December 23, 2013

You Can Defy Father Time Forever These Days

The News & Observer reports from North Carolina. “The Triangle housing market continued to follow a familiar pattern in November, with sales increasing by double-digits while the number of homes on the market kept falling. Ed Willer, a broker in Raleigh, said he’s seeing lots of activity up to about the $800,000 price limit, particularly inside the Beltline, where he’s seeing an increasing number of tear downs. ‘You’ve got new homes going up all over inside the Beltline,’ he said. ‘A lot of that going on.’”

The Philadelphia Inquirer in Pennsylvania. “The developer Carl E. Dranoff is partnering with Los Angeles-based SBE Entertainment Group to build a 47-story, mixed-use luxury boutique hotel and condominium tower for more than $200 million. The 422,838-square-foot SLS International, which Dranoff said would be Pennsylvania’s ‘tallest structure built for residential use.’”

“Dranoff declined to give a price range for the condos. He said that the success of 10 Rittenhouse Square, the luxury high-rise on South 18th Street that has nearly sold out since the lender iStar brought him in, first as receiver, in 2011, motivated him to launch what will be his most expensive project. The last units at 10 Rittenhouse were commanding $1,050 a square foot. ‘Both SBE and I have a lot of skin in the game, but financing is in the wings, and we are fully committed to building this project,’ Dranoff said.”

The Washington Post. “Maryland is getting a cut of a $2.1 billion national agreement negotiated by state attorneys general, the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and Ocwen Financial Corp. and a subsidiary, Ocwen Loan Servicing. In Maryland, Ocwen customers who are facing foreclosure are expected to receive about $85.7 million in principal reductions, and about 2,500 Ocwen borrowers who have been through foreclosure will receive payments of as much as $1,000.”

“Marceline White, executive director of the Maryland Consumer Rights Coalition, said she was glad that a large portion of the Ocwen settlement is going to that purpose. White was less enthusiastic about the checks going to people whose loans were foreclosed. ‘The good news is they’re getting $1000,’ she said. ‘It is a recognition they had this loss, some compensation, but it is not anywhere near what they’ve lost.’”

“Foreclosure activity in Maryland has been increasing as banks work through a backlog of foreclosures created in part by a national moratorium imposed a few years ago. Maryland also has one of the nation’s longest foreclosure processes. As of the end of September, more than 11,000 homes in Maryland were in some stage of foreclosure, the most recent state data show, an increase of nearly 180 percent from a year earlier.”

The Daily Times in Maryland. “Maryland’s belated foreclosure crisis has hit Salisbury with particular force, prompting city officials to consider measures to slow the trend and forestall a wave of property crime. The foreclosure boom in the Free State isn’t a second housing market collapse crash, analysts say. The influx is a kind of breaking of a legal dam that was constructed when Maryland lawmakers passed legislation in 2010 requiring lenders to give struggling homeowners a chance to find alternatives to foreclosure.”

“Foreclosures saw a four-fold increase from July through September in Wicomico County compared to the same three months in 2012, according to Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development statistics cited by city officials. The task force isn’t required to submit its recommendations until Sept. 1, 2014. ‘There will still be foreclosure issues in September, so the time is now to get started,’ said Mayor Jim Ireton, adding that many distressed mortgages takes months, even years, before they reach the foreclosure stage.”

The Baltimore News Journal in Maryland. “Baltimore City NAACP President Tessa Hill-Aston announced that the group would hold a ‘Stop Foreclosures Town Hall’ meeting to address the growing rate of foreclosures. The group is also calling on Governor Martin O’Malley to issue an executive order for a moratorium on foreclosures in the state.”

“‘It’s time for someone to answer the questions of the citizens who feel they are being railroaded and displaced by this foreclosure crisis,’ said Hill-Aston. ‘We’re calling on Governor O’Malley to put foreclosures in the state on hold until we can figure out what’s going wrong in Maryland, what needs to be done to reverse this trend and how we can protect Marylanders from losing their properties needlessly,’ she added.”

The Baltimore Sun. “After losing her job as a teacher, Guernica Williams tried for months to get her bank to modify the mortgages on her Windsor Mills home. When her unemployment insurance ended in 2012 and she defaulted, she kept trying. In September, she met with a Wells Fargo representative at a court-administered mediation session, where she received assurances that the bank would review her loan, if she submitted additional documents. She sent the paperwork, then more paperwork, but a letter still arrived informing her that her house would be sold this month.”

“‘I’ve done everything I was supposed to do and they either did not get back [to] me or they send me the same information back and forth,’ said Williams, 38, who lives at the home with her 13-year-old son. ‘It seems like they’re playing a cat-and-mouse game.’”

“‘At its core, it seems like you should gauge the success of foreclosure mediations based on the number of homes that were saved,’ said Owen Jarvis, a staff attorney for the St. Ambrose Housing Aid Center who said he has worked on about 100 mediation cases. ‘There are few cases, very few, in which I can say that it was because of mediation that a home was … saved.’”

“After a call from a Legal Aid attorney and the submission of more documents, Guernica Williams’ foreclosure sale was rescheduled for January. She still hopes her loan will be modified, but said she is looking at her options, including filing for bankruptcy, in order to save her house. ‘I’m determined to keep my house. I’m not going to uproot myself,’ she said. ‘Something’s going to be done.’”

The Sun Gazette. “Northern Virginia’s real estate market looks solid for 2014, despite higher interest rates, low housing inventory and the menace posed by ongoing federal budget cuts, three speakers told members of the Northern Virginia Association of Realtors (NVAR) and Greater Capital Area Association of Realtors (GCAAR). ‘Neither a bubble nor a fall,’ was how Jon Wolford, NVAR’s 2013 board chairman, described this year’s real estate market. ‘It has been a very good year, just the kind of year you would hope to have . . . I think we’re set up very well for the year to come.’”

“In Northern Virginia during the first quarter of 2013, buyers flooded open houses and snapped up properties within a median of 14 days, Wolford said. Realtors began putting up ‘Coming Soon’ signs, which led to shortage of inventory because properties were being sold without being placed on the area’s multiple-listing service, he said.”

“The real estate market calmed during the second quarter, after interest rates rose 1 percent in one month. Prices had stabilized by the third quarter, but the federal government’s looming shutdown dampened consumers’ confidence, Wolford said. Average housing prices will reach about $540,000 by year’s end, a 6.6-percent increase that tracks exactly with the standard long-term rate of gain, Wolford said. The region’s economy is improving and consumer confidence is increasing. ‘Coming Soon’ signs may return to properties for sale and the resulting competitive environment may lead to higher prices and buyers’ use of escalation clauses in their contracts, Wolford said.”

“Some shifts are taking place in the local real estate market, said David Versel of George Mason University’s Center for Regional Analysis., citing 10-percent price increases for condominiums and popularity of housing units within a half-mile of Metrorail stations. ‘People increasingly want to live a different way than they have been,’ he said. ‘We’re not seeing a stampede, we’re not turning into New York City overnight, we don’t have any illusions about that. But [for reasons] generational and cultural, there is more interest in people living in condos or apartments in a way there may not have been in the past.’”

“Another factor in the lack of housing inventory for sale is the fact that 47 percent of the region’s single-family homes are owned by Baby Boomers who show no signs of wanting to sell and move to traditional retirement areas, such as Florida or North Carolina, Versel said. ‘The Boomers don’t want to be like their parents,’ he said. ‘They want to stay in their houses. They want to age in place. They want to stay in their communities and maintain their friendships . . . You can defy Father Time forever these days.’”

Bits Bucket for December 23, 2013

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