May 13, 2014

Overly Ambitious Agents And Hungry Sellers

The Manteca Bulletin reports from California. “The closing price for the typical Manteca resale home today stands at $266,200. Statistics from Zillow show that the median selling price has increased 38.9 percent over the past year. This is important because the vast majority of first-time home buyers rely on FHA loans with somewhat easier qualifying rules and significantly lower down payment requirements. A $300,000 home would require a $10,500 down payment based on the 3.5 percent minimum required for a FHA loan. The current limit for a FHA loan in San Joaquin County including Manteca is $304,700. ”

“This time around, the FHA is showing less enthusiasm for increasing loan limits as liberally as they did in the run-up to the housing crisis. The bottom line is simple: If you are thinking about buying and you don’t have a ton of money lying around you might want to get serious and start looking for a home now. If you wait, you might miss the train.”

NBC Bay Area. “It’s in the Bay Area where you can find the most expensive average rent, with San Francisco edging out New York. In fact, some housing experts said it’s hotter than it’s ever been before, beating out dotcom-era prices. And for some families, it’s led to possible eviction and a forced move out of the place they’ve called home for decades. A man we’ll call ‘John’ shared the story of his brother and sister-in-law, both of whom are deaf-mute and mentally disabled.”

“‘He raised the rent from $850 dollars to $1,675, plus utilities,’ said John, referring to the new property owner of the two-bedroom, one-bathroom apartment in unincorporated Castro Valley where his brother and sister-in-law have lived for the past 15 years. The new price tag, he said, is an extreme change for the couple, and one that will force them to have to find housing elsewhere all of a sudden.”

“John said he went to a dozen different agencies throughout the East Bay, only to get the runaround. He said he’d gotten a humiliating response at some places. ‘I was told the owner was just trying to make the investment back, so what are you going to do? And they just laughed,’ John said.”

The Mercury News. “Despite the Bay Area’s robust housing recovery, the East Bay communities of Vallejo, Antioch and Richmond are among the nation’s 100 cities with the highest percentages of underwater mortgages, according to a report by UC Berkeley’s Haas Institute for a Fair and Inclusive Society. The report points out that these communities and others with large minority populations have substantial percentages of homes still underwater, or worth less than their mortgages.”

“Vallejo, which is 47 percent black and Latino, has 36 percent of its homes underwater, the report said. Its housing prices were still 53 percent below their pre-crash peak. Antioch, where 53 percent of the population is black and Latino, has 29 percent of its homes underwater. Prices were 47 percent below their peak. Richmond, which is 67 percent black and Latino, has 28 percent of its homes underwater. Prices were 48 percent below the peak. Other California cities in the top 100 include Modesto, Fairfield, Sacramento and Salinas.”

The Sacramento Bee. “Homeownership in Sacramento County has plunged to its lowest level in 40 years after last decade’s catastrophic housing crash and the mass purchase of foreclosed homes by real estate investors. The trend has been especially acute in working-class areas. In the Del Paso Heights area of Sacramento, 45-year resident Fran Barker said she’s never seen so many houses change hands as in the past few years. Many of her neighbors lost their homes to foreclosure. In their place came vacant homes and, more recently, renters.”

“‘When I moved here, we all owned our homes. We knew each other. We walked down the street, talked to each other and established friendships,’ said Barker, who heads the Del Paso Heights Improvement Association. The investors who bought homes in her neighborhood tended to spruce them up, but tenants sometimes let them fall back into disrepair, she said. ‘If owners are desperate, they don’t always choose the right people’ as tenants, Barker said.”

CBS Sacramento. “For the first time in five years, the Sacramento-area housing market is being called a renter’s market, and experts say that’s changing the local housing landscape. There’s a house in Fair Oaks that’s not for sale. But it’s on the market for renters who aren’t quite ready to buy, or can’t pull the trigger on a home purchase. And that might be a good thing.”

“There are plenty of properties to rent, and people are turning homes into rentals. Investment companies are coming in and buying up homes to cash in. All of that extra property is stabilizing rental prices. Renting that Fair Oaks home would cost about $2,250 a month, compared to $3,450 if you bought it.”

“According to new numbers released this month by Deutsche Bank and the Wall Street Journal, the greater Sacramento region is now on a list of cities and suburbs that’s gone from a buyer’s market to a renter’s market. The capital city region is one of five areas nationwide where it’s cheaper to rent than to buy. The others are Phoenix, Arizona; San Bernardino; Riverside; Austin Texas; and Northern Virginia.”

My Valley News. “Anyone who has a Temecula house they want to sell this year and has been waiting for that ‘perfect time’ to put their home on the market, well, that moment has arrived. Last year saw a spike in the local real estate market jumpstarting the local economy with close to a 25 percent increase in real estate values. Multiple offers, over list prices were the norm and not the exception a year ago. While many homeowners today have fallen into the trap of believing that the trend should repeat itself, there just has not been anything other than overly ambitious agents and hungry sellers fueling this dream.”

“The truth is a huge percentage of homes that are selling are selling for significantly less than their initial list price. The longer a home sits on the market overpriced, the less likely that they will receive a fair market offer. Buyers will feel a sellers’ desperation to sell and come in with low-ball offers justifying their action with the belief that there must be something wrong with the home, otherwise it would have already have sold.”

“When pricing a home today, forget about what you think its worth. Don’t spend time looking on Zillow, Trulia or any of the other countless websites that offer an automated opinion of value. Rather, work with a trusted REALTOR and carefully analyze the last 60 days of sold properties similar to yours and close to yours. At another time, I would suggest also looking at the active listings in the MLS; however today, many are so over-priced that it just skews the numbers. Remember, the value is what someone is willing to pay for it – it has nothing to do with your plans, dreams or expectations.”

“Today’s market is not seeing multiple offers – buyers are not bidding prices up, thinking they have to snag a home now before they get shut out of the market.”

Too Many Buildings And Not Enough People

The Calgary Herald reports from Canada. “The average Calgary homeowner is expecting a 47 per cent return on investment on their property, according to a new poll released by BMO. The report said 33 per cent of Calgary homeowners believe their property has doubled in value from the time of purchase. At the national level, the BMO poll said the average homeowner in Canada expects a 62 per cent return on investment on their property. Canadian homeowners believe they could sell their current home for an average of $369,968 – an increase of $141,686.”

“‘A home is one of the rare investments that you can enjoy and use, while potentially watching it increase in value over time,’ said Laura Parsons, mortgage expert with BMO Bank of Montreal. ‘We’re seeing investors coming into Calgary that have cash.’”

The Financial Post. “The housing boom has not only resulted in record real estate prices, it has spawned an unprecedented number of realtors. The number of people selling real estate reached 108,706 during the first quarter of the year, according to the Canadian Real Estate Association. To put it another way, that’s one realtor for every 245 Canadians over the age of 19. We have almost as many people selling houses as making them.”

“Much of it is an influx of speculative careers from would-be real estate agents who see a quick buck to be made because they know someone selling their house. ‘You’ve got some nice person making $30,000 or $40,000 as a receptionist. This is the American dream. You do two deals and you make $50,000,’ says Lawrence Dale, a long-time thorn in the side of both CREA and TREB having sued both.”

Mortgage Broker News. “Developers appear to be a little less eager to scoop up land in the Toronto area to build condos on, reports The Globe and Mail. The price that developers paid for land to build condos on softened by 4 per cent in the first three months of this year. If that keeps up, it would be good news for those economists and market watchers who believe that too many condos are going up in the country’s most populous city.”

“The news follows a Conference Board of Canada report that predicted a soft condo landing. ‘We see a soft landing even in areas of higher risk, like Toronto. Granted, there are many condominium units under construction in Toronto, but not all will be completed at once, and the rental market, for which many are headed, is tight,’ the report stated.”

The Ottawa Citizen. “The number of new homes under construction fell drastically in April as builders reacted to plummeting demand for condominium units. According to Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp., homebuilders began construction on 253 new residential units in April, down 50.9 per cent from the 515 they began building during the same month in 2013. Almost all of that drop can be attributed to reduced condominium construction.”

“‘I can tell you that 85 per cent to 90 per cent of the apartments are condomiums,’ said Sandra Pérez-Torres, senior market analyst with CMHC. ‘We have had so many apartment starts in the last two years. The market is just cooling down now. We’re seeing so few starts that it’s just cooling the whole market.’”

Winnipeg Free Press. “New-home construction activity declined for the fourth straight month in the Winnipeg area in March. Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation said homebuilders began work on 521 new single- and multi-family units last month in the Winnipeg Census Metropolitan Area, which includes Winnipeg and 10 neighbouring municipalities. That was a drop of 6.1 per cent from the 555 starts recorded in April of last year, and followed declines of 19 per cent in January, 10.7 per cent in February and 65.5 per cent in March.”

“April’s decline was concentrated on the single-family side of the market, where starts were down 30.5 per cent to 189 units from 272 a year earlier. ‘While builders picked up production in April following a slow first quarter, softening demand due to lower employment and net migration should keep housing starts below 2013 levels moving forward,’ said Dianne Himbeault, CMHC’s senior market analyst for Winnipeg. Himbeault said last month that home-construction activity was expected to be lower this year because of a build-up of unsold houses from 2013.”

The Global News. “The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation released new numbers Thursday that paint a bleak picture of the construction season in the province, especially Moncton, where new construction is down 64 per cent. ‘Last year we had a lot of construction in the rental market, this year we haven’t seen that,’ said Claude Gautreau from CMHC. ‘The vacancy rate in New Brunswick is a lot higher than it’s been, say, in the last 10 to 15 years.’”

“He says construction of large multi-unit buildings has stalled and new-home construction is also down. In Moncton, Gautreau believes the market is over-saturated. There are too many buildings and not enough people. ‘If you look at the younger age groups we can see that employment is trending down a little bit and so if you have young people having a hard time finding employment they may be prompted to look outside the province,’ Gautreau said.”

The South China Morning Post. “In March 2014, just a few weeks after the Canadian government announced it was shutting down the Immigrant Investor Programme, average house prices in greater Vancouver suffered their biggest month-on-month fall on record, plunging more than 11 per cent. This came amid a three-year period of price volatility so severe that it has never been matched in the history of the city’s real estate market.”

“Wait, let me try that again. In March 2014, just a few weeks after the Canadian government announced it was shutting down the Immigrant Investor Programme, the Home Price Index (HPI) for greater Vancouver continued to rise to near-record levels, amid what real estate board chief Ray Harris called ’steady and stable market conditions.’”

“Which of the preceding paragraphs is accurate? Both of them. And therein lies a problem for anyone trying to get a handle on Vancouver’s property market, and whether the cancellation of the Chinese-dominated Immigrant Investor Programme is a game-changer or of utter irrelevance.”

“Since early 2011, average house prices have changed direction by a factor of 10 per cent or more five times. Such volatility had never happened before, and the swings are getting wilder. Yet not a single report on the March stats highlighted this fact. During the 2008-2009 global financial crisis, 10 per cent swings occurred twice. Before that, you have to go back to 1996.”

“Although the federal government announced in February that the IIP would indeed be cancelled, this decision only goes into effect in June, when the federal budget is passed. That is when more than 60,000 rich would-be immigrants will be informed that their bids to move to Canada have been scrapped. About 40,000 of these applicants, representing 12,000-15,000 households, had hoped to move to Vancouver. How many of these had already bought homes in the city? And how many will be seeking to sell, when their dreams of living in Vancouver are officially dashed?”

The Vancouver Sun. “Charles Hou is a retired social studies teacher who has lived in Dunbar for 48 years. He has a bone to pick. ‘On my block, there are three empty million-dollar houses,’ writes Hou. ‘The house behind mine sits empty for 90 per cent of the year. This is having a devastating effect on my neighbourhood. People no longer are doing upgrades on their houses because they know they will be torn down if sold.’”

“Are Vancouverites dangerously over-extending themselves, with colossal mortgages and modest downpayments? Is there a housing bubble? How big a market share do foreigners reflect? How many Vancouver homes sit empty? Benjamin Tal, the Toronto-based senior economist at the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce, did everyone a favour last week by highlighting the absence of such clear data in a report he wrote, entitled Flying Blind.”

“‘The gap between the importance of the real estate market to the economy,’ Tal wrote, ‘and the lack of publicly available information on it is mind boggling.’”

Bits Bucket for May 13, 2014

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