Monday, April 29, 2013

NAR: Pending sales rise modestly as inventory tightens


WASHINGTON – April 29, 2013 – Pending home sales increased in March and remain above year-ago levels, but contract activity in recent months shows only modest movement, according to the National Association of Realtors® (NAR).

NAR’s Pending Home Sales Index, a forward-looking indicator based on contract signings, rose 1.5 percent to 105.7 in March from a downwardly revised 104.1 in February, and is 7 percent above March 2012 when it was 98.8.

Pending sales have been above year-ago levels for the past 23 months; the data reflect contracts but not closings.

“Contract activity has been in a narrow range in recent months, not from a pause in demand but because of limited supply,” says Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist. “Little movement is expected in near-term sales closings, but they should edge up modestly as the year progresses.  Job additions and rising household wealth will continue to support housing demand.”

The pending index in the Northeast was unchanged at 82.8 in March and is 6.3 percent higher than March 2012. In the Midwest, the index increased 0.3 percent to 103.8 in March and is 13.7 percent above a year ago.

Pending home sales in the South rose 2.7 percent to an index of 120 in March and are 10.4 percent higher than March 2012. In the West, the index increased 1.5 percent in March to 102.9 but is 4.3 percent below a year ago.

NAR predicts that total existing-home sales in 2013 will increase 6.5 to 7 percent over 2012 to nearly 5 million sales this year, while the national median existing-home price is forecast to rise about 7.5 percent.

While Wronged Homeowners Got $300 Apiece in Foreclosure Settlement, Consultants Who Helped Protect Banks Got $2 Billion


The obscene greed-and-arrogance stories emanating from Wall Street are piling up so fast, it's getting hard to keep up. This one is from last week, but I missed it – it's about the foreclosure/robo-signing settlement that was concluded earlier this year.

The upshot of this story is that in advance of that notorious settlement, the government ordered banks to hire "independent" consultants to examine their loan files to see just exactly how corrupt they were.

Now it comes out that not only were these consultants not so independent, not only did they very likely skew the numbers seriously in favor of the banks, and not only were these few consultants paid over $2 billion (over 20 percent of the entire settlement amount) while the average homeowner only received $300 in the deal – in addition to all of that, it appears that federal regulators will not turn over the evidence of impropriety they discovered during these reviews to homeowners who may want to sue the banks.

In other words, the government not only ordered the banks to hire consultants who may have gamed the foreclosure settlement in favor of the banks, but the regulators themselves are hiding the information from the public in order to shield the banks from further lawsuits.

Secrets and Lies of the Bailout

To recap: in the foreclosure deal, 13 banks agreed to pay a total of $9.3 billion to settle their liability in a number of areas, including robo-signing, which is just a euphemism for mass-perjury – robo-signing is the practice of having low-level bank employees sign documents attesting to full knowledge of case files in court foreclosure actions, when in fact they were signing hundreds of files per day, often having no idea whether the paperwork was correct or not.

It was done across the industry and turned housing cases across America into nightmares of jumbled and/or forged paperwork, in which even people who did not deserve to be thrown out of their homes were uprooted thanks to systematic errors by faceless bureaucrats who cut legal corners purely to save money.

All the major banks were guilty on a mass scale, but they worked with federal regulators like the Fed and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency to secure this wide-ranging, industry-saving settlement, which not only covered the robosigning epidemic but a host of other bad or illegal practices, like the wrongful denial of modifications and the improper levying of (often hidden) fees.

Minus this crucial settlement, banks would have faced enormous uncertainty about their legal liability going forward, and getting a deal that not only gave these companies some legal closure but allowed them to pay pennies on the dollar for their illegal activity was a massive coup for the whole finance sector.

Only $3.6 billion was earmarked for cash payments to the nearly 4 million homeowners covered in the settlement. Most of the remainder of the deal was in other forms of non-cash relief, i.e. modifications or principal reductions.

Now, at the time of the deal, press releases by the Fed and the OCC stated that part of the reason they'd fixed on that particular settlement amount was that regulators had uncovered that banks had made errors or committed illegal acts in about 6.5 percent of the mortgage files reviewed. In other words, the error rate was an important component of this calculation.

But it turned out that this error rate had been calculated with the help of several consultant firms regulators had ordered the banks to hire. Regulators had mandated the hiring of these "independent" consultants back in 2011, and the list of companies included Promontory Financial Group, PricewaterhouseCoopers, Ernst & Young, and Deloitte & Touche. These private firms were hired to review the banks' loan files in search of errors, and collectively were paid by the banks over $2 billion, a staggering sum which ultimately worked out to over $20,000 per file.

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Monday, April 22, 2013

Florida’s housing market on upswing in March

ScottSorensonRealEstate.ComORLANDO, Fla. – April 22, 2013 – In March, Florida’s housing market reported increased closed sales, more pending sales, higher median prices and a reduced inventory of homes for sale, according to the latest housing data released by Florida Realtors®.

 “Florida’s housing market continues to demonstrate its recovery – March marks the 15th consecutive month that the statewide median sales prices for both single-family homes and for townhouse-condo properties rose year-over-year, according to Florida Realtors’ data,” said 2013 Florida Realtors President Dean Asher, broker-owner with Don Asher & Associates Inc. in Orlando. “The median price is up more than 15 percent for both single-family homes and for townhouse-condos.

“Meanwhile, buyer demand is increasing, but supply continues to be constrained in many areas. In March, the median days on market (the midpoint of the number of days it took for a property to sell that month) was 57 days for single-family homes and 61 days for townhouses and condos. That means 50 percent of homes on the market in Florida sell in two months or less.”

Statewide closed sales of existing single-family homes totaled 19,631 in March, up 9 percent compared to the year-ago figure, according to data from Florida Realtors Industry Data and Analysis department in partnership with local Realtor boards/associations. Closed sales typically occur 30 to 90 days after sales contracts are written.

Meanwhile, pending sales – contracts that are signed but not yet completed or closed – for existing single-family homes last month rose 23.4 percent over the previous March. The statewide median sales price for single-family existing homes last month was $160,000, up 15.2 percent from the previous year.

According to the National Association of Realtors® (NAR), the national median sales price for existing single-family homes in February 2013 was $173,800, up 11.3 percent from the previous year. In California, the statewide median sales price for single-family existing homes in February was $333,880; in Massachusetts, it was $278,000; in Maryland, it was $224,048; and in New York, it was $220,000.

The median is the midpoint; half the homes sold for more, half for less. Housing industry analysts note that sales of foreclosures and other distressed properties downwardly distort the median price because they generally sell at a discount relative to traditional homes.

Looking at Florida’s year-to-year comparison for sales of townhouse-condos, a total of 9,957 units sold statewide last month, up 1.1 percent compared to March 2012. Meanwhile, pending sales for townhouse-condos last month increased 10.6 percent compared to the year-ago figure. The statewide median for townhouse-condo properties was $120,000, up 15.9 percent over the previous year. NAR reported that the national median existing condo price in February 2013 was $172,500.

The inventory for single-family homes stood at a 5.3-months’ supply in March; inventory for townhouse-condos was at a 5.8-months’ supply, according to Florida Realtors.

“We continue to be encouraged by the depth and breadth of the housing recovery,” said Florida Realtors Chief Economist Dr. John Tuccillo. “State numbers are up in virtually all important categories and down where they should be down. Even with the difficulty of access to financing for households, we still see the growth in the market continuing for at least the next 18 months.

“Inventory remains an issue, but this is fast becoming a sellers’ market and as sellers realize this, we expect inventories to rise as we approach the last quarter of 2103. Over the long term, we need to correct the imbalance between investors and owner-occupier households that has developed because of financing issues if the market is to prosper for a long time.”

According to Freddie Mac, the interest rate for a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged 3.57 percent in March 2013, down from the 3.95 percent average during the same month a year earlier.

To see the full statewide housing activity report, go to Florida Realtors website and click on the Research page; then look under Latest Housing Data, Statewide Residential Activity and get the March reports. Or go to Florida Realtors Media Center and download the March 2013 data report PDFs under Market Data.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Naples Median home price increased 17% last year NAPLES — The median home price in the Naples area increased 17 percent from March 2012 to last month, the Naples Area Board of Realtors announced Friday..

“It has been four years since we’ve seen the median closed price at this level,” said Mike Hughes, vice president and general manager of Downing-Frye Realty, in a statement. “So we continue to remain positive about the real estate market and its support of the local economy.”.

The median price increased from $184,000 in March 2012 to $215,000 for the 12-month period ending last month, according to a prepared statement from NABOR..

The median is the price at which half the homes sell for more and half for less..

Overall, the total number of closed sales dropped in March compared to a year ago. However, overall pending sales increased 4 percent from 10,204 units to 10,633 units for the 12-month period ending in March 2013. Overall pending sales rose in all price categories in March compared to the 12-month period ending in March 2012, except in the under $300,000 category..

The Realtors’ report said the average number of days on the market decreased by 8 percent, from 171 days on the market in March 2012 to 157 days on the market last month. Overall inventory dropped by 14 percent, from 7,599 in March 2012 to 6,565 last month, according to the NABOR statement..

NABOR also released its first quarter 2013 report on Friday..

The quarterly report said the overall median closed price increased 24 percent, from $190,000 in the first quarter of 2012 to $235,000 in the first quarter of 2013. In the $300,000 and under category, the median closed price increased 18 percent, from $135,000 in the first quarter of 2012 to $159,000 in the first quarter of 2013. .

Overall closed sales decreased 2 percent, from 2,220 residences in the first quarter of 2012 to 2,167 in the first quarter of 2013. Overall closed sales increased 13 percent in the $300,000 to $500,000 category, from 309 residences to 350, and increased 15 percent in the $1 million to $2 million category, from 99 residences in the first quarter of 2012 to 114 in the first quarter of 2013, according to the report..

The Realtors’ report said the average number of days on the market decreased 4 percent overall, from 169 days in the first quarter of 2012 to 162 days in the first quarter of 2013..

The monthly and quarterly reports track Realtor sales made through the Sunshine Multiple Listing Service (MLS) in Collier County, excluding Marco Island..

View the March 2013 Market Statistics View the First Quarter 2013 Market Statistics.