddie Mac chief economist Frank Nothaft attributes the decrease in borrowing costs to "market concerns that a further weakening of housing demand this spring will delay any recovery in the sector."

Source: The Wall Street Journal (07/27/07)

Daily Real Estate News | July 27, 2007

Adding Curb Appeal: 6 Ways to Spruce Up the Yard

When a house for sale looks good outside, buyers are more likely to want to come inside, says Barb Schwarz, founder of the International Association of Home Staging Professionals.

Here are some of Schwarz’s suggestions for tidying up the yard.

  • Make it neat and clutter-free. Get rid of children’s toys and limit the number of hanging flower baskets and yard art. "It's far better to have fewer bigger pots than the clutter of smaller hanging pots," Schwarz says. "They just weigh down the house."
  • Mow, weed and edge. “If the yard doesn't look well-manicured, then [potential buyers] feel the home hasn't been well maintained," Schwarz says. If the dog urinated on the yard and killed a portion of it, Schwarz recommends painting it.
  • Trim the greenery. Trim trees from the bottom so they create a canopy but don’t block the view. Trim foundation plantings from the top, so they don’t impede views of the windows.
  • Add color. If there’s no color in the yard, plant something like brightly blooming impatiens along the walkway.
  • In winter, place two small potted evergreen trees on either side of the door to brighten up the entrance. Also, make sure the walkways are clear of ice and snow.
  • Buy a new welcome doormat to dress up the front door.

Source: Newsday, Jessica Damiano (07/27/07)

Daily Real Estate News | July 27, 2007

5 Real Estate Investments to Cash In On

Some investors are becoming cautious of real estate because they have read too many frightening stories in the media, but Business Week magazine’s analysts continue to say that real estate is a key component of investment portfolios.

In this week’s magazine they identify five ways that investors can currently benefit from real estate.

1. International Real Estate Investment Trusts. U.S. REITs are going through a bad patch, says Jay Hutchins, president of Comprehensive Planning Associates in Lebanon, N.H. Instead, he advises clients to buy foreign REITs or mutual funds that are focused on global real estate.

2. Cash investments in commercial space. Office buildings, retail properties, and apartment houses provide stable cash flows, says Michael Kuziw, vice president of asset management at Lenox Advisors in New York City. But such investments require a portfolio of at least $1 million.

3. Invest an IRA in real estate for the long haul. Entrust Northeast, in Verona, N.J., which administers self-directed retirement accounts, allows for a wide range of investments, including first and second mortgages.

4. Consider buying a vacation homes outside of the U.S. For example, consider a country like Panama or Costa Rica where the political situation is stable and prices are affordable.

5. Fractional homeownership. This is gaining popularity and is within the reach of people with moderate incomes. For instance, Private Quarters Club in Fernandina Beach, Fla., and Lake Geneva, Wis., sell access to a three-bedroom luxury villa for 21 days a year for $79,000, plus an annual fee of $4,000.

Source: BusinessWeek Online, David Bogoslaw (07/26/07)

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Daily Real Estate News | July 26, 2007

Commercial Construction Offsets Weak Housing

Commercial construction is partially offsetting weakness from the housing market, says the Federal Reserve's latest beige book, which looks at anecdotal reports of regional economic conditions.

The report shows slight economic growth during the last six weeks, with consumer spending rising at a slow pace in June and July. Higher energy prices and the housing downturn cut into that spending, which hurt retail sales in many of the 12 regions.

Manufacturing was strong on most areas, except for companies that make furniture and other housing related goods.

Rising mortgage delinquency rates and a drop in mortgage demand were seen in a number of regions, including the Philadelphia district; while others, such as the San Francisco Fed, report strong commercial and industrial lending activity.

The Fed's policy makers will take these reports into account when they meet in two weeks to consider interest rates.

Source: Wall Street Journal, Kelly Evans (07/26/07)

Friday, June 15, 2007

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Thursday, May 24, 2007

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Daily Real Estate News | May 24, 2007

American Homes Grow in Size

Despite a decline in the average household size to 2.6 people from 1990 to 2005, according to the Census Bureau, the size of the average U.S. home expanded to 2,434 square feet from about 2,000 square feet over the same time span.

Indeed, about 20 percent of dwellings in 2005 had four or more bedrooms, versus about 17 percent in 1990. The Census report shows that many of these properties are located in Utah, where close to 40 percent boast four or more bedrooms.

In addition to extra bedrooms, today's homes have more bathrooms. Media rooms are also gaining popularity.

Source: Investor's Business Daily (05/24/07)

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Daily Real Estate News | May 1, 2007

Home Owners Take Green to the Next Level

More home owners’ to-do lists are beginning to go green. “After two decades of rising costs, home owners are now putting energy efficiency near the top of their remodeling concerns,” concludes the Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard University in their 2007 report on the remodeling industry.

From 2005 to 2006, demand for energy management systems jumped to 54 percent from 38 percent, according to a national survey of architects. More than one-quarter of remodeling builders and contractors surveyed by the National Association of Home Builders at the end of 2006 reported increased consumer demand for green remodeling; only 6 percent reported less demand for green projects.

Also fueling demand is an aging housing stock. Homes built before the 1970s’ oil embargo use 30 percent more energy per square foot than those built since 1990, according to the Joint Center.

Whole House Approach

“The only way to bring green into 120 million existing households is through remodeling,” says Mike Nagel, NAHB Remodeler’s Council chair. “Americans spent more than $230 billion last year in home remodeling, with energy efficient and sustainable products representing an increasing share of the market.”

Although a majority of remodeling contractors incorporate energy-efficient projects, such as low-energy windows, insulated exterior doors, upgraded insulation, and high-efficiency heating and cooling systems, going green increasingly means more than replacing a component.

“Simply putting in that low E window doesn’t solve the problem,” says Michael Strong, a member of the NAHB Green Building subcommittee. “Home owners need to look at the whole room and eventually use a whole house approach to maximize efficiency.”

Top Green Tips

The top eight considerations for home owners, according to NAHB remodelers are:
  • Installing maximum insulation in the area to be remodeled.
  • Installing high-efficiency windows instead of those that just meet the energy code.
  • Sealing all exterior penetrations in the area being remodeled.
  • Purchasing only Energy Star–rated appliances.
  • Installing only low-flow water fixtures.
  • Upgrading to an Energy Star–rated water heater or, better yet, a tankless water heater.
  • Purchasing the highest efficiency HVAC system you can afford.

— By Camilla McLaughlin for REALTOR Magazine Online

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Merger.

Best Choice, Coldwell combine sales, service


-Kneip and Norgaard announce major real estate merger
BY ASHLEY BOLSTAD
The Brookings Register
Published: March 8th, 2007


Register photo by Ashley Bolstad
-David Kneip and Best Choice GMAC Real Estate are on the move. The Brookings broker just concluded a deal that merged his firm and Coldwell Banker Select, making Best Choice one of the largest real estate companies in the region.

Best Choice is getting bigger. Much bigger.

Coldwell Banker Select Real Estate is joining Best Choice GMAC Real Estate, the two Brookings firms teaming up to keep pace with a growing community.

David Kneip, broker and owner of Best Choice, and Mark Norgaard of Coldwell Banker announced this week that the agents formerly associated with Coldwell have become part of the Best Choice team and are now housed at the company's offices at 611 Sixth St. "This merger is the most recent step in the tremendous growth of Best Choice GMAC Real Estate in recent years," said Kneip.

The move, he said, "will help prepare (the real estate companies) for the future economic expansion we anticipate in the Brookings market." Norgaard and his expertise in commercial real estate will be utilized at Best Choice, where he will serve as a broker associate. The Coldwell Banker office building on Sixth Street will no longer house agents but may still be used by Best Choice. Kneip said his firm is considering its options, whether to sell or keep the Coldwell office building. A decision to sell the building has not been made, Kneip explained, because the location offers an opportunity to expand the merged firm's services.

With the merger, the 16 Best Choice agents are now "blended " with the eight agents from Coldwell Banker Select. Best Choice recently expanded the lower level of its headquarters building to add offices to accommodate the former Coldwell agents.

"This was a great blend," Kneip said. "It brought quality people to a quality company."

Kneip purchased the firm in 1995, and it has been the market leader every year since. Best Choice GMAC Real Estate was one of the first in the state of South Dakota to have homes featured online (at brookingshomes .com) and to offer a moving truck to its customers.

At the time Kneip bought the company, Best Choice had just six agents and a moving truck he acquired as a trade-in on his wife’s car. The business was located in a converted house on Main Avenue.

Over the years, more and more sales agents joined Best Choice to help build the company to its present level of 24.

The Best Choice-Coldwell union already appears to be a good fit, Kneip says.

"As market leaders in the area, our progressive and unique marketing styles will be combined," he said.

"This merger, along with the outstanding Realtors currently at Best Choice GMAC Real Estate, will allow us to serve the Brookings community even better."

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Tuesday, February 27, 2007

!!!SOLD!!! Near Oldham, SD

Oldham, SD Real Estate Listing #06-660
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This is a great opportunity to purchase your country home with hobby potential. The ranch style home is situated on 6.6 beautifully matured acres. This property includes 4 outbuildings, of which, one is a hobby/work shop supplied with H2O and electric. This is a great real estate value located in awesome hunting and fishing territory near Oldham, Brookings, and Madison, SD.


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Tuesday, February 6, 2007

Daily Real Estate News | February 2, 2007

Interest Rates Continue to Move Upward

Freddie Mac reports that the average 30-year fixed mortgage rate rose to 6.34 percent this week from 6.25 a week ago. Meanwhile, the average interest on a 15-year fixed loan climbed to 6.06 percent from 5.98 percent, and five-year hybrid adjustable-rate mortgages drifted up to 6.04 percent from 6 percent during that same time span.

"Interest rates moved higher following the latest upbeat economic news," says Frank Nothaft, Freddie Mac chief economist. He added that while 2006 saw measurable declines in most housing activities, it still ranked as one of the top three years for total home sales on record.

Source: The Wall Street Journal (02/02/07)
© Copyright 2006

Daily Real Estate News | February 2, 2007

Top 10 Best Rural Places to Live

The Progressive Farmer magazine partnered with OnBoard LLC, a real estate research firm, to identify the most desirable rural counties to live in.

The magazine considered household income and spending, home and land prices, crime rates, air quality, education, and access to health care. "We feel our rankings reflect the newfound energy and vitality of rural America and showcase places that offer the very best in quality of life and comfort for their residents and workers," says senior editor Jamie Cole.

The counties selected as the top 10 "Best Places to Live in Rural America" are:

1. Barren County, K.y.: located midway between Louisville and Nashville, Tenn.
2. Warren County, Pa.: on the south side of the New York-Pennsylvania border one hour east of Erie.
3. Randolph County, Ill.: one hour south of St. Louis, just east of the Mississippi River.
4. Gillespie County, Texas: is located in the heart of Texas' Hill Country, about one hour west of Austin.
5. Union County, S.D.: situated in the southeastern corner of South Dakota.
6. St. Lawrence County, N.Y.: across the Canadian border from Montreal and nestled in the Adirondacks.
7. Sac County, Iowa: located in the northwestern part of the state.
8. Garfield County, Okla.: about 85 miles north of Oklahoma City.
9. Amador County, Calif.: just a short drive east of Sacramento, in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains.
10. Polk County, N.C.: 30 miles south of Asheville, in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains.

— REALTOR® Magazine Online

Daily Real Estate News | February 1, 2007

Expect 2007 to Be 4th Best Year on Record

Pending home sales are higher, affirming the stabilization that is occurring in home sales, according to the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®.

The Pending Home Sales Index, based on contracts signed in December, rose 4.9 percent to an index of 112.4 from an upwardly revised level of 107.2 in November, but is 4.4 percent lower than December 2005.

The monthly gain was the biggest increase since March 2004 when the index rose 6.9 percent. A steady narrowing from year-ago readings has been observed since last July when the level of unsold housing inventory peaked at an all-time high.

David Lereah, NAR’s chief economist, says a moderate rise in existing-home contracts is a welcome relief.

“Some of the monthly gain may be weather related, but it appears buyers are becoming more comfortable, sensing the timing is good and that their local market has bottomed out,” he says. “I expect modest sales gains throughout the year, with what I believe are sustainable levels of activity. 2007 promises to be the fourth-best year on record.”

What Happened Regionally

The upturn was broad based, with all regions showing an increase.

  • In the Northeast, the index jumped 8.1 percent in December to 89.9 but was 4.8 percent below a year ago.
  • In the West, the index rose 5.3 percent to 112.2 but was 4.9 percent below December 2005.
  • In the South, the index increased 4.3 percent to 129.8 but was 4.2 percent lower than a year earlier.
  • In the Midwest, the index was up 3.2 percent in December to 103.2 but was 4.3 percent below December 2005.

What the Index Means

The index is a leading indicator for the housing sector, based on pending sales of existing homes. A sale is listed as pending when the contract has been signed and the transaction has not closed, but the sale usually is finalized within one or two months of signing.

An index of 100 is equal to the average level of contract activity during 2001, the first year to be examined and the first of five consecutive record years for existing-home sales. There is a closer relationship between annual changes in the index and actual market performance than with month-to-month comparisons.

— REALTOR® Magazine Online

Daily Real Estate News | January 31, 2007

World's Most Expensive Home For Sale

Billionaire developer Tim Blixseth is selling a mansion, which he's dubbed "The Pinnacle," at the Yellowstone Club in Bozeman, Mont., which will be completed in a year. The price tag for his 55,000 square foot ski getaway? $155 million.

The sales price makes it the most expensive "publicized" mega-home of its kind, according to Forbes Magazine. It would even trump Donald Trump’s home in Palm Beach, Fla., which he's selling for $125 million.

The Pinnacle will have 10 bedrooms, a heated driveway, wine cellar, indoor/outdoor pools, and a ski lift you can board from inside the house. The view from the front window is spectacular.

"You can't believe the number of people interested in this thing," Blixseth says. "And the guys who are calling aren't going to have to borrow any money."

Source: The Associated Press (01/29/07)

Daily Real Estate News | January 30, 2007

10 Quick Fixes To Sell a Home Faster

Here are 10 quick fixes that make a house more likely to be snagged up by buyers, according to home stager Lori Matzke, founder and president of Centerstagehome.com in Minneapolis:

1. Paint the trim, columns, front door, and the light fixture.

2. Replace the storm door with a full-view one.

3. Clean all the window screens.

4. Add new mulch and a potted plant by the front door.

5. Remove mirrors from over the fireplace so buyers focus on the fireplace.

6. Move furniture 1 1/2 to 2 feet away from the walls to create the illusion of more space.

7. Get rid of any movable storage pieces in the kitchen and take all the clutter off the refrigerator.

8. Clean and regrout the bathroom floor tile.

9. Replace dated bathroom vanities with trendy (and economical) pedestal sinks.

10. Put colorful bedding and matching window treatments in all the bedrooms.

Source: Star-Tribune, Aimee Blanchette (01/27/07)

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Daily Real Estate News | January 22, 2007

Fewer Sellers Go FSBO in Slow Market

When the housing market slows, sellers know it can be a lot tougher to turn their property into a buyer magnet. With more homes on the market and increased pressure on pricing, buyers have more power in the process.

For-sale-by-owner transaction have fallen over the past decade to 12 percent of all sales today from 18 percent in 1997, says the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®.

NAR spokesman Walter Molony says sellers believe real estate practitioners are better equipped to achieve fast sales at top dollar in a weak market, adding that the median price for agent-assisted transactions was about 16 percent higher than FSBO sales last year. Practitioners orchestrate showings, handle paperwork, and identify serious buyers for sellers, Moloney says.

NAR's 2006 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers shows that 5 percent of sales from mid-2005 to mid-2006 involved FSBO sellers turning to a real estate professional, with only 1 percent of sales involving sellers who abandoned their practitioner to go it alone.

Source: Investor's Business Daily, Brad Kelly (01/19/07)

© Copyright 2006

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Daily Real Estate News | January 12, 2007

30-Year Mortgage Rates Climb to 6.21%

Interest on 30-year fixed-rate mortgages jumped to 6.21 percent this week — the highest point since the middle of November, according to Freddie Mac. The rate was up from 6.18 percent the week prior and 6.15 percent a year earlier.

The mortgage finance company also reported a rise in 15-year fixed loans to 5.96 — from 5.94 percent one week ago and 5.71 percent a year ago.

Five-year and one-year adjustable-rate mortgages drifted higher as well. One-year ARMs averaged 5.44 percent this week compared to 5.42 percent last week and 5.15 percent a year earlier. Five-year ARMs weighed in at 6.03 percent, up from 6.02 percent the previous week and 5.76 percent during that same period in 2006.

Source: San Diego Union-Tribune (01/12/07) © Copyright 2006

Daily Real Estate News | January 11, 2007

Mortgage Applications Climb Sharply

Demand for home loans swelled 16.6 percent during the week ended Jan. 5, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association.

Requests for purchase loans were up 16.2 percent and refinancing applications rose 17.3 percent.

The strong recovery compares with a 14 percent slide in application volume before Christmas and only a small improvement of 3.6 percent just after the holiday.

Observers say the higher demand for mortgages could signal an impending recovery or that it could be just a fluke — even though the MBA numbers were seasonally adjusted to account for the New Year's holiday.

"I don't think we should talk about a boom for many, many years, but I think this bodes well for the housing industry and economy," says Tapan Munroe, director of the global consulting firm LECG LLC.

Source: Contra Costa Times, Barbara E. Hernandez (01/11/07)© Copyright 2006 Information Inc.

Daily Real Estate News | January 10, 2007

Buying, Managing Small Properties Can Pay Off

Even in today’s uncertain climate, a hands-on real estate investor can make money with smaller properties that are easy to acquire and manage.

Here are some suggestions to get started:

  • Rent out a part of your own home for $400 a month and use that money every month to pay down mortgage principal. Shaving 10 years from a $350,000, 30-year mortgage will reduce total payments by more than $165,000. And you will be able to write off all your costs on your income taxes, including depreciation on the unit, up to your actual rental income.
  • If buying a single family home, make sure you can put 10 percent down and rent the property for more than your monthly payment, interest, taxes, insurance, and a $200 expense budget. Low-balling a foreclosed home owned by a lender is one way to find such a property.
  • Consider buying a two-family home, where you’ll make nearly twice as much in rent for a property costing little or no more than a single family.

Source: The Wall Street Journal, David Crook (01/10/07)

Daily Real Estate News | January 10, 2007

Home Sales to Rise Gradually into 2008

After bottoming in the fourth quarter of 2006, existing-home sales are forecast to gradually rise through 2007 and into 2008, while new-home sales should turn around by summer, according to the latest forecast by the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®.

Annual totals for existing-home sales in 2007 will be comparable to 2006, says David Lereah, NAR’s chief economist.

“Keep in mind that we were still in boom conditions during the first quarter of 2006 with a high sales volume and double-digit price appreciation,” Lereah said. “We are starting 2007 from a relatively low point, so even with a gradual improvement in sales it’ll be pretty much of a wash in terms of annual totals.”

The good news, he says, is that a steady improvement in sales will support price appreciation moving forward.

2006 Sales Third-Highest on Record

Existing-home sales for 2006 are expected to come in at 6.50 million, the third highest on record, with a total of 6.42 million seen in 2007. New-home sales in 2006 should tally 1.06 million, the fourth highest on record, with 957,000 projected this year.

Total housing starts for 2006 are likely to be 1.81 million units, with 1.51 million forecast in 2007, which would be the lowest level in a decade. Builders are pulling back on new construction to support prices of remaining inventory.

The 30-year fixed-rate mortgage will probably rise to 6.7 percent by the fourth quarter of 2007. Last week, Freddie Mac reported the 30-year fixed rate at 6.18 percent, far below earlier consensus forecasts.

“The current interest rate environment and housing inventory levels present a window of opportunity for potential buyers,” Lereah says.

The national median existing-home price for all of 2006 is expected to rise 1.1 percent to $222,100, and then gain 1.5 percent this year to $225,300. The median new-home price, after rising only 0.3 percent to $241,600 in 2006, is projected to grow 3 percent in 2007 to $248,900.

Soft Landing for Housing

“With all the wild projections by academics, Wall Street analysts, and others in the media, it appears that much of the housing sector is experiencing a soft landing,” Lereah says. “Despite the doomsayers, household wealth will not evaporate and the economy will not go into a recession. If you're in it for the long haul, housing is a sound investment.”

The unemployment rate is likely to average 4.8 percent in 2007, following a rate of 4.6 percent in 2006. Inflation, as measured by the Consumer Price Index, is expected to be 2.2 percent in 2007, down from 3.2 percent last year, while growth in the U.S. gross domestic product is seen at 2.5 percent in 2007, compared with 3.3 percent last year.

Inflation-adjusted disposable personal income should grow 3.4 percent this year, following a rise of 2.7 percent in 2006.

Source: The National Association of Realtors
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