Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Home prices up 9.3% in February

My website: www.sandralew.com

For the 12 months ending February it was the largest annual solid home price increase in almost seven years. Largest gains were in Phoenix, San Francisco and Las Vegas. These were also the cities that fell the most during the crash. Supply of existing homes for sale has dropped around 17% nationwide compared to a year ago. This has continued to cause inventory to be tight which has further driven up demand and price increases in some markets.

Home prices up 9.3% in February

Julie Schmit, USA TODAY9:51 a.m. EDT April 30, 2013

U.S. home prices in the USA's 20 biggest cities rose 9.3% in the 12 months ending in February. It was the biggest annual growth rates in almost seven years, a closely watched housing index out Tuesday said.

The home price increases were solid across all 20 cities measured by the Standard & Poor's/Case-Shiller index. The 9.3% gain was up from an 8.1% year-over-year gain in January.

From January, prices rose 0.3% in February for the 20-city composite of the USA's largest metropolitan housing markets. In eight of the 20 cities, prices dipped slightly from January but all posted increases when compared to their year-ago levels.

Price increases are being driven by increased demand, a tightening inventory of homes for sale and fewer foreclosed properties, which tend to sell at a discount to others.
"Housing continues to be one of the brighter spots in the economy," said David Blitzer, chairman of the index committee.

But there's increasing concern that robust price increases are not sustainable, and that what's happening in the large metros is not broadly reflective of the national housing market.

"This report needs to start being taken with a grain of salt," says Stan Humphries, chief economist at real estate web site Zillow. The cities measured are "overly skewed" to quickly rebounding markets – particularly in the Southwest and on the West Coast, he says.

The index returns are also being boosted by a shift in transactions away from foreclosure re-sales, which are lessening, Humphries says.

Year over year, Phoenix continued to stand out with a gain of 23%, followed by San Francisco at almost 19% and Las Vegas at nearly 18%, the S&P/Case-Shiller index showed. Most of the cities seeing the biggest gains also fell hardest during the crash.

Three East Coast cities -- New York, Boston and Chicago -- saw the smallest year-over-year price improvements.

And other housing market indicators are suggesting a slowdown in home sales and price gains.

Zillow's first-quarter home value index was up 0.5% from the fourth quarter of last year. That compared with a 2.1% jump in the fourth quarter from the third, Zillow's index showed, marking the smallest quarter-to-quarter gain since the home price recovery began.

A home value index produced by John Burns Real Estate Consulting shows national prices up 5.7% in the first quarter of 2013 over the first quarter of 2012.

That's just a little slower than the 5.9% jump in the fourth quarter of 2012 over the same period a year earlier, according to the John Burns inex.

On the sales front, March's pending home sales were up 1.5% from February for only a modest gain, the National Association of Realtors reported Monday. Those figures reflect signed contracts, not closings.

And existing home sales in March eased 0.6% from February's level.
Both were held down by the lack of houses for sale, NAR said. The supply of existing homes for sale in March was about 17% lower than a year ago.

Tight supplies of homes for sale will likely continue to lift prices in some markets.

Nationwide, there was a 4.7-month supply of homes for sale in March, meaning they would all sell in that time frame if sales continued at March's pace and no supply was added. Typically, a six-month supply is considered balanced.

California markets have even tighter supplies of homes for sale, dropping below 3 months in March, the California Association of Realtors says.

Contributing: The Associated Press

Source: http://www.usatoday.com/story/money/business/2013/04/30/case-shiller-home-prices/2123103/

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Mortgage Rates Hit Historic Lows

My website: www.sandralew.com

Average mortgage rates have continued to decline to historically low rates! 30 year fixed rate loans at 3.31% and 15 year fixed rate loans at 2.61% . These low rates have helped spur buyers into action.

Mortgage Rates Hit Historic Lows

Apr 25, 2013    By: Neal J. Leitereg

Mortgage rates continued to trend downward this week, as the averages for a key fixed and adjustable rate mortgage each hit record lows.

The average rate on a 30-year fixed mortgage continued its steady decline, falling to 3.4%, according to the latest survey by mortgage buyer Freddie Mac. Down slightly from 3.41% a week ago, rates for 30-year fixed loans continue to creep closer to 3.31%, the historic low achieved in November.

Low mortgage rates have spurred homebuyers into action, a trend that is expected to continue as the housing market becomes increasingly competitive. Illustrating the renewed interest in the housing market is the number of home sales during the first quarter. The 424,000 new home sales proved to be the strongest quarterly showing we have seen since the Q3 2008.

Those who qualify for a 15-year fixed-rate mortgage will be happy to hear that the average for that particular type of loan hit a record low of 2.61% this week, down from 2.64%. The previous record low on a 15-year fixed rate of 2.63% was achieved in November, which, at the time, proved to be the lowest since 1991.

Whether fixed-rate loans continue to trend downwards could hinge on the findings in the 1st Quarter Gross Domestic Product, which should provide a good measure of growth or contraction in the U.S. economy, says mortgage expert Al Bowman:
I expect this report to cause sizable movement in the financial markets Friday and therefore the mortgage market also. Analysts are expecting it to show that the economy grew at an annual rate of 2.9%, which would be a much quicker pace than the final quarter of last year. A smaller increase would be considered good news for mortgage rates. But, a stronger than expected reading would almost certainly cause stock prices to rise and bond prices to fall, leading to higher mortgage rates tomorrow morning.
Besides the 15-year fixed, the average rate on a 5-year adjustable-rate mortgage also achieved an all-time low, falling from 2.6% to 2.58% week-over-week. The 2.58% rate marks the lowest rate on a 5-year ARM since 2005. Additionally, the 1-year ARM fell slightly to 2.62% in the latest week, down from 2.63%.

In the latest Mortgage Rate Trend Index by Bankrate.com, 91% of experts and analysts polled believe mortgage rates will either continue to tick downwards or remain unchanged over the next week, with the majority voting for the latter

Source: http://www.realtor.com/blogs/2013/04/25/mortgage-rates-hit-historic-lows/

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Home sellers hold out for higher prices

My website: www.sandralew.com

Market timing is everything... whether buying or selling. 75% think now is a good time to buy, while despite rising prices only 32% think it's a good time to sell.

Home sellers hold out for higher prices

Why homeowners are keeping properties off the market

By Quentin Fottrell

At a time when people are clamoring to buy real estate, many homeowners remain reluctant to put their properties up for sale.

Roughly 75% of Americans feel now is a better time to buy than next year will be, according to a survey of more than 2,000 respondents carried out by real estate marketplace Trulia. But despite rising prices, only 32% believe now is a good time to sell. “The unwillingness to sell does help explain the low inventory,” says Susan M. Wachter, professor of real estate and finance at The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. Inventory is down by as much as 15% year-over-year, according to Realtor.com, but picked up by 2.4% in March over the previous month.

Sellers may be trying too hard to time the market, experts say. “The unwillingness to sell is a bit surprising based on the hard facts of many markets that make it an excellent time to sell now,” says Daren Blomquist, vice president at market researcher RealtyTrac. “It’s human nature to want to sell at the very top of the market and buy at the very bottom.” In hindsight, he says, buyers too would have found much better deals in most markets in 2009, 2010 and 2011, when prices were still dropping, than they would now that prices are rising.

The ones putting their homes on the market now may not have a choice. “Some just cannot hold out further,” says Lawrence Yun, chief economist for the National Association of Realtors. Many people who have new jobs, want to be in a different school district or have other changes in family circumstances will put their houses on the market first, he says.

To be fair, would-be sellers face more difficult decisions in a recovering housing market than buyers, experts say. But that doesn’t mean it’s worth waiting. “House price increases will dampen when the Fed starts to raise rates again,” says Stuart A. Gabriel, director of UCLA’s Richard S. Ziman Center for Real Estate.

Source: http://www.marketwatch.com/story/home-sellers-hold-out-for-higher-prices-2013-04-19

Friday, April 19, 2013

Runway retail/housing complex breaks ground at Playa Vista

My website: www.sandralew.com

Yay! The Runway project is coming to Playa Vista. Whole Foods will anchor the large mixed-use center. Looks like it will be an upscale center offering shopping, dining and entertainment. This will be a great addition to our beach community!

Runway retail/housing complex breaks ground at Playa Vista

Posted April 18, 2013 by The Argonaut in News

Rendering courtesy of Lincoln Property Company 

A popular grocery chain will be one of the anchor tenants of the Runway, a large-scale mixed-use center that will offer shopping, dining, entertainment and living space in the heart of the Playa Vista community, representatives of Lincoln Property Company announced recently.


The development team, led by Lincoln Property, Phoenix Property Company and Paragon Commercial Group, has begun construction on the long-anticipated lifestyle center that will soon connect the Phase I residential community and the Campus at Playa Vista.


Whole Foods will move into a 35,755-square foot space adjacent to McConnell Avenue on the retail center’s ground level when the shopping center opens in less than 18 months.


The developers recently broke ground on the project that will include 221,000 square feet of retail, 420 apartments and 35,000 square feet of office space spread across three separate buildings. Construction is expected to last less than two years, with tenants slated to open their doors in time for the holiday shopping season in 2014, according to the developer.


"This project has been a long time coming, so we are excited to be moving to the next stage in the development process and to be that much closer to injecting more energy into this already vibrant community,” said Executive Vice President of Lincoln Property Company David Binswanger. “We want Runway to be at the forefront of everything new in the worlds of fashion, art, design and technology and to be a real center of the community where people come to shop, eat and to just relax.”


In addition to Whole Foods, CVS Pharmacy, Veggie Grill and a national bank branch are planned to open at Runway. Down the street on Jefferson Boulevard, the Cinemark multiplex at Runway will feature nine screens in over 46,000 square feet and the company’s NextGen design concept with RealD 3D capability, self-serve concession stands and an open plaza with a cocktail lounge.


“We are pleased to see such early interest from a great group of top national retailers. The fact that we are signing best-in-class tenants in every category we are pursuing is a testament to our vision for Runway,” said Mark Harrigian, principal of Paragon Commercial Group. “When complete, Runway will be brimming with chef-driven restaurants and a unique mix of retailers offering anything from upscale couture to California lifestyle and beach-chic fashions.”


In addition to the Runway project, The Village at Playa Vista will contain a total of 2,600 residential units, 200 units of senior/assisted living, 50,000 square feet of office space, 40,000 square feet of community serving space, 11.5 acres of parks, and another 12 acres of open space. All of the 221,000 square feet of retail space in The Village will be contained within Runway.


The Village is the second phase of Playa Vista’s development plan.  

Source: http://argonautnews.com/runway-retailhousing-complex-breaks-ground-at-playa-vista/

Monday, April 15, 2013

L.A. and other hot housing markets are getting frothy, report says

My website: www.sandralew.com

Housing market is bubbling in Washington, LA, San Diego and San Francisco. In Los Angeles  low inventory is driving up prices.

L.A. and other hot housing markets are getting frothy, report says

Home building 

Home prices are rising faster than incomes in Los Angeles, making it more prone to a new housing bubble than many other major cities, a real estate report indicates.

Rising home prices and strong demand are making the market feel particularly bubbly in Washington, L.A., San Diego and San Francisco, according to the report by online real estate broker Redfin.com.
All of these markets have seen home prices climb significantly compared with income in an atmosphere of low inventory, bidding wars and rapid-fire sales. In Los Angeles, the inventory squeeze has been the biggest factor in driving up prices.

“So many people in L.A. are in between where they bought at huge bubble prices in 2005 and 2006 and now, and they are not willing to list their homes,” Glenn Kelman, chief executive of Redfin, said. “The result is there is a rush on what inventory is out there.”

The ratio of home prices to incomes in Los Angeles is 26% higher now than it was in 2000, according to the Redfin analysis. Out of all homes sold in March, 10% were flips, Redfin said, and 91% of the company’s deals involved a bidding war.

When the company was the listing agent in Los Angeles, agents representing buyers have called offering to double the company’s commission to ensure their buyer won, Kelman said. And increasingly deals are being financed with smaller down-payments, meaning buyers are able to secure increasingly aggressive loans.

Some investors are beginning to bow out of the market. Redfin ranked 15 U.S. markets from most bubbly to least, using a price-to-income ratio. The company found that Los Angeles was second only to Washington. The least bubbly in the country were Atlanta and Chicago. The national housing market does not appear to be in bubble territory, Redfin concluded.

Source: http://www.latimes.com/business/money/la-fi-mo-bubble-markets-20130412,0,1113017.story?track=rss


Friday, April 12, 2013

LAX Will Probably Get a People Mover No Matter What

My website: www.sandralew.com

Good news! Finally a ride to the airport. Metro hopes to have the connection completed by 2020. Entire plan is scheduled to be carried out by 2025.

LAX Will Probably Get a People Mover No Matter What

Thursday, April 4, 2013, by Neal Broverman


The two agencies that need to work together to make a rail connection to LAX happen are playing nice--Metro, which is building the Crenshaw Line light rail and its LAX-adjacent station, is collaborating with Los Angeles World Airports, the airport's owner, on concepts to shuttle travelers and employees to terminals. While Metro decides whether to bring the light rail directly to the terminals or let people connect from the Crenshaw/Green Line's Century/Aviation station via an elevated people mover, LAWA's project manager says a people mover will happen either way, the Architect's Newspaper reports (even if light rail went to the middle of the airport, a people mover would still be necessary since LAX is so big).

Practicality suggests a people mover starting from Century/Aviation, running along 98th Street with stops at a consolidated rental car facility and an intermodal transportation facility--getting light rail directly to LAX would require that many Green and Crenshaw Line trains be routed directly to the airport, which would lower the frequency of trains to Redondo Beach, Norwalk, and the Expo Line. But until Metro releases its alternatives analysis report this summer, Roderick Diaz, the agency's project manager on the connector, says "We will continue to evaluate all alternatives and combinations of alternatives to determine the best course of investment for Metro. There's some good cooperation going on [with LAWA]."

Source: http://la.curbed.com/archives/2013/04/lax_will_probably_get_a_people_mover_no_matter_what.php
Source: http://archpaper.com/news/articles.asp?id=6579


Monday, April 8, 2013

Buyers of Foreclosures Need to Act Fast

My website: www.sandralew.com

Snagging a foreclosure property can be very competitive! You need to be prepared if you are serious.

Buyers of Foreclosures Need to Act Fast

Daily Real Estate News | Monday, April 08, 2013
Foreclosures are being listed at far less than what they likely eventually will sell for -- a marketing strategy that generates high interest and multiple bids, some say. As such, buyers of foreclosures need to be prepared to move quickly and come up with a lot more money.

For example, Liz Sidorowicz, a real estate professional with RE/MAX Signature, says she helped her client submit an offer for a foreclosure in Mount Prospect, Ill., for $421,000. The home was listed for $350,000, but her client still lost out to a higher bid.

"I managed to win one out of five last week, but we overbid significantly," Sidorowicz told The Chicago Tribune. "We got the unit and then it didn't appraise. So we have to come up with more money down to make the deal fly."

Some home buyers who bid on foreclosures have to learn the hard way just how competitive snagging a foreclosure bargain can be.

"The consumer gets burned on a house they really like once or twice," Michael Goodwin, an agent at Exit Real Estate Partners, told The Chicago Tribune. "After that happens, they get war-hardened. The next time they are ready to pounce. Not very often does it wind up being the first house. It takes them getting slapped in the face."

Source: http://realtormag.realtor.org/daily-news/2013/04/08/buyers-foreclosures-need-act-fast

Friday, April 5, 2013

Is California's Wild Housing Market a Sign of a Bubble?

My website: www.sandralew.com

Housing bubble or recovery? The past eight months have seen ever increasing housing prices. Top cities saw more than 20% jump year-over-year with bidding wars galore once again. This time maybe a recovery as even with gains California home prices are historically still 34.8% lower than the peak of the housing boom. Also, for coastal cities its also a matter of demand and lack of supply. ( See my previous article on that subject)

Is California's Wild Housing Market a Sign of a Bubble?

Posted Mar 28th 2013 8:00AM
By Graham Wood
Housing bubble: California may be the site of a new one.
California is the comeback kid of the housing recovery. Though home prices are making annual gains not seen since 2006, The Golden State sticks out as one where they are on a startlingly dramatic swing upward. California prices have posted double-digit hikes on a year-over-year basis for eight consecutive months. In other words, they're rising fast -- very fast.

And now California is sweeping the top cities where home list prices are rising the fastest. Six of the top seven cities -- which all saw list prices jump more than 20 percent year-over-year in February -- are in California, according to Realtor.com. That's great, but perhaps a little scary.

As some experts have been warning recently, housing conditions like California's could be an early sign that we're headed into another housing bubble. Buyers all over the state are getting into bidding wars, home prices are on a steep incline that some say is unsustainable, and open houses are once again attracting a frenzy of house hunters. This is what we saw in 2005 and 2006. So should California, despite all its encouraging news, be making us worried? Not necessarily.
"It's important to put these increases [in home prices] into perspective," said Errol Samuelson, president of Realtor.com. "Despite these gains, home prices nationally in January were still 21.4 percent lower than they were at the peak of the housing boom in June 2006. In California, the losses were much worse. Homeowners lost more than half the value of their homes when prices fell. Today, California prices are still 34.8 percent below the peak level. California prices haven't even recovered half of what was lost."

There's another reason today's sharp increase in prices differs from the days of the housing bubble: There are real fundamentals behind them. It's not pure speculation. Jed Kolko, Trulia's chief economist, noted that solid job growth in California's coastal areas are putting more buyers in the market, allowing sellers to raise prices because of demand. At the same time, housing inventory is lower than it has been in a decade, another element that typically drives prices higher. (But that should ease as more homeowners become confident about trying their hand at selling.) Plus, Samuelson added, government regulations are preventing another housing boom based on unqualified buyers being able to snag mortgages that they couldn't afford in the first place.

So for now, what's happening is just a strong recovery, not a bubble. Still, it is rather surprising how fast prices are bouncing back in California. Click through the gallery below to see the seven cities where list prices are rising the fastest.
7 Cities with fastest rising list prices:
                                     Median list price          Year- over- year increase
Sacramento                   $ 279,900                            40.30%
Fresno                           $ 188,900                             21.87%
Santa Barbara                $689,950                             38.01%
Oakland                         $419,000                             30.93%
San Jose                         $607,000                             29.45%
San Francisco                 $769,000                            25.71%
Phoenix                           $218,000                            24.64%


Thursday, April 4, 2013

The home bidding wars are back!

My website: www.sandralew.com

Demand for homes is sizzling hot in many of the nation's major housing markets. California markets especially in Los Angeles, San Francisco and Sacramento is intense with multiple bids being offered above the asking price! Buyers are eager to purchase before housing prices go even higher and mortgage rates rise.

The home bidding wars are back!

@CNNMoney April 4, 2013: 10:35 AM ET

The competition has been most intense in California, where 9 out of 10 homes sold in San Francisco, Sacramento and cities in Southern California have been drawing competing bids.


The bidding wars are back. Seemingly overnight, many of the nation's major housing markets have gone from stagnant to sizzling, with for-sale listings drawing offers from a large number of house hunters.

In March, 75% of agents with broker Redfin said their clients' offers were countered by rival bids, up from 56% who said so in late 2011.

The competition has been most intense in California, where 9 out of 10 homes sold in San Francisco, Sacramento and cities in Southern California drew competing bids during the month. And at least two-third of listings in Boston, Washington D.C., Seattle and New York generated bidding wars.

"The only question is not whether a new listing will get multiple bids but how many it will get," said Kris Vogt, who manages 14 Coldwell Banker offices in the Sacramento area. One home in an Elk Grove, Calif., subdivision recently received 62 separate bids. The final sale price was for more than $150,000, well above its $129,000 asking price.

In Cambridge, Mass., two condos that could be combined into one large home hit the market two weeks ago for $800,000 each, according to Pat Villani, president of Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage in New England.

"The brokers stopped taking names after the number of bidders reached 250," she said. The winning bidder offered $2 million for both units.

Homebuyers eager to purchase before home prices and mortgage rates rise are finding few homes for sale as sellers hold out for better deals, said Glenn Kelman, Redfin's CEO.

Many homeowners are still underwater, owing more on their mortgages than their homes are worth, and they want to wait until selling becomes profitable again. By doing so, they can avoid short sales, which carry big hits on credit scores, 85 to 160 points, according to FICO.

"Many people have been holding on for a profit and they're just now getting their heads above water," said Kelman.

Those who want to sell and buy a new home are encountering a market where it's difficult to find a new place of their own, said Vogt.

Over the past few months, Jackie and Cliff Kaufman have bid on four different homes in St. Petersburg, Fla., including one short sale and a foreclosure.

The pair, who have two adult children and run an online jewelry business, said they bid $5,000 more than the $495,000 asking price on the first home they had their eye on and never heard back from the seller's agent. They were later told the house sold for nearly $550,000.

Next, they bid on a short sale listed for $600,000. This time, they came in $10,000 above the asking price and again, they were beaten out. The house was only on the market for two days.
The third attempt to make an offer on a bank-owned property was also met with silence.
"It was very frustrating," said Jackie Kaufman. "We felt we were always on the outside of the loop and that people who won the homes had the inside track."

By the fourth try, the couple successfully bid through a listing agent, who they believe pushed their bid harder in order to earn a double commission since she was representing both the buyer and seller in the deal. And they managed to get the place for $30,000 less than the asking price.

They were lucky. Inventories of homes for sale continue to shrink. In February, the National Association of Realtors reported a 19.2% decline in inventory year-over-year. While the number of homes for sale should rise with the onset of the spring selling season, housing inventory is expected to remain low, pushing prices higher.

And new home construction, especially in markets hit hard by the housing bust, is still moving forward at a snail's pace, since the cost to build the homes is often more than what the property ends up selling for, said Jeff Culbertson, an executive vice president for Coldwell Banker in Southern California.

Even though home prices are on the rise, the balance between buyers and sellers has been thrown off balance, said Kelman.

"With buyers out in force and sellers cautious, the market is in an awkward 'tweener' phase," he said.

 Source: http://money.cnn.com/2013/04/04/real_estate/bidding-wars/index.html

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Rescued Fannie Mae posts record profit as housing market rebounds

My website: www.sandralew.com

Good news. Housing recovery looks like it is in full force!

Rescued Fannie Mae posts record profit as housing market rebounds

Fannie Mae headquarters 

       April 2, 2013, 7:31 a.m

WASHINGTON -- Bailed-out Fannie Mae on Tuesday reported a record $17.2 billion profit for 2012, driven by the housing-market recovery and a big settlement with Bank of America related to soured mortgages during the subprime boom.

The housing finance giant, now owned by taxpayers after it was rescued in 2008 along with sibling firm Freddie Mac, posted a loss of $16.9 billion in 2011.

“Our financial results improved significantly in 2012 and we expect our earnings to remain strong over the next few years,” said Fannie Mae Chief Executive Timothy J. Mayopoulos.

The return to profitability for Fannie Mae last year allowed it to stop taking bailout money from the federal government for the first time since its rescue. The company had received about $116 billion in taxpayer money through mid-December.

Freddie Mac had received about $71 billion in the same time period. In February, it also reported a return to profitability in 2012, with $11 billion in net income compared with a loss of $5.3 billion the previous year.

Both companies have been able to start paying down the amount they owe taxpayers. Freddie Mac paid $7.2 billion in dividends to the Treasury in 2012, reducing the overall cost of its bailout to $47.5 billion.

Fannie Mae said Tuesday it paid $11.6 billion in dividends back to the Treasury last year, reducing the cost of its bailout to $80.4 billion.

But the rescue was structured in a way that the companies cannot repay all the bailout money. Regulators and lawmakers are working on plans to shut them down and replace their oversized role in the housing market.

The improving performance of mortgages it backs or owns, as well as the recovery in the housing market, helped turn around Fannie Mae's finances, said Chief Financial Officer Susan McFarland.
Fannie Mae reported a $7.6 billion profit over the final three months of 2012, a record quarterly profit.

The company's bottom line also was helped by settlements with Bank of America related to subprime mortgages issued by Countrywide Financial Corp., which BofA acquired in 2008. Fannie Mae said it received $1.3 billion in pre-tax income in 2012 from Bank of America, which agreed to repurchase thousands of bad loans sold to Fannie Mae.
The agreements, announced in January, call for Bank of America to pay $10.4 billion to Fannie Mae, with some of that money coming this year.

Source: http://www.latimes.com/business/money/la-fi-mo-fannie-mae-profit-record-bailout-housing-20130402,0,1993339.story?track=rss