May 30, 2013

Free Money And A Seller’s Utopia

A report from The Street. “National home prices are still about 20% below their June 2006 peak, but in Texas home prices are now at a new peak, according to data from Lender Processing Services. Despite soaring home prices in Arizona and California, home prices in Arizona are still down 35% from their May 2006 peak, while in California, home prices are nearly 32% below the April 2006 peak. Colorado is another state that is very close to its previous peak with home prices just 0.7% off June 2007 highs. The housing market in Denver is at a new peak.”

The Denver Magazine in Colorado. “Not long ago, real estate in Denver was in the weeds. In January 2009, the average home price in the Mile High City hovered around $225,000, a 30 percent drop from the market’s peak in June 2007. Homes listed on the lower end were hit even harder, dipping by closer to 40 percent. But this grim picture is now history. The catch? Per capita, there have never been fewer homes for sale in Denver. Why potential sellers aren’t selling is anyone’s guess. This is, of course, a potentially lucrative situation if you’re in the latter camp. ‘We probably have the strongest seller’s market we’ve ever had,’ says Charles Roberts, co-owner of Denver’s Your Castle Real Estate.”

“If would-be sellers realize how good the market is for them right now, come summer, Denver housing should see solid prices, quality buyers, and a healthy inventory. If the number of available properties remains low, however, bidding wars could inflate prices across the Front Range and once again create skyrocketing appreciation rates. For now, forget all that. If you’ve put off even thinking about selling your home since the market crashed, it’s time to focus, strategize, and (hopefully) capitalize on this seller’s utopia.”

The Denver Business Journal in Colorado. “Wells Fargo & Co. and JPMorgan Chase & Co. — two of Colorado’s biggest banks — have nearly halted foreclosure sales after federal regulators revised orders on how troubled borrowers were to be treated before losing their homes. Citibank Inc. is another big lender that has greatly slowed sales of homes in foreclosure, the Los Angeles Times reports.”

The Salt Lake Tribune in Utah. “With Utah’s recovery from the recession outpacing the nation, would-be homebuyers returning to the housing market are stepping into the best interest rate environment in memory. But choose sooner than later or run the risk of losing the best mortgage rate. ‘Over the last week, our interest rates have gone up 0.375 points for a 30-year loan, so you can lose by shopping around too much,’ said Chris Bennett, a mortgage consultant in Midvale. ‘Don’t spend two weeks looking. Spend a couple of days and then make a decision.’”

“Think before refinancing to a 15-year loan. Over the past 12 months, the rate for a 15-year loan has slowly fallen, from slightly more than 3 percent to as low as 2.6 percent in January before starting a gradual rise to 2.8 percent today. To many people, rates that low are ‘free’ money. There is a risk, though, said Tim Roberts, a senior loan officer at Bank of Utah. ‘I’ve helped somebody refinance to a 15-year mortgage [from a 30-year loan], and six months later they came back and said they can’t afford it,’ Roberts said.”

From KTAR in Arizona. “The latest Case-Shiller home price index showed that home prices in the Phoenix area jumped by 22.5 percent in the past year. Diane Brennan, host of ‘That Real Estate Show’ on KTAR, said said some areas of the Valley have home prices that are rising much faster than that 22.5 percent figure. ‘It might be 22 percent on average, but we’ve seen some places jump 100 percent in some of the hardest hit areas,’ she said, adding that those areas include south Phoenix, Queen Creek, San Tan Valley and other outlying areas.”

“Brennan does not believe in predictions that Phoenix is in a second housing “bubble” that is about to burst. ‘I think that ‘other bubble’ is a bunch of malarkey,’ she said. ‘I think those people who are panicking and calling doomsday again is unfounded.’”

From Fox 5 Vegas in Nevada. “Buying a home in southern Nevada is like grabbing a bite to eat. ‘The greatest part is that when you used to go to a restaurant last year, you used to walk in and eat. Now if you don’t get a reservation, you are waiting in a line,’ said Dave Tina, president of the Greater Las Vegas Association of Realtors. ‘With low interest rates at 3.5, everybody bought and we created an inventory shortage.’”

“‘There is a lot if competition out there among home buyers. There are investors trying to make profit from flipping a house or putting it up for lease and first time home buyers have to compete with that,’ said Luis Lopez, data analyst for UNLV’s Lead Institute of Real Estate Studies.”

The Las Vegas Sun in Nevada. “Las Vegas builders continue to sell homes at a faster clip than last year as they pull more permits and buy land at higher prices. The price per acre of raw land in prime locations has more than doubled in the past six months to the $350,000 to $400,000 range, according to Home Builders Research President Dennis Smith, who reported in March that land prices were rising at an unsustainable and ‘downright scary’ pace.”

“The median sales price last month was $238,820, up 19 percent from a year earlier. Given the valley’s rising land prices, ‘it would be foolish’ to think the median sales price of new houses won’t reach $250,000 by year’s end, Smith said in the report. ‘This housing recovery has a LONG way to reach levels that were considered the ‘norm’ not too long ago,’ he wrote.”

“Lobbyists representing investors, debt collectors, property management companies, real estate firms and banks large and small have been discussing legislation that could result in higher association dues for homeowners and changes to who pays the lien on foreclosed homes in a neighborhood. The negotiations essentially consist of what HOAs could or should be allowed to do when it comes to homeowners who stop paying their dues and how much HOAs can collect from the proceeds a bank eventually earns once a foreclosed property is sold.”

“This longstanding battle has carried over from the 2011 legislative session, when legislators nearly reached agreement about who pays for debt collection costs on delinquent HOA dues once a house is foreclosed on, said Michael Buckley, real estate attorney and former commissioner on the Nevada Commission on Common Interest Communities.”

“‘It’s a mess because banks are taking so long to foreclose,’ Buckley said.”

From 8 News Now in Nevada. “According to the Nevada Real Estate Division, HOAs foreclosed on nearly 650 homeowners last year, an increase from 2011 of more than 250 percent. Paul Terry, an attorney for a law firm that represents homeowner’s associations explains the increase in HOA foreclosures with the decrease, or near halt, of bank foreclosures. ‘Before the economic crisis, we almost never foreclosed on anybody’s house,’ Terry said. ‘The thing that’s driving this is that it takes the banks so long to foreclose that the HOA and the homeowners don’t really have much choice but to proceed, or start writing bigger checks every month.’”

“It happened to Venise Abelard and hundreds of others who once thought the only thing they had to fear was their bank. A notice of sale taped to her door that informed her that her homeowner’s association planned to sell her house in 30 days, unless she paid some $4,000. ‘I was surprised, because I didn’t know I owe anyone,’ she said.”

“Abelard insists she was current on her $56 a month payments to the Fort Apache Square HOA. So she gathered years of canceled checks and bank statements to make her case. But her evidence failed to convince the HOA’s law firm. In July of last year, she awoke to another notice on the door. This one said her house had been sold and she had three days to move out. ‘I just dropped and sat down on the stairs here,’ she said. ‘I said, ‘OK, I have three days to vacate my home. I still, you know, didn’t get it.’”

“For now, Abelard remains in her home. And although she doesn’t own it, the mortgage is still in her name. ‘It’s a mess,’ Abelard said. ‘I don’t understand it myself.’”

Bits Bucket for May 30, 2013

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