March 9, 2012

The Ball And Chain

It’s Friday desk clearing time for this blogger. “Three hundred acres planned for 249 luxury-view homes high in the foothills of Corona were purchased in foreclosure for $3.5 million. Steve Cameron, president and founder of Foremost Communities, said the project was one of the most sought-after in the Inland Empire and was ‘well worth the wait.’ He said as recently as 2006 there were offers for the land in the range of $50 million to $70 million. Development of Sierra Bella will begin in about two years, Cameron said. The lots will be sold to builders for construction of single-family houses that are expected to sell for $700,000 to $800,000, he said.”

“Maricopa County, Ariz., which includes Phoenix and ritzy Scottsdale, was one of the hardest hit during the U.S. housing crisis with property prices plunging more than 55 per cent from their peak. And that’s got the attention of sun seekers, says Scottsdale realtor Diane Brennan, who specializes in selling homes to Canadians. ‘It’s been the second busiest year ever,’ says Brennan, who moved to the U.S. from Alberta a few years ago. ‘We are getting a lot of multiple offers and in one case 43 offers on one home.’”

“The hottest segment of the market is investor-buyers. Winnipeg residents John Erik and his wife Cheryl Albrechtsen, purchased a vacation home in Scottsdale last June. They paid $572,500 for their 3,700-square-foot home with five bedrooms and three bathrooms. Similar homes changed hands at the peak of the market for nearly twice that amount. ‘The economy will come back, so it was a good investment opportunity,’ said Erik about their decision to buy.”

“Owing more than a year’s rent and facing foreclosure sales of more than $4 million in property March 28, the developer of the University of Wyoming Plaza is in financial trouble. Owing more than a year’s rent and facing foreclosure sales of more than $4 million in property March 28, the developer of the University of Wyoming Plaza is in financial trouble.”

“For one tenant, the news came as no surprise. Grand Newsstand owner Mike Scott closed his plaza location in November, but continues to pay rent as he hasn’t found someone to sub-lease. He said GALP manager Fred Croci came to Laramie promising prosperity, but only delivered high rent. ‘He said it would be prosperous, that he’s going to finish the plaza within two years, is what he told me,’ Scott said. ‘Right across from my store where those foundations are (in the plaza), those condos were going to be started years ago. That meant everything to me, because those were going to be retail lofts, big city lofts with retail underneath and the condos above.’”

“In a 2009 interview with the Laramie Boomerang, Croci said the 16 loft apartments slated for development would be a ‘hot commodity’ done in time for part of the 2009 UW football season. But those ‘big city lofts’ never materialized.”

“Two out of every five houses, 75,000 properties, are vacant in Collier County. Florida’s 1.7 million empty houses are ball and chain for the state’s economy. Rep. Kathleen Passidomo, a Naples real estate attorney, said her bill, HB 213, will prod lenders to move ahead with cases and help lift 368,000 Florida foreclosures off dockets and onto the market.”

“Florida’s banking lobby fought the bill from the outset because of its biggest consumer protection: a provision that reduces from five years to one year the length of time lenders have to seek payment for the outstanding loan balance over the value of the home. Others say HB 213 will do nothing at all. The banks don’t want to move forward. Homeowners in default have often moved on or are content to live in the house for free.”

“‘It’s been a good thing, staying without paying,’ said Debbie Minick. In September 2009, her husband died and she stopped making payments. Finally, on Feb. 14, her foreclosure became final. She has until April to move out.”

“Roger Rinaldi said his troubles began when a mortgage loan officer falsified his application for a $164,000 loan on a three-bedroom home in Bristol in Kenosha County in 2005. Rinaldi said the loan officer listed a $15,630 bank account that didn’t exist, a college degree he didn’t earn and a job — sales manager — that he didn’t have. ‘I didn’t find out about that until two and a half years into the loan,’ Rinaldi said.”

“The lender’s actions allowed him and his wife to secure a $1,776-per-month loan the couple could not afford. Rinaldi also alleged the broker raised the interest rate to 8.5 percent from a promised rate ‘in the 7s’ just before the couple, who were moving from Illinois with their three children, closed on the mortgage. When the Rinaldis stopped paying, HSBC Bank, operating on behalf of Wells Fargo, sued for foreclosure in 2009. The lender then levied a series of fees totalling $4,500, he said.”

“In January 2010, a Kenosha County Circuit Court judge ruled for the banks, rejecting allegations about lender abuse. Wells Fargo spokesman James Hines said the Rinaldis’ arguments ‘were found to be without merit.’”

“Tom Wuensch of Onalaska, said he doesn’t dispute he owes money on his four-bedroom home. The balance on his loan was $360,000 when he stopped paying. The house is now worth no more than $250,000, he said. His case is pending. ‘The negative perception seems to be ‘You’re trying to get a free house,’ said Wuensch, who has staved off foreclosure for four years by challenging the efforts by a series of lenders to seize his home. ‘Really what this is about is, we shouldn’t be letting banks take free houses. We bailed them out once already.’”

“Mike Hilla of Chicago is among those who used the ’show-me-the-note’ defense. In an interview, Hilla said he stopped paying for the rental home he owns in Fitchburg when his monthly mortgage payment ballooned by more than $800 a month to $2,280 in 2009. But Hilla, whose job was to bundle and sell mortgages to Wall Street, saw his income plummet as the housing market collapsed.”

‘Late last month, he lost his bid in Dane County Circuit Court after Wells Fargo brought in one of its top officials, along with what it said was the original mortgage note from a company vault in Texas. Judge Richard Niess seemed particularly bothered that Hilla — who has failed to pay his mortgage, property taxes or insurance for more than two years — would get the Fitchburg rental home free and clear.”

“There’s house trouble on the East End of Long Island. The number of unsold Hamptons homes has hit a 30-year high while prices have plummeted. Some industry authorities blame the Hamptons market on homeowners pushing up prices unrealistically, as they did in other distressed housing markets. ‘It doesn’t matter if it’s Las Vegas, Arizona or the Hamptons when a home is overleveraged,’ said Corcoran Group CEO Pam Liebman. ‘It doesn’t help that there are currently too many homes in the Hamptons that are still on the market because the owners have unrealistic price expectations.’”

“Dottie Herman, CEO of Prudential Douglas Elliman, looked on the bright side. ‘Just because homes are listed in foreclosure doesn’t mean much. It just means that someone misses three payments,’ she said.”

“North Miami’s embattled mayor, Andre Pierre’s once again got some ’splainin to do this morning as Bank of America has moved in to foreclose on the $230,000 home he owns on NE 121st Street. He bought the 11,945-square foot property in the Sans Souci Estates development in 2003, the booming days of the housing bubble, for a tidy $353,000. That’s since ballooned into a $432,538 mortgage as of last July, the Business Journal reports. The house, meanwhile, is worth just $230,000.”

“Pierre claims the bank foreclosed too soon and that he was still negotiating a loan modification to keep the residence. ‘I’m not sure it’s legal for them to file it when we have been talking back and forth,’ he tells the South Florida Business Review. ‘The left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing.’”

“David and Odessa of Oregon lost their home to foreclosure in 2009 after David was downsized out of his studio production job. He did eventually find work in Madison, just as retired parents Lauralyn and Jim, discovered much of their retirement money was lost in the stock market. They then decided to become a multi-generational family, all living under one roof.”

“As the family continues to adjust to their new reality, they said they hope politicians learn the same hard lessons they have. ‘We can’t afford the seven bedroom house that we’d all enjoy to have our own space,’ said Odessa. ‘Right now, we’re all living on top of each other, and that’s what we do. We have to simplify.’”

“Kyle Saavedra, 26, is part of the trend the Urban Land Institute is seeing in California; he doesn’t want to own a house, an indication that perhaps the foreclosure crisis has changed attitudes. ‘Definitely not my number one priority,’ Apartment renter Saavedra said. ‘I’d rather go out and see the world and do whatever. Have fun. Not be tied down.’”

“And if you think the housing attitudes are just a Gen X or Y mindset, think again. The California Association of Realtors said only one-third of homeowners who’ve sold their home are purchasing another one, the vast majority is opting to rent instead. Senate Committee Chairman Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord, is disturbed by the trend and still sees homeownership as a model for community. ‘If everyone in the community has bought into it, they’ve bought into the larger community,’ DeSaulnier said. ‘They come out for politics. They’re more engaged.’”

“‘The suburban housing market just isn’t there anymore,’ Urban Law Institute researcher Arthur Nelson said. ‘It used to be there.’”

Weekend Topic Sugestions

Please post topic ideas here!

Bits Bucket for March 9, 2012

Post off-topic ideas, links, and Craigslist finds here.