May 15, 2018

The Zombie Houses Are Everywhere

A report from Q Fox 13 in Washington. “Even though the average price of a house is about $800,000 in King County, real estate brokers say spring and summer may offer a window of opportunity for homebuyers. ‘There’s a little bit of a dip, but if we’re at a 10 now, it’ll be an 8.5 or a 9 during the summer months,’ said Michael Ackerman, real estate agent for Coldwell Banker Bain. On the Eastside, ‘I am noticing that,’ said Nelya Calev, a real estate agent with John L. Scott. She agrees with Ackerman that the market may slow slightly in the summer, but it may impact sellers more than buyers. ‘I don’t know if I would call it a slowdown, instead of seeing 15-20 offers, as a seller you may get two or three offers, which is still great,’ said Calev.”

The Herald Tribune in Florida. “Home prices cooled in the Sarasota-Manatee region during the opening months of 2018, failing to keep pace with statewide gains. Sarasota-Manatee posted the second-lowest price gain among the 22 metro areas covered in the report. Only Cape Coral-Fort Myers was lower. ‘Buyers in the market for mid- to upper-tier single-family homes are having a much easier time of it, as they’re facing less competition, and there’s a relative abundance of both new construction and re-sale inventory available,’ said Brad O’Connor, chief economist at Florida Realtors.”

From Boise Dev in Idaho. “Bob Piazza has spent all of his 74 years living in California - married for 53 of those, and operator of a business for 46. His roots in the Sonoma Valley north of San Francisco are as deep as those of the nearby grape vines that define surrounding wine country. But soon, Piazza, his wife and many of his employees will pull up those roots and transplant to the Treasure Valley. This November, Price Pump will move to a new facility in Caldwell. And in a surprise to Piazza, half of his California-based employees will come along.”

“‘Six months ago when we made this decision I thought we’d only get one to go - and that one is me. We got 18,’ he said. One employee had worked for the company for 46 years, and at 66 will be one of the new Idahoans. ‘He said ‘I looked at finances living in California, I can’t afford to live here. At 66 I’m not going to find another house. I’m going to have to sell my house and move… Boise is just as good as any.’”

From The Real Deal on New York. “Manhattan’s luxury residential market recorded 24 contracts at $4 million and above last week, according to Olshan Realty’s luxury market report. But discounts are driving deal activity, and the week’s top two deals went into contract for less than the sellers originally paid for their properties. Two deals were tied for the week’s priciest contract, both with an asking price of $18.75 million.”

“At the Baccarat Hotel and Residences, condominium unit 44A’s asking price was nine percent lower than the $20.62 million the seller paid for the 4,545-square-foot home in May 2015. The mystery buyer of the building’s penthouse earlier this year listed the home for $40 million, less than the $43 million the buyer paid in June 2016.”

“And for the townhouse at 39 East 67th Street, the $18.75 million asking price was nearly 17 percent lower than the $22.5 million it last sold for in 2014. The five-story, 11,455-square-foot home had an asking price of $31 million when it hit the market two years ago. Luxury homes spent an average of 289 days on the market, with an average discount of 11 percent from the original asking price to the final asking price.”

From News 5 Cleveland in Ohio. “Thousands of homes around the City of Cleveland are falling apart. These abandoned buildings are more than just eyesores – they’re safety hazards that breed crime and destabilize neighborhoods. To reduce the distress they bring to communities, the city encourages residents to call 311 to alert them when they see open, vacant or vandalized properties. There have been 4,600 people who have called 311 about vacant and abandoned homes since 2016, according to city data.”

“Cleveland resident Debbie Gordon said she called and complained several times to the city about the abandoned home on 8016 Whitehorn Avenue. ‘It’s just disgusting,’ Gordon said. The house on Whitehorn Avenue is just one of many properties 5 On Your Side Investigators visually inspected as part of our investigation into how long it takes for a home to be boarded up after a 311 complaint is filed.”

“From the 4,600 total calls, we selected a sample of homes in the city’s data and checked the status of those calls. We inspected all 42 properties categorized as open, vacant, and/or vandalized (OVV) that residents called about in February of 2018. During our team’s inspections in April, we found 14 — or one-third — of the properties were not completely boarded up. Close to a decade after the crisis, the latest estimates show there are approximately 7,159 vacant homes in Cleveland.”

“Ward 12 Councilman Tony Brancatelli acknowledged the system has flaws, but said it has worked for him, especially considering the scope of the problem. ‘We have been doing a great job of keeping up with the freaking mess of the foreclosure crisis,’ he said.”

From WBGO in New Jersey. “Over forty years ago the New Jersey Supreme Court’s Mount Laurel decision was hailed nationally. It proclaimed it was unconstitutional for local zoning to exclude housing for its poor and working class. Yet, decades later New Jersey is in a full blown affordable housing crisis and leads the nation in foreclosures. And despite the scarcity of affordable housing there are tens of thousands of vacant homes just wasting away.”

“For Tim Johnson, his life was upended when his father came down with pancreatic cancer and in just a few months died. His mother fell behind on the mortgage payments. ‘I had a similar story with foreclosure too my mother was foreclosed in 2002,’ he said. ‘When my father passed away our house was foreclosed. She had to sell it before it was foreclosed.’”

“Johnson’s mom’s home in Middletown is still listed as vacant. It is one of close to 40,000 empty homes throughout New Jersey. In places like Newark and Atlantic City the crisis is so acute vacant homes threaten public safety and depress property values. Activists are pushing for a moratorium on foreclosures which can leave families homeless and their homes vacant.”

“Carolyn Bailey, know on line as the ‘hurting homeowner’ has been working with the Citizens Coalition. She has been fighting to hold on to her Cliff Street home in Newark. ‘My husband bought the house,’ she said. ‘My children were raised there so it home. That is the connection. I have been there now over twenty-five years.’”

“Bailey sees what’s happened in New Jersey’s poorer neighborhoods is a manifestation of systemic racism continuing to play out. ‘So, the urban area has been cratered out. The zombie houses are everywhere,’ said Bailey. She has been fighting her foreclosure pro se in the courts since 2006. She says for many African-American homeowners their current foreclosure problems were the consequence of underlying predatory lending practices that go back decades.”

“‘There was red lining long before there was the Great Recession,’ she said. ‘And so, in the urban communities if you managed to get a house you paid a higher price. You paid a higher percentage on the mortgage. You got terms from the beginning from the closing where you were being gouged. So, you started out behind the eight ball and you never really caught up. So, this took us over the edge and has left us just swimming out in the ocean. But we will survive. We are a people that have survived.’”