June 1, 2015

It’s Like High-Stakes Poker

The Boston Globe reports from Massachusetts. “Looking to buy a house in Greater Boston? You better move fast. An already tight supply of homes for sale is even more dire in many municipalities this season, driving prices even higher, spurring new bidding wars, and frustrating would-be buyers. ‘There’s a lot of heartbreak out there,’ said Linda M. O’Koniewski, a real estate agent at Re/Max Leading Edge in Melrose. ‘This is great if you’re a seller. It’s like high-stakes poker if you’re a buyer.’”

“And while values in municipalities near Boston have soared, prices in others have yet to regain their prerecession peaks, leaving owners wary of selling at a loss. Of course, some homeowners may simply be holding out in the belief they will get even more money for their property next year, according to Timothy M. Warren Jr., chief executive of the Warren Group, a firm that tracks real estate transactions. ‘People may be stubborn about not selling before the peak,’ he said.”

“But there are still areas where the inventory is stable and the prices are down from previous years, or are increasing more modestly. The median price in Beverly, for instance, slipped about 1 percent from the previous year to $379,000. In Dedham, the median price fell 13 percent to $410,000.”

The Sun Sentinel in Florida. “Buying a house these days can mean putting up a fight. A surprisingly strong housing market this spring has put more homebuyers in the middle of bidding wars in South Florida, buyers and agents say. Heavy demand helped give the once-reeling market a boost and led to double-digit price increases in Broward and Palm Beach counties. That pace, though, couldn’t continue, and the market cooled in 2014. Now buyer urgency is back, fueled by loosening restrictions on mortgages and young families eager to find something before the next school year starts, agents say.”

“Agents and analysts expect the sales pace to slow this summer, easing the burden on buyers. Until then, they’ll have to strike a balance between staying vigilant and making a poor financial decision, said Keyes Co. agent Beth Patterson. ‘Right now their mindset makes them a little desperate,’ she said, ‘and more willing to pay more than they probably should.’”

The Washington Post on Maryland. “It started out as a favor for a colleague. A clerk in the Prince George’s County police department asked Lt. Charles Duelley to investigate after she found people living in what should have been her vacant Cheltenham house. That discovery launched the veteran detective into a two-year investigation that cracked open a countywide real-estate scheme involving three Prince George’s women. Led by former real estate agent Shannon A. Lee, the women forged property records to make it appear as if they owned homes that were abandoned or going through the foreclosure process, police and prosecutors said. They then rented the houses out on Craigslist, lived in the vacant homes themselves or, in at least one case, sold a property for a profit of nearly $200,000.”

“With more than 3,000 vacant homes and more than 18,000 foreclosure notices listed in the county, it is easy to see why people like Lee took advantage of the market, said Doyle L. Niemann, head of the economic crimes division of the Prince George’s State’s Attorney’s office. Houses are sitting empty for so long because banks have a backlog of foreclosures they can’t handle in a timely manner. ‘They’ve become an attractive target because owners have abandoned them,’ said Niemann.”

The Associated Press on Nevada. “Lawmakers who say a recent Nevada Supreme Court decision has given homeowners associations too much power to foreclose over unpaid dues are pushing for a last-minute legislative fix, saying the ruling could drag down the recovering market and threaten Nevadans’ ability to get federally backed loans. ‘If the bankers and realtors succeed in eliminating the super priority lien, the entire burden of unpaid assessments will shift to those owners that do pay while banks continue to strategically delay foreclosure,’ wrote Norm Rosensteel and Donna Zanetti of the Community Association Institute Legislative Action Committee.”

The News Times in Connecticut. “Although some towns, including Bethel and Redding, have seen a small increase in pricing for single-family homes, the median sales price for the greater Danbury area has declined about 6 percent so far this year, according to Bethel-based Scalzo Group Real Estate Services. A shadow inventory of distressed and foreclosed homes continue to be a drag on the market. ‘We are still seeing some houses going into foreclosure that are being forced into the market by the management companies,’ said Scott Cooney, managing broker of Coldwell Banker Residential Real Estate. ‘It’s not like it used to be during the recession, but it’s not gone yet.’”

“Robert Morey, regional director for northern Fairfield County at RE/MAX Right Choice, said they’ve had several properties in recent months in the lower price ranges that have received multiple offers over the list price. ‘Any listings we’ve have had in that range probably sold within a few days,’ he said. ‘The demand is strong and it’s always good to have strong demand, but there is a supply of distressed properties on the market and more on the way.’”

The Albuquerque Journal in New Mexico. “Eligible individuals and families who owned property in the Mariposa master-planned community have settled their class-action lawsuit against its former developer, High Desert Investment Corp., and Albuquerque Academy for $5 million. Negotiated by lawyers on both sides of the case, the settlement was approved by District Court Judge James L. Sanchez following a hearing Wednesday in Valencia County. The settlement covers from 225 to 235 owners who purchased their property on or before June 20, 2012.”

“A key element of the settlement is that the property owners, as a class, give up their right to sue High Desert and Albuquerque Academy on their own. ‘Prior to the final fairness hearing, we were contacted by over a third of the property owners,’ said Christopher Bauman of the Bauman, Dow & Leon, one of two law firms representing the plaintiff. ‘Some people who contacted us thought it wasn’t enough money — we’d settled too low — but the vast majority of the class seems to be happy with the settlement,’ he said.”

“Payouts will range from roughly $4,000 to a high of about $60,000, Bauman said. The money will be allocated according to a formula. In simple terms, owners of less expensive vacant lots will receive lower payouts, while owners of pricey lots with high-end homes will receive the highest payouts. Filed in 2012 and alleging breach of contract, negligence and other claims, the lawsuit basically sought compensation for property owners who suffered a financial loss when High Desert withdrew as Mariposa’s developer. When the housing bubble burst and lot sales dried up, the Mariposa community in Rio Rancho became a money loser for High Desert. The active 800-acre portion of the community was repossessed by lenders and eventually sold.”

Bits Bucket for June 1, 2015

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