March 23, 2012

The Real Estate Extravaganza That Shook The World

It’s Friday desk clearing time for this blogger. “Hundreds of home buyers lined up to buy new condo units in the Marine Gateway project on Saturday morning. Within just four hours, all 415 units were sold. Many buyers had set up camp as early as Thursday night. Tracie McTavish, president of Rennie Marketing Systems, said such a high number of potential buyers has not been seen in Vancouver since 2006. Completion is expected in 2015.”

“Stephen Tse, from Vancouver, only found out about the sale on Saturday morning. He managed to snag the very last unit, and intends to live in it after he retires. ‘This morning, I got my newspaper, looked at it, it was a good location, and I rushed down here,’ he said, adding that it only took him five minutes to make a decision. ‘By that time, you only have one unit left, you either take it or leave it.’”

“Where the Gardiner Expressway meets Bathurst St., the development known as Garrison at the Yards now stands about seven storeys tall, giving passersby a clear view of just how cosy it is with the highway. Even with some units that Barry Fenton, CEO of Lanterra Developments says are a ‘tire’s throw’ away from the expressway, Lanterra’s Ice Condominiums sold out in five months. Fenton and many other Toronto real estate agents believe most of the units are purchased as investment properties — by people who don’t always see them before they buy — and then rented out to young professionals who don’t spend much time at home.”

“Gordie Wong bought his 600-square-foot unit four years ago for $253,000. The rail corridor doesn’t bother Wong because he can’t hear the trains over the incessant tha-dunk tha-dunk of traffic zipping over a seam in the expressway. ‘For some ludicrous reason, I bought it,’ said Wong, standing on the balcony of his seventh-floor condo as rush-hour traffic roars by.”

“From being awash in unsold condos and foreclosures, Miami’s downtown has morphed into a thriving mecca of bustling sales activity, a new report says. ‘Global investors, real estate investment trusts, and private equity are tripping over themselves to invest in Miami,’ says Neisen Kasdin, vice chair of the Miami Downtown Development Authority.”

“Alicia Cervera Lamadrid, managing partner of Miami-based Cervera Real Estate, agrees. ‘Our buyers are as international as our city is,’ she says. ‘We have a strong influence from South and Central America, and a few customers from Europe and the Far East. Canadians are increasingly coming south to Miami and buying more expensive product as a result of the currency.’”

“Five years ago Chris received a call from his home lender. His normal payment of $520 was now going up to $2,500. It was a payment he could not make. So, a judge told him he had move out within six months. Chris said he has never tried to live outside of his means or take out a loan he couldn’t handle. Chris says he knew his loan rate would eventually go up but he says he was never notified. Now he has the mark of foreclosure. ‘It just felt like i was violated’ he said.’

“‘People buy a house and they put 5% down and the value of the home goes down 10% and they are upside down,’ said David Fitzgerald, president of the Realtors Association of Northwest Wisconsin. ‘And if they’re in a position to sell they are looking at a foreclosure or short sale situation.’”

“Consumer advocates are calling for relief after more than 14,000 Maryland families learned in January they may lose their homes. Outside Wells Fargo Bank in downtown Baltimore, Roger Williams said his mortgage fell behind three payments in 2009, and he never got a final loan modification. Now, he just wants his original loan reset. Williams explained both his frustration and his resolve. ‘I don’t want to give up my home. I’m not giving up my home,’ said Williams, of Jarrettsville. ‘To me, I’ve given them tens of thousands of interest payments as a service charge. Now, give me some service here,’ Williams said.”

“A Coon Rapids couple are fighting to save their home from foreclosure. Frank and Kristina Clark hosted a ‘Foreclosure Free Barbeque’ at their home Saturday. The barbeque was the first of several public events planned by the Clarks and Occupy Minnesota. The Clarks purchased their Coon Rapids home in 2006 for $230,000 with a conventional, 30-year fixed rate mortgage through the Bank of America. According to Kristina Clark, they made their monthly payments on time until the summer of 2009 when the economic recession hit and Frank’s hours were reduced.”

“‘We were paying $1,538 a month before, but after the modification we had to pay $1,662 a month,’ she said. ‘What we want is for the bank to negotiate in good faith. We don’t want anything free, but something affordable to keep us in the house.’”

“Cynthia Spratt, a single mother of two, is one of thousands of New Jersey homeowners who have watched as what was supposed to be their most valuable assets — their homes — lose so much ground that it is virtually worthless to them. She bought her home in 2007 near the peak of the housing market. ‘There’s no way I could turn around and sell my house,’ said Spratt, 37. ‘I would walk away from this house with almost nothing to put down on the next house.’”

“Before the housing bubble, a house was ‘forced savings,’ said Jordan Celkupa, a financial planner in Red Bank. ‘You borrowed a chunk of money. You paid the mortgage off. And then, magically, you owned this big asset,’ Celkupa said.”

“Dozens of community activists and several city supervisors today called for a suspension of foreclosures — rallying around a resolution by Supervisor John Avalos to stop local foreclosures and support the California Homeowner Bill of Rights. The rally on City Hall steps, organized by Occupy Bernal Heights and the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE, formerly known as ACORN) featured several ‘foreclosure fighters,’ residents who are on the verge of losing their homes.”

“Avalos, whose own family home is ‘under water about $100,000,’ said the foreclosures are not only wrecking communities, they are undermining the future of a whole generation. ‘Our property is our wealth,’ he said. ‘This is how we pay for our kids going to college, how we pay for our medical care.’”

“Property information group RP Data said that 6.4 per cent of homes were valued at less than their purchase price in the December 2011 quarter, rising from 4.9 per cent of the market in the September quarter. New home owners fared the worst in the report with those owning a home between one and two years, holding about 27 per cent of the total of properties affected in the December quarter.”

“‘Since late 2010, the Australian housing market has been quite weak with home values falling by 5.5 per cent across the combined capital cities since the market peaked,’ the report said. ‘Buyers who purchased a home since this time have in many instances seen the value of their home move below their contract price.’”

“RP Data showed that Far North Queensland had the highest proportion of mortgages in negative equity, at 22 per cent, followed by Gold Coast, with 19.4 per cent in the quarter. Sunshine Coast was in the third spot at 15.3 per cent.The Reserve Bank warned last month that falling home prices tend to increase the rate of late payments on mortgages, especially in a recession with rising unemployment. The RBA also urged lenders to maintain high lending criteria to avoid a US-style housing bust.”

“A huge statue of the mighty warrior Genghis Khan presides over Genghis Khan Plaza in Ordos New Town. Only one element is missing from this vast ensemble - people. Most of the new town buildings are empty or unfinished. The rampant apartment blocks are full of unsold flats. If you want to find a place where China’s huge housing bubble has already burst, then Ordos is the place to come. And it is merely the most spectacular example of a new Chinese phenomenon, in many cities - unsold flats, unlet shops, empty office blocks.”

“It looks to outsiders as though the great Chinese building boom is over, the real estate extravaganza that shook the world. Western financial experts who fear a bursting of the Chinese real estate bubble point out that the Chinese economy is more dependent on house building than the United States economy was.”

“Mr Li had prospered when the local council bought up the land on which his family’s shop had been located. He invested the compensation with local private financiers. Mr Li’s private financier naturally invested the money in property, and paid him interest every three months at the rate of about 40% a year. Mr Li had put the equivalent of over $1m (just over £600,000) into such schemes. For two years they paid out, but last year the interest payments began to dry up. Then one of the financiers disappeared.”

“This has become a very familiar story in China now, one that is making big headlines as some famously rich private finance people come up for trial on charge of huge financial irregularity. At least half of Mr Li’s money now seems to have disappeared. As a Mongolian, he told me he was very angry when it happened last year. But now his mood has changed to a curious, fatalistic resignation, quite unlike Genghis Khan. ‘Once we were rich, and now we’re poor again,’ said Mr Li, with something like a wry grin.”

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