December 2, 2007

The Tables Have Turned In California

The Desert Sun reports from California. “With sales of existing homes in 2007 expected to match the 2002 national sales record, REALTORS still must educate the public about the value of real estate as a long-term investment instead of a get-in and get-out stock strategy. That was among the key messages at the recent National Association of Realtors’ Conference and Expo in Las Vegas, said Emily DiSimone, president of the California Desert Association of REALTORS.”

“‘Housing continues to be a good long-term investment,’ DiSimone said. ‘Real estate is alive and well in the Coachella Valley and there are plenty of opportunities for consumers and REALTORS in the current market.’”

“Jose Miralla, who lives in Beaumont, is already three months behind on the mortgage on his four-bedroom house. His troubles began on closing day, when he was presented with a higher interest rate than he expected. With a credit score of 670…Miralla says he could have qualified for a better rate. But he accepted the subprime rate for fear of forfeiting a $5,000 security deposit.”

“Miralla, who sells home alarm systems and works on commission, figured he could make the payments although money would be tight. But his sales figures slipped. A newlywed, he now wishes he’d backed out of the deal.”

“‘All the dreams we had to be together, to have a life together have just been ruined,’ he said.”

“As foreclosure rates climb, so has the number of homes available for purchase, said Greg Berkemer, director of the California Desert Association of Realtors. ‘There is more inventory than there is demand today,’ he said, noting about 9,000 homes are for sale in the desert.”

“The median price of a home in Palm Springs is about $346,000, an 8 percent decrease from the previous month, according to the association.”

The Recordnet. “When Jenny and Ricardo Hernandez bought their north Stockton home in 2005, their monthly mortgage payments were around $1,800. Now the payments total nearly $3,000 - more than the working couple’s monthly net income - and the Hernandez family is facing almost inevitable foreclosure.”

“‘We can’t go back and change what we’ve done,’ Jenny Hernandez said. ‘But we need to do whatever we can do now.’”

“‘They’re supposed to be the experts, and they’re making money to represent you,’ said Carol Ornelas, the CEO of a Stockton-based nonprofit that builds housing for low-income families. ‘Realtors and lenders have a fiduciary responsibility to their clients. That’s Real Estate 101.’”

The Sacramento Bee. “For Stephen Cook and Georgia Turner of West Sacramento, the trauma from losing the single-story house on Tacoma Narrows Street last spring remains all too real today.”

“‘Sacramento just means sadness to me,’ Turner says, crying at a coffee shop before leaving town. ‘Whenever I look at a house now I see an albatross.’”

“‘I just wanted to own a home,’ says Andrea Eddy, who lives in Trinity County now, a four-hour drive from the capital. ‘I thought everything was perfect with my husband and our jobs and our daughter, and that a house was the next step.’”

“A year after losing her new light-brown two-story home at Southport’s Huckleberry Circle, she says, ‘I just wish we never would have bought.’”

“‘It’s been hard,’ says Andrea Eddy in Weaverville, where her family of three now rents from her father. ‘I feel everything we worked for to that point is totally destroyed. Now we’re trying to work our way back up and keep our heads afloat.’”

“Eddy and her husband, Christopher, walked away from their West Sacramento house in December 2006 because everything they banked on – rising home values, ability to refinance an expensive and risky subprime loan within two years and uninterrupted incomes – went wrong.”

“The new $337,000 house they bought in May 2006 lost value from the day they moved in. (It’s for sale now for $255,000. Nine more homes nearby are also for sale). One state government salary couldn’t make the $3,000 monthly payments when Christopher lost work. Neither could the Eddys sell as newer neighborhoods such as theirs slumped across the capital region.”

“Seven months after buying their first house, they were renters again. ‘We just got our credit better and now it’s shot,’ she says.”

The San Francisco Chronicle. “The 5 1/2 weeks between Thanksgiving and New Year’s used to be a time for agents, brokers and others in the real estate industry - at least the ones who have had a good year - to pack their bags and head to the Caribbean. The thing is, this hasn’t been a very good year.”

“‘The sellers who are on the market now really do need, in fact, to sell,’ said Frank Cannella, branch manager for Prudential California Realty in Pleasanton. ‘Sellers don’t go through the hassle of having their homes on the market during the holidays to test the market. There is more sincerity on the seller side.’”

“Earl Rozran, a Prudential agent…is working with a client in San Leandro to get his home on the market in the next week or so. ‘We talked a lot about whether to wait until the first quarter,’ Rozran said. ‘We’ve seen a lot of foreclosures and short sales and in some respects some pretty desperate sellers and my own gut feeling is that will increase considerably in 2008.’”

The Orange County Register. “Martha Baker-Jordan had hoped to sell her four-bedroom home in Placentia by now. But after 90 days on the market, only about three people have even bothered to come see it.”

“So when her real estate listing agreement expired last week, she dropped her price and signed up to keep the home on the market right through the holidays. ‘I really want to move. I really want to downsize,’ Baker-Jordan said of her decision to persevere through the holidays. ‘I’m tired of the maintenance. I’m tired of taking care of the pool.’”

“Buyers traditionally take time off from home shopping as well, devoting more time to gift shopping instead. This year is no different, several local real estate agents said, except that many sellers have no choice but to keep their homes on the market.”

“As a result, the number of Orange County home sellers this holiday season is the highest it’s been in at least a decade, said Steven Thomas, an Aliso Viejo broker. There were 16,803 homes for sale in Orange County as of Tuesday, Thomas said. That’s 3,200 more than this time last year and double the number in 2005.”

“Not everyone is staying on the market. About 500 sellers took their homes off the market in the last two weeks, with about 50 sellers leaving the market every day, Thomas said. But the number of listings remains high because fewer homes are selling.”

“Rich Cosner, president of a Prudential California Realtychain in Orange County and the Inland Empire, believes that it’s smart for sellers to keep their homes on the market through the holidays. The buyers you see from Thanksgiving to Christmas are the most serious ones, he said. And chances are that sellers will have to sell for less if they wait until next year.”

“‘There’s a huge number of foreclosures down the road,’ he said. ‘Because of these foreclosures, I think (prices will) get less and less every month.’”

“There is an axiom of California politics that no issue is too large or too complex that state lawmakers can’t react to it, late, and with ineptitude. The veracity of this was illustrated again Thursday.”

“For about an hour, speaker after speaker rhetorically wrung their hands and recited a litany of woes about the situation. The legislators trotted out two ‘victims’ of the meltdown, who told parts of their stories about losing their homes to foreclosure.”

“It turned out one of them apparently hadn’t read the fine print on the adjustable rate mortgages she signed, and the other – who actually owned two houses and was renting one – got into trouble when much higher payments started on one of his mortgages.”

“Not a single speaker suggested that perhaps at least part of this problem has been caused by people who knowingly took on a bigger mortgage than they could afford, and gambled that higher housing prices would bail them out by letting them sell for a profit before their mortgage’s interest rates climbed.”

“Or that some people are dumber than stumps, and signed a legal document without even inquiring what it obligated them to do.”

“I’m in no way suggesting that there aren’t hundreds or even thousands of people who were conned into bad mortgages by slimy lenders, or that people who lost jobs or spouses got slammed when housing prices dropped while their mortgage payments went up.”

“But for legislators to show up on this issue in late November isn’t just an example of closing the barn door after the horse is gone. It’s more like they’re trying to build a new barn door while the horse has been running around for weeks, pooping on the neighbors’ lawns.”

“And one doesn’t have to be overly cynical to suggest that their call for a special session on the issue is based in part on a desire to have something to trot out in front of voters before they ask them to extend their terms in office at the Feb. 5 election.”

The Modesto Bee. “The housing slump has a silver lining for public agencies, which are finding a glut of private contractors looking for work and dropping their prices. And the competition equates to lower bids.”

“‘What is essentially happening is that there is no real construction for housing development right now so these contractors don’t have a lot to do, and so they are bidding pretty tight to get these jobs,’ said Pete Martin, senior civil engineer for San Joaquin County’s public works department. ‘It is not good for the industry, but it is good for us, at least temporarily. We get a lot for our money, and there is nothing wrong with that.’”

“Martin said if prices stay low through the year, the savings might be enough to pay for another project.”

“The tables have turned. For the last several years, builders have had the upper hand in price negotiation. The lowest bids regularly came in above engineers’ estimates as municipal projects competed with work on residential subdivisions and prices surged for materials — particularly steel. They have since leveled off and even dropped.”

“‘This represents a great opportunity for taxpayers, while the cost of labor and materials is lower, to push projects out the door because, obviously, the taxpayers will get more bang for their dollar,’ said Steve Madison, executive VP of the Building Industry Association of Central California.”

“‘And that will help the local construction economy because while the home building sector was the leader, we are not the leader right now. And if the other sectors of construction can be more involved, that will help the economy,’ he said.”

This Collapse Was Based On Psychology

The Chicago Tribune reports from Illinois. “As soon as Trump International Hotel & Tower, the city’s first new-construction condo-hotel, gets a city permit to begin its phased opening, developer Donald Trump will find out for sure whether Midwesterners and others are willing to fork over megabucks to buy a pad in his luxury inn. The flamboyant salesman is aiming to ink sales at a time when the residential real estate market is plummeting and the once-hot condo-hotel trend continues to chill.”

“The project’s condo-hotel room sales took off smartly three years ago but have flattened more recently. ‘The market in Chicago is dead as a doornail right now, as is the rest of the country, other than Manhattan or Palm Beach, Fla.,’ Trump said, blaming the nationwide credit crunch. ‘But that will change…and if credit becomes available again, that will help.’”

“There has been some dramatic cratering in the condo-hotel market. ‘I know of one [condo-hotel] project in South Florida that…was supposed to have been two-thirds sold out but when it opened in July with 158 units, they had seven closings,’ said Karen Johnson, of Jones Lang LaSalle Hotels.”

“Individuals buy these units, and place them in a rental pool when they are not using them, to generate income. A Jones Lang LaSalle study found that generally these are not income-producing investments, Johnson said, adding that the potential payoff is all tied to appreciation.”

“‘So if we’re entering a period where values are going to be flat, or God forbid, declining … it’s a whole ‘nother story,’ she said.”

“‘You need to approach it with second-home economics in mind, that ‘I’ll write a lot of checks, I’ll hold it until I’m empty-nesting, and then I’ll sell it,’ she said.”

“Mark Eble, VP/Midwest for a hospitality advisory firm, ‘it still remains to be seen whether investors would’ve been better off buying T-bills or mutual funds.’”

The Business Weekly from Indiana. “Potential owners of Harrison Square condominiums were expected to begin reserving spots at prices that were in line with a failed downtown condo project. Depending on the floorplan, asking prices will range from the $150,000s to the low $300,000s, said Mike Brita of the firm handling sales at The Harrison.”

“Brita said the prices more or less were set by Atlanta-based developer Barry Real Estate Cos. and likely are fixed. They were based on what was needed to recoup construction and other costs, he said.”

“Those involved with the project are trying not to scare buyers away with the prices, Brita said. ‘This is unique,’ he said. ‘It’s something we struggled with because there was nothing to compare it to.’”

“‘I don’t think (The Harrison’s prices are) way off,’ said commercial property owner Bill Bean. ‘There is some interest out there. I just don’t know how deep the interest is.’”

The Journal Sentinel from Wisconsin. “For commercial real estate developers who are seeking financing for their projects, this holiday season doesn’t look a lot like Christmas. Developers of projects costing $100 million and higher are finding it very difficult to obtain loans, said Marty Collins, CEO at Dallas-based Gatehouse Capital Corp., which is planning a 20-story project in downtown Milwaukee’s Park East area.”

“‘That market is closed,’ Collins said.”

“Gatehouse and its local partner, Ruvin Development Inc. are pursuing plans to build a 180-room Kimpton Palomar Hotel, along with offices, 70 condominiums, retail space and a parking structure. But the project is among several proposed Milwaukee-area developments that may need to jump through higher hoops brandished by lenders.”

“Chicago-area developer Warren Barr, say the media has overstated the subprime problems, which has made it more difficult to attract condo buyers.”

“‘It makes a lot of buyers sit on the sidelines,’ Barr said.”

The Burnett County Sentinel from Wisconsin. “The number of foreclosures filed with the Burnett County Clerk of Court’s office is already at 91 for the year, with four weeks left to go. That number is up from 75 and 77 for 2006 and 2005 respectively, is up from 51 in 2004 and marks a huge jump from the 38 filed in 2002.”

“A glance at the legal section of this or any other newspaper and the reader would see several foreclosure notices posted each week. And it’s not just Burnett County.”

“‘I heard the St. Croix County Clerk of Courts office had to hire a temp just to handle all the foreclosures,’ Burnett County Clerk of Court Trudy Schmidt said.”

“‘I’ve been in the mortgage business for three and a half years and this is the worst I’ve seen it,’ Judd Danielson of Freedom Foreclosure Prevention Services in Luck said of the foreclosure market. ‘I have brokers calling me who have 35 to 40 years in the business and they are saying the same thing.’”

“‘The ARM starts at five or six percent, but then after three to five years the rate adjusts upward to 10 or 11 percent, and I’ve seen it as high as 18 percent, but the borrowers are not adjusting their income levels,’ Danielson explained. ‘A lot of these people bit off more than they could chew.’”

The Pioneer Press from Minnesota. “Homer Tompkins’ development company, Contractor Property Developers Co., has entered into a voluntary mortgage foreclosure agreement with MI Bank in Minneapolis related to 50 developed single-family lots and 129 undeveloped lots at a high-end development called Inspiration, Tompkins said.”

“The company owes the bank more than $9 million on the original loan of $14.65 million, according to documents filed this month with the Washington County recorder’s office. The lots are headed for a sheriff’s foreclosure auction in Stillwater next month, Tompkins said.”

“City officials say 28 custom homes, 15 of which are occupied, have been built at the upscale 242-acre project that opened just as the housing market began its downward slide. Home prices ranged from the upper $300,000s to $800,000.”

“Tompkins blamed the slow sales on bad timing. ‘We’re in the greatest housing slump since the Great Depression,’ he said. ‘Consumers don’t have confidence in buying houses in today’s market. There are hundreds of these (voluntary foreclosure) agreements in process. I’m just one of them.’”

“Every time Mark Gergen heard it, he wanted to scream. This time, it came from a couple who looked like perfect customers, ready to buy a new $725,000 home. They had the money. They loved the house. It was all so simple, but then…’Is it the right time? We are just now, nervously, getting off the fence,’ the woman said. ‘It’s the news. It’s all so unstable.’”

“They left. Gergen sighed. He felt powerless against the onslaught of headlines and bad news that frightened customers away. ‘It’s that consumer confidence thing,’ he said, standing in an empty kitchen.”

“As a hotshot real estate salesman, he was called in to help revive a planned $1.2 billion development, the Spirit of Brandtjen Farms in Lakeville.”

“The 15-year project, which broke ground in 2004, was supposed to build 2,100 homes. But developers watched in horror last year as the entire operation ground to a halt, with only a handful of homes purchased.”

“In 2004, no one worried about consumer confidence. The market was booming, and home sellers laughed in disbelief as buyers rushed to bid against each other, pushing prices ever higher.”

“Then the market collapsed. It had nothing to do with the usual villains - high interest rates, lost jobs or falling wages. This collapse was based on psychology.”

“Tradition called on Gergen to help sell homes. When he saw the Spirit site, the project’s biggest flaw jumped out at him. It was the homes themselves. In the go-go years, three high-end custom builders had erected model homes as a gateway to the project. They were unique farm-inspired mansions. They cost up to $925,000.”

“They were impressive. But for homebuyers, there might as well have been a flashing sign reading ‘for millionaires only.’”

“It almost was impossible to show buyers a $900,000 home, then sell them a $500,000 home they could afford, said project manager Rob Wachholz. ‘There is a limited opportunity to sell $450,000-to-$500,000 homes. And when you get to $800,000 to $900,000, you are in some pretty rarified air,’ Wachholz said.”

“Gergen toured the models with potential customers. Afterward, he asked which one they’d choose, if money were no object. The favorite - none of the above. Instead, they picked a town house.”

“‘I said: ‘You’re kidding. You just went through 10 houses for $700,000 to $950,000, and you picked this? Why?’ said Gergen. The answers: Higher ceilings and more ‘wow’ appeal. ‘That told me a lot,’ Gergen said.”

“Once Tradition realized its mistake, the backpedaling was furious. The entire company refocused on one goal: Building less expensive houses that would still fit the luxury theme of the project. It wouldn’t be easy. The lots alone cost $139,000 to $257,000.”

“‘Who wants to buy a $400,000 small house?’ asked Don Nelson, of American Classic Homes, one of the Spirit homebuilders.”

“‘I just can’t build a $500,000 home,’ sighed Cudd saleswoman Kim Holmberg at another meeting. ‘Now, $2 million homes’ - she looked dreamily into the distance - ‘I can build those all-l-l-l-l day.’”

“The houses tweaked, the prices reduced, Tradition turned to the sales force itself. After sitting alone in model homes for months, who could blame them for being depressed? Yet the veterans knew no one would buy a house from a sulking salesperson.”

“At one meeting at Spirit’s clubhouse-barn, Charles Cudd salesman Tom Griffith addressed the group: ‘We have to be incredibly positive, regardless of how negative things are.’ In case anyone missed his point, he added: ‘Positive, positive, positive!’”

“As the Parade of Homes continued, Gergen and Gergen associate Julie VanDerostyne proved adept at getting names and phone numbers from potential customers. VanDerostyne asked one woman for her e-mail address. ‘Um, I dunno,’ said the woman.”

“‘We have social events,’ VanDerostyne said. ‘Um, I dunno.’”

“‘With free wine.’ Pause. ‘OK,’ the woman said.”

People Are Taking Their Time Looking – Because They Can

The Winchester Star reports from Virginia. “Residential permits in Frederick County fell by 30 percent, from 1,975 in FY 2006 to 1,379 in FY 2007, according to county data. In Clarke, the residential drop was more severe, with permits plunging 58 percent, from 125 to 52. The reason for the numbers is fairly simple. ‘That’s just the national trend being reflected here locally,’ said Clarke County Planning Administrator Charles Johnston.”

“‘There are a lot of factors involved, the most important one being that the market for new housing is stagnant,’ said Ellen Murphy, Frederick County commissioner of the revenue.”

“‘People are finding it hard to sell the homes they have and they’re experiencing financial trouble,’ she said. ‘We’re seeing a record number of foreclosures and repossessions and that has thrown a scare into the market. People are now looking at trying to buy some of these homes for a bargain price, so there’s not a big market for new homes.’”

The Herald Mail from Maryland. “The home construction industry in Washington County has pretty much fallen through the floor over the past two years. From January to September 2005, permits were issued to build 1,163 homes, according to figures from the Hagerstown and Washington County building permits offices.”

“In the same period this year, the figures show, builders got permits for just 360 houses. That’s a 70 percent drop.”

“‘Three years ago was good, and two years ago it went to hell. And this year, further hell,’ said Carl Gallahan, manager of Sellmore Industries’ building materials distribution business in Hagerstown. ‘And not little changes, either. This year, it fell off the cliff,’ Gallahan said.”

“Many people who have borrowed against the value of their homes are seeing it drop. And among those still looking to buy is worry that the price they pay today won’t hold up tomorrow.”

“‘There’s no buyer confidence out there. It’s very low,’ said Dennis Swope, VP of Home Construction Corp. of Hagerstown.”

“‘Used to be, you’d put an existing house up for sale and it would go, and it was selling for more than it was listed, and this was just two or three years ago,’ Swope said. ‘And customers for new homes weren’t asking for discounts. Today, they’re asking for discounts.’”

“For Hagerstown Block Co. ‘has been a little bit slow,’ Plant Manager Bret Sprecher said. ‘We’re down some. We’re kind of thinking this year’s going to be worse.’”

“The negative effect ‘trickles right down. It’s like you have a lot of homebuilders out there used to do 150 homes. Now they’re doing like maybe 20, maybe 30. They employ a lot of electricians, framers, plumbers,’ who now have had to find home-improvement jobs,’ Gallahan said. Some local contractors, whom he declined to name, have been forced out of business.”

“He said he worries about builders who have money tied up in houses they built on speculation as models or as inventory. ‘That’s a lot of money sitting there that a lot of builders aren’t closing on,’ Gallahan said.”

“Another problem for homegrown contractors arose a few years ago when national builders, following the market out to the suburbs, came here with city-sized budgets.”

“‘We had a kick in the pocket two years ago when land prices went crazy,’ Swope said. ‘Lots that were selling for $40,000 to $50,000 all of a sudden went to $90,000 or $100,000. Mostly that was caused by the large builders coming to town and paying astronomical prices. And now that things have slowed down, it has caused a correction in the market.’”

“But landowners have been reluctant to accept lower prices. So, local builders said, they have been largely shut out of the local market for large properties for housing developments. ‘Today, I cannot afford to go out and buy tracts of land. You have to have deep pockets to do that,’ said Swope, who has been with Home Construction since 1969.”

“Worsening the situation, builders said, is that the large developers who have been coming here are reacting to the national economic slowdown by offering deep discounts on some houses.”

“This adds to consumers’ uncertainty over value throughout the county, said Tim Fields, president of the Homebuilders Association of Washington County. ‘When there’s a full-page ad offering $40,000 worth of discounts if you buy this weekend, that certainly introduces doubt.’”

“Swope said the situation would not improve ‘until the buyer realizes prices have stabilized and aren’t going to go lower.’”

The Record from New Jersey. “Where are the buyers? Many are holding back, hoping to get a better deal if, as some economists predict, home prices continue to slide in 2008.”

“‘An atmosphere has been created that says, ‘Wait and see, maybe you’ll get a better deal next spring,’ said broker Honor Noreen Kremer in Leonia. ‘I don’t have one customer at this point ready to put an offer in on anything. I’m not sure, even if I found them the right thing, if they’re ready to make an offer.’”

“‘People are really taking their time looking – because they can,’ said Diane Stroud, an agent in Allendale.”

“‘Everybody wants a steal,’ said Nafi Sela, a real estate agent in Wayne. ‘If something is listed at $300,000, they want it for $200,000.’”

“Jeana Cowie of Re/Max in Oradell calls them ‘extreme deal seekers. They’re making incredibly low offers — 40 percent off market value — to see if they can get a steal,’ she said. “If the offer is not accepted, they typically do not increase their offer. They just go on to the next home.’”

“Yildiray Yildirim, a professor of real estate at Syracuse University, said buyer psychology is affected by the stream of negative news about housing.”

“‘Buyers are waiting for a better deal. As a buyer, that’s exactly what I would do,’ he said.”

“In fact, that is what he is doing. He moved to Syracuse from Ithaca, and has been looking for a house for about two years. He has made low offers, but so far, the sellers have turned up their noses at him. He thinks that may change as the months go on and sellers continue paying mortgages and taxes on houses they want to unload.”

“‘It’s the best buying opportunity we’ve seen in a long time,’ said real estate agent Eileen Meehan in Saddle River. ‘Right now, real estate is on sale.’”

“Rhonda Brown, a would-be buyer who lives in Bergen County, said prices haven’t fallen enough to make North Jersey affordable to middle-income workers. She has been looking for a town house for less than $300,000, but has not had much luck.”

“‘If it was so much of a buyer’s market, I would have bought a long time ago,’ said Brown. She plans to keep looking, save more money for a down payment and hope that prices will decline in 2008.”

“‘Those are the only three things I can do,’ she said.”

Local Market Observations!

What do you see in your local housing market this weekend? Lower prices? “Billy Joel has closed on his latest beachfront house, a 1-acre Sagaponack property. One of several celebs with a constant eye out for Long Island real estate, Joel paid a little more than $11.6 million for his latest home. He got $2.3 million knocked off his new home and in June negotiated a $2-million markdown on his first Sagaponack home.”

“Whether he would have gotten those discounts two years ago during the housing boom is unclear, because in the last few months a few Hamptons real estate veterans have been wondering whether even the luxury market has been slowing, as it has for the rest of Long Island.”

“Usually, buying and selling activity is seasonal, with spring and summer strong and the end of year quieter, but the housing boom fudged those lines, with bidding wars and deals all year. ‘Last couple of years, there has been no season,’ said Paul Brennan, regional director of the Hamptons for Prudential Douglas Elliman Real Estate. ‘It’s been full-court press all year ’round.’”

More foreclosures? “The foreclosure rate is rising in Wisconsin, according to RealtyTrac. There were 2,506 foreclosures in Wisconsin in October, a 67% increase from September.”

“Patrick Essie, executive director of the Wisconsin Association of Mortgage Brokers in Madison, said the October numbers were surprising. ‘Why it was bunched up in October as opposed to September or August, that is something that we don’t know,’ he said. ‘Bank repossessions were up nearly 35 percent, evidence that more homeowners who enter foreclosure are losing their homes.’”

More industry woes? “Suncoast Roofers Supply Inc., Tampa, FL, has filed for Ch. 11 bankruptcy protection. In its bankruptcy filings, the roofing supplies distributor reported a 57% decline in sales over 2006 due to the decline in housing and related markets.”

“It serves more than 2,500 contractors as well as retail customers through its network of warehouses in Florida. The distributor estimates that it has an 11% market share in the Florida roofing products market, giving it the No. 2 spot.”

Reckless Boosterism? “Who knew calling Farmington (NM) ‘home sweet home’ could be quite so sweet? The ‘Today Show,’ NBC’s national morning news program, featured Farmington on its Friday broadcast in a segment about spotting good real estate investments. Real estate expert Barbara Cororan talked about four up-and-coming real estate communities nationwide, and Farmington made the list.”

“Cororan said the area is ’still affordable, but prices are on the rise,’ said Tonya Stinson, marketing manager at the Farmington Convention and Visitors Bureau.”

“‘We have people moving from other places that had money to spend,’ said Margaret McDaniel, executive director of the San Juan Economic Development Service.”

“Texas’ slower home appreciation rate and a continued, global interest in the state as a place for business contribute to the Dallas-Fort Worth area’s evading of a housing crisis, according to real estate groups.”

“‘With the influx of population into the Metroplex, people have to have homes,’ said Sherry Matina, CEO of the Greater Fort Worth Association of Realtors. ‘Different Metropolitan areas around the country have had their day in the sun, we are having ours now. We’ve waited a long time for it.’”

“‘Last year, 2006, was the best real estate market Dallas-Fort Worth has ever had,’ said Sue Meyer, Coldwell Banker Dallas/Fort Worth president. ‘This year will be the second-best. How could you call that a slump?’”

“Despite the all-around rosy picture, Matina said ‘there are pockets of Tarrant County where the foreclosure rates were very high, but that really doesn’t happen that much in the inner city. It’s usually outlying areas of brand-new construction.’”

“First-time homebuyers who never should have qualified for loans, as well as out-of-state investors, are the victims of foreclosures in those areas, she said.”

“‘The Metroplex and Dubai seem to be where all the interest is,’ Matina joked.”

Reports related to the housing bubble? “Q. My dad died in October and left me a house valued at about $150,000, but he owed close to $225,000 on the property because he had borrowed against the home to pay for his medical bills. Now prices for the homes in his neighborhood have dropped.”

“I don’t want the house (or to take over the loan) because the property is worth about $75,000 less than my father owed on the mortgage. Is it possible to reject a property that is left to you in a will, or must I be stuck paying the mortgage bill because Dad gave the home to me?”

Bits Bucket And Craigslist Finds For December 2, 2007

Please post off-topic ideas, links and Craigslist finds here.