31 Aralık 2007 Pazartesi

Transforming the Doorway into the nation's only FREE Home Staging Information Resource Site

Ask any Realtor and they’ll tell you… first impressions matter. But besides home sales there are other times where first impressions count. So to demonstrate the importance and result of home staging, I thought I would do some staging in one of those “other places.” Considering that the home page of a website is like its “front door”… those of us at Real Estaging thought we would apply the same creative magic we use to stage a home and do a little cyber staging.

For this staging our “client” is going to be Active Rain, the hugely popular on-line real estate network. Why them? Well, from the time I joined Active Rain, something has bugged me about it. Let’s face it Active Rain's front door is Boring.

Yes, Yes I know what they have right now is fully "functional" door, and Yes, I know that search engines have no problem finding it. But let's face it... its just plain old BORING. It has NO PIZZAZ, NO WOW! NO… DANG, I gotta go in and check this site out. You might say it suffers from the lack of cyber curb appeal.

So off to work we went… to see the result of our work just click here and you will see what Michelle Tsioles, an AMAZINGLY creative designer (interior and graphic) on staff here at Real Estaging, created. This gateway site is fully functional and is up and running and ready to be linked to. So for my peers in the Home Staging Industry, who have been working together as a group to share our story, you now have a more attractive and less confusing way to gain access to all the great free information being shared about home staging in Active Rain’s Stage It Forward group.

Now, don't get me wrong, this is NOT going to replace the MAIN door into Active Rain. However, the Chief Community Builder of Active Rain, Caleb Mardini was quite pleased with the result saying "I have to say YOU'VE GOT IT! Craig this is great. This really helps. Thank you for putting this together." Since that note, the developers of Active Rain have revealed some images of a newly “staged” home page that they have planned for the future... which does look MUCH better. But with Active Rain getting so big… it still be nice for home stagers and other’s interested in home staging to have a simple access directly to all the great information and dialogue taking place on the internets largest and most comprehensive FREE informational resource… Stage It Forward.

Home Staging Gets a Red Eye in Chicago

"You can rent movies. You can rent an apartment. If you live or work in a street-parking desert, you can even rent a space for your ride. So why not add luxury to that list?" This is what Kyra Kyles wrote the introduction to her cover story in yesterday's Red Eye Newspaper. (For those of you that don't know what a "Red Eye" is... well it is the hip urban free daily newspaper published by the Tribune Corporation here in Chicago.)

Yesterday's article, entitled "Rent An Image" looked at some of the interesting luxury items that are available to rent in Chicago-land. Well, I have to admit I never considered the props we have available as ubber LUXURY items, like the Austin Martin automobiles and the Prada handbags the article spoke of. But Kyra who interviewed Real Estaging for a side bar story entitled "Go ahead and rent that furniture" , pointed out the fact that props can be rented to help you sell your home for more money (Click on image at left to read it). Besides making homes look more appealing, staging has helped sellers make more money when they RAISED the asking price. as well as help to sell homes faster... and considering "time is money" staging a home should be a considered in this current market.

Most home seller's think that staging props are rented for use ONLY in and for vacant property sales. Seller's don't know that some home stager's can also rent just the right piece or pieces to finish off the look and appeal of their property as they live there while it on the market. The main advantage of renting is the fact that the seller need not spend the time to shop for decorative items or spend full retail prices to buy those items. The other VERY important advantage of using a stager's props is the fact that a stager knows to use pieces that are UNDERSTATED. When selling your home, your house needs to be the star, not the stuff in it. Experienced stagers know how to create a "put together look" with out our stuff ending up being a beautiful distraction.

So thanks Red Eye... your unique story angle helps to make another fine point about home staging.


PS: If you would like to see an entire PDF sample of Chicago's Red Eye Newspaper... CLICK HERE.

27 Aralık 2007 Perşembe

Lenders Agree to Freeze Rates on Some Loans 2

But there was no sign on Wednesday that Mr. Bush’s plan would contain new commitments by lenders to help people refinance. Absent any new approaches, borrowers would still be largely on their own to find better deals.

Republican presidential candidates have seemed reluctant to propose government rescue plans, seeing them as a bailout. But they are feeling the heat nonetheless, and some are joining Mr. Paulson’s effort to help people in danger of losing their homes.

“You don’t want to reward speculators,” said Senator John McCain of Arizona, who is running for the Republican nomination. “You’d like to take each individual case on its own, but there’s no time to do that. What’s important is to stop the bleeding.”

John Edwards, the Democratic presidential candidate and former senator from North Carolina, on Wednesday proposed a seven-year freeze in subprime interest rates, as well as a new fund to help distressed borrowers. Mr. Edwards also called for a change in bankruptcy laws that would give homeowners far more bargaining power in negotiating new terms.

Senator Barack Obama of Illinois jumped ahead of many of his Democratic presidential rivals in September with detailed recommendations that included a government rescue fund, changes in bankruptcy law and a new tax credit on mortgage interest for people who do not itemize their taxes and cannot currently deduct their interest payments.

Adding to the political pressure, many of the states that are hardest hit by mortgage defaults and falling home prices are important election swing states. They include Florida, Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania.

The first two voting states, Iowa and New Hampshire, have not been particularly hard hit by the housing crisis, but two of the states with early nominating contests — Florida and Nevada — have among the worst problems in the country.

“Even though foreign policy has been dominating the election for the past year, economics will pay a bigger role next year,” said Howard Glaser, a mortgage industry consultant who worked in the Clinton administration and is an adviser to Mrs. Clinton’s campaign. “Not only will the specific mortgage and housing problems intensify, the ripple effects on the economy will also magnify.”

Lenders Agree to Freeze Rates on Some Loans

WASHINGTON, Dec. 5 — The Bush administration reached an agreement with the mortgage industry on Wednesday on a plan to freeze interest rates for up to five years for a portion of the two million homeowners who bought houses in the last few years with subprime loans.

The plan, hammered out after weeks of talks among Treasury Department officials, mortgage lenders and Wall Street firms, would allow distressed borrowers who are current on their payments to keep their low introductory rates and escape an increase of 30 percent or more in their monthly payments when the rates expire.

Democratic lawmakers and presidential contenders quickly criticized the plan as being too timid and promoted more ambitious proposals of their own.

The agreement, to be formally announced Thursday by President Bush, is expected to contain numerous limitations that would exclude many — if not most — subprime borrowers, according to industry executives who have seen it. It would exclude those who are delinquent on their payments — about 22 percent of all subprime borrowers, according to First American LoanPerformance, an industry research firm.

The plan is also expected to exclude any borrower whose introductory rate expires before Jan. 1. About $57 billion in subprime loans are scheduled to be reset at higher rates in the final three months of this year, according to estimates by First American LoanPerformance.

Mortgage companies could also exclude borrowers who they conclude are making enough money to afford higher monthly payments. Barclays Capital — extrapolating from a similar program recently unveiled in California — estimates that only about 12 percent of all subprime borrowers, or 240,000 homeowners, would get relief.

“From what I’ve heard, I don’t see anything that leads me to believe we will see an increase in loan modifications,” said Eric Halperin, Washington director of the Center for Responsible Lending, a nonprofit group that has studied the subprime problem.

The plan is being announced as fallout from the mortgage crisis is seeping into the political sphere. Until recently, few candidates talked about subprime loans, and few bankers and traders on Wall Street paid much attention to mortgage-crisis declarations on the campaign trail. But with the meltdown growing worse, housing prices still plunging and many economists worrying about a recession, President Bush and his Democratic opponents are now racing to come up with answers.

Democratic presidential candidates complained that the White House plan was overly narrow.

“It seems that President Bush is going to give struggling homeowners far less than they need,” Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York said in a statement on Monday. “With news accounts using terms like ‘whittled down’ and ‘limited’ to describe the scope of the Bush plan, it appears that the president is pushing a freeze for a very narrow group of borrowers.”

Mrs. Clinton visited the Nasdaq stock market in New York on Wednesday and assailed Wall Street firms for the mortgage mess. She called for a 90-day moratorium on subprime foreclosures and a rate freeze that would apply to all borrowers current on payments and some who have fallen behind.

Despite the criticism, the Bush plan is a significant change in an initial reluctance to impose solutions. As recently as a month ago, Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson Jr. argued that lenders should try to work out new terms on a case-by-case basis.

But Mr. Paulson and federal banking regulators became increasingly impatient with the industry’s failure to produce a systematic, rapid approach to evaluating borrowers.

Sheila C. Bair, chairman of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, proposed a comparatively radical plan to permanently freeze rates on all subprime loans. Mr. Paulson rejected that idea, but began to push for a standardized approach that would temporarily freeze rates for many borrowers facing upward adjustments on their monthly payments.

Administration officials emphasized that the rate freeze was only one part of a broader plan. Mr. Bush will also ask Congress to temporarily expand the authority of states and localities to issue tax-exempt mortgage-revenue bonds to help people refinance their mortgages.

Treasury officials are also pushing the industry to come up with a streamlined way to help subprime borrowers refinance with a more conventional, lower-rate mortgage.

Subprime loans typically come with high interest rates, and were originally intended for people with poor credit histories. But some analysts say that more than a third of all subprime borrowers could have qualified for cheaper conventional loans at the outset.

In Mortgage Plan, Lenders Set Terms 2

President Bush and other top administration officials emphasized that the plan could help as many as 1.2 million subprime borrowers — about two-thirds of all people with subprime loans.

But that estimate covers hundreds of thousands of borrowers who are believed to qualify without any extra help for cheaper conventional mortgages, like those insured by the Federal Housing Administration.

Nonprofit housing groups that try to help troubled homeowners renegotiate mortgages were underwhelmed by Mr. Bush’s plan.

The Greenlining Institute, a housing advocacy group in California that began raising alarms about subprime loans nearly four years ago, estimated that only 12 percent of all subprime borrowers and only 5 percent of minority homeowners would benefit from the rate freeze. The Center for Responsible Lending, a nonprofit group that supports homeownership, said the freeze would help only about 145,000 people.

“This grossly inadequate plan is likely to harm the president’s desire to close the minority homeownership gap and create an ownership society,” said Robert Gnaizda, general counsel for the Greenlining Institute.

Some Wall Street analysts were equally unenthusiastic. “This plan only really amounts to a set of recommendations for lenders that is sure to meet some resistance from investors” in the mortgage-backed securities, wrote Paul Ashworth, an economist at Capital Economics.

Indeed, there were rumblings of rebellion among some institutional investors. “Why would anybody in his right financial mind agree to a five-year price freeze, especially when we’re staring in the face of possible inflation?” asked Roger W. Kirby, managing partner at Kirby McInerney, which has represented investors in class-action lawsuits over securities. “Mr. Paulson has overestimated the generosity of people on Wall Street.”

In Mortgage Plan, Lenders Set Terms

WASHINGTON, Dec. 6 — At least one thing is clear about President Bush’s plan to help people trapped by the mortgage meltdown: it is an industry-led plan, not a government bailout.

Although Mr. Bush unveiled the plan at the White House on Thursday, its terms were set by the mortgage industry and Wall Street firms. The effort is voluntary and it leaves plenty of wiggle room for lenders. Moreover, it would affect only a small number of subprime borrowers.

The plan was the target of criticism from consumer advocates who said its scope was too narrow, and from investment firms, who said it went too far. Others warned that the plan, by letting some stretched homeowners off the hook, could encourage more reckless borrowing in the future.

“The approach announced today is not a silver bullet,” said Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson Jr., who hammered out the agreement. “We face a difficult problem for which there is no perfect solution.”

The heart of Mr. Bush’s plan is a cautious attempt to help troubled homeowners by persuading financiers to freeze mortgages at low introductory rates for five years, but without actually forcing the hands of lenders and investors who hold the mortgages.

One of the financial industry’s lead negotiators estimated that at most 20 percent of subprime borrowers whose payments will increase sharply over the next 18 months — 360,000 out of 1.8 million people — would qualify for rapid consideration of a special five-year freeze on interest rates.

The number of people who actually obtain help would be smaller, because each borrower would face tests aimed at weeding out those considered too hopelessly in debt and those who make too much money to justify relief.

In one curious twist, the plan could eliminate many who have good credit scores or managed to improve their credit scores, because the good ratings would be a sign they do not need help.

“Talk about moral hazard,” remarked Representative Barney Frank, Democrat of Massachusetts and chairman of the House Financial Services Committee. “We’ve all told people, don’t go any more deeply into debt. Now we’re saying that people who go more deeply into debt will have an advantage over people who don’t go more deeply into debt.”

The administration’s theory is that there is a “sweet spot” in the market where it makes more financial sense for lenders to offer some relief than it does to foreclose on homeowners.

Most analysts agree there is a sweet spot of some sort. Investors typically lose 40 percent or 50 percent on homes that go into foreclosure, and the cost of shielding borrowers from a big jump in rates can be much less.

“I think there is a sweet spot,” said Bert Ely, a banking consultant in Alexandria, Va. “But I worry that the sweet spot is much smaller than people think it is. And as housing prices continue to decline and debts pile up, I fear the sweet spot will shrink.”

Administration officials estimate about 500,000 subprime borrowers are in danger of losing homes in the next 18 months as their low teaser rates expire and their monthly payments jump by 30 percent or more. Outside analysts warn the number of foreclosures could be much higher.

The Mortgage Bankers Association reported that the number of new foreclosure proceedings hit a record in the third quarter and that the delinquency rate on mortgages climbed to the highest level since 1986. The biggest problem, according to the survey, was in subprime loans, which are typically made at higher interest rates to people with shaky credit records or weak incomes.

But Mr. Paulson and the president’s other top economic advisers have remained staunchly opposed to anything that resembled a government-financed bailout for people who took out foolish mortgages or investors who bought the mortgages.

As a result, administration officials have walked a narrow line. They have held meetings bringing together mortgage-servicing companies and groups representing investors holding mortgages.

Instead of pressuring the industry to come up with specific relief, Mr. Paulson pushed the players to come up with a streamlined approach for deciding when to modify loan terms.

But Tom Deutsch, deputy director of the American Securitization Forum, which represented investment funds in the negotiations, made it clear that any rate freeze would be strictly voluntary and based on what investors decided was in their self-interest.

“This is not a government bailout program,” Mr. Deutsch said. “This is an industry-led framework for providing the best market standards and practices. There is no mandate here.”

Some Needing Mortgage Aid Won’t Get It

When Jirina Koy heard that President Bush was announcing a freeze yesterday on mortgage interest rates, the Stockton, Calif., homeowner felt a flicker of hope.

It was quickly extinguished. After calling a nonprofit housing assistance center, Ms. Koy learned that her mortgage, for all the trouble it was causing her, was not likely to be one of those qualifying for relief.

Mortgage experts say there will be many borrowers like Ms. Koy. The exact guidelines of the rescue plan are still fuzzy, but it is clear that many of those who need aid the most will not get it. The number of households facing foreclosure in the next two years is estimated to exceed two million.

“I’m glad someone’s getting help, but I wish it were me,” said Ms. Koy, 46, who works in the state unemployment office.

She has a so-called option loan, which gives her the choice of how much to pay every month. Heavy in debt, she usually chooses the minimum. The unpaid interest and principal is added to her mortgage balance, which means her loan keeps getting bigger.

Ms. Koy’s woes were compounded by an ill-advised refinancing two years ago.

“I got all these calls from brokers all the time — ‘You could pay off debt, pay off the car loan, make extra money every month, blah blah,’ ” she said. She took out $60,000.

“The only way that would have made sense is if I had cut up my credit cards and nothing else had come up,” Ms. Koy said. “But something else always comes up.”

Ms. Koy’s husband is disabled and has not worked for a decade. The couple’s credit card debt is back up to $25,000, in part because of their daughter’s medical bills. Their three-bedroom house is worth about $250,000, but they owe much more on it.

Kimberley Williams, who owns a small bungalow in Los Angeles, might have a happier fate than Ms. Koy. She bought her home in February 2006, as the boom was peaking.

“I felt that if I didn’t get into the market, I wouldn’t be able to afford a house in California,” she said.

In November 2006, Ms. Williams refinanced. Like Ms. Koy, she got money to pay bills, including paying off her car. But her monthly mortgage payment rose to $3,011. Next December, it will jump by several hundred dollars.

Ms. Williams, a registered nurse, does not regret refinancing, but is worried about possibly being forced to sell in a declining market — or worse.

“Even people with good jobs making good money are facing foreclosure,” said Ms. Williams, 43. She plans to apply for the freeze.

While acknowledging that only a small number of stressed borrowers would be helped, Lori Gay, president of Los Angeles Neighborhood Housing Services, a nonprofit group, called the freeze “a great beginning.”

Michael Shea, executive director of Acorn Housing, another counseling agency, took a different view. “We’re disappointed that a year into this crisis the responses are so lacking in the bold leadership,” he said. “We really need an F.D.R.-like approach, and not Calvin Coolidge.”

Real estate agents in high-foreclosure areas had different opinions about whether the freeze would have an effect on queasy markets.

Jason Bosch, president of Home Center Realty in California’s hard-hit Riverside County, was pessimistic.

“We were selling $300,000 homes to people who could only afford $175,000 homes,” he said. “Even if you freeze their payments, they still can’t handle it.”

In Sarasota, Fla., a real estate agent, Jim Willig, was hopeful that at least the freeze would put a brake on some of the inventory flooding the area.

“That’s a benefit,” said Mr. Willig, who owns seven rental houses, all of them worth less than he paid.

Tom Gutierrez, bought his house in 2004, too early to qualify for the freeze.

Mr. Gutierrez, a school bus driver who lives in West Covina, Calif., is negotiating a new loan. “Many home buyers didn’t do our homework,” he said. “Maybe some kind of education will help as well.”

Senate Will Consider More Restrictive Rules on Mortgages

Christopher J. Dodd, the chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, will introduce a bill today that would impose new regulations on mortgage brokers and investment banks and restrict certain aggressive lending practices, Congressional aides said yesterday.

While similar in some respects to a measure passed by the House last month, the Dodd bill would take a harder line against mortgage brokers and Wall Street firms. The measure is expected to face significant opposition from mortgage companies and banks.

The measure is not expected to make much headway until sometime next year, and it could change based on rules that the Federal Reserve, which has broad authority to regulate mortgage lending, is expected to issue in the coming weeks.

The proposal is a change in direction for Mr. Dodd, a Democrat from Connecticut who is running for president. Earlier in the year, he said that the Fed could address most of the pressing issues in mortgage lending and that federal legislation was not needed. Since then, default rates on mortgages made to people with poor credit have surged, and policy makers in Washington have focused more intently on the housing market.

Like the House measure, which is sponsored by Representative Barney Frank, Democrat of Massachusetts, Mr. Dodd’s bill requires lenders to make only those loans that benefit borrowers and that they can repay. But Mr. Dodd’s proposal would also require brokers to act in the interest of borrowers, and that Wall Street firms could be sued.

Investment banks that securitize mortgages could also be sued under Mr. Frank’s measure, but state authorities would be prohibited from pursuing certain claims against Wall Street.

In an interview last week, Mr. Frank said he planned to toughen his bill’s enforcement provisions as it relates to investment banks, but he added that the demand for home loans would dry up if investors in mortgage securities were subject to lawsuits brought by state officials.

Unlike the Frank bill, Mr. Dodd’s proposal would bar specific practices in subprime lending like prepayment penalties, which borrowers have to pay if they try to refinance or pay off their loans earlywithin a few years, and yield spread premiums, which are commissions lenders pay to brokers for gettingpersuading borrowers to take out a higher-cost loan than they could qualify for. But Mr. Dodd’s bill would not create a national registry of brokers and loan officers as the House measure would.

Mr. Frank’s measure passed by a wide margin in the House but has not advanced in the Senate, where procedural rules make it difficult to pass legislation that does not have bipartisan support — a political reality that could also hobble Mr. Dodd’s bill.


There are no economic reports to be released today that will have an impact on mortgage rates. In addition, the market will be closing at an earlier than normal 2pm.

When no economic reports are set to release, traders watch stocks for a sense of the market direction. Stocks are up currently led by Merrill Lynch who is receiving a large cash injection from, you guessed it, foreign investment. This time it is from Singapore. In addition, Merrill announced they will sell their commercial finance business to GE.

Bonds have not reacted much to the news with MBS's currently about 4/32nd's higher than Friday's close. Bonds certainly took a beating on Friday and are not getting any firm floor to stand on today either. With the holiday tomorrow and hardly any economic reports set to release later in the week, rates could go either way. The stock market and corporate financial news will have a bigger impact than normal due to the light economic news calendar combined with the normal volatility caused by decreased trading volume during the holiday season.

Floating is a risk tempered by the huge losses on Friday. In other words, bond prices have risen so dramatically in the last several trading sessions that technical forces suggest they may decrease slightly (moving rates lower) regardless of a continued move downward. If you are going to float, which is a moderate risk through Wednesday, keep a sharp eye on stocks and financial headlines. Anything that sends stocks higher will likely push mortgage rights higher as well. As always, the conservative play is to lock short term. Stay tuned for an analysis of Wednesdays market activities and the economic reports of the rest of the week. This will hopefully give a more solid idea of the short term market sentiment.

Long term, experts are divided, with about 40% predicting recession. If recession occurs at the same time as rising inflation (stagflation), normally bond friendly news will have less than normal impact on rates. As for now, the mood is "wait and see."

Another Slow News Day

Not much change from Monday...

Stocks are down currently as a result of Target's sales numbers and the Case-Shiller Price index showing the largest decrease in home prices in 6 years.

Bonds are trading fairly flat to slightly improved this morning with the FNMA 30 yr 6.0% coupon at 101.03 Bid price.

30 year fixed PAR NOTE rate : 5.75% -5.875%

Lock Comment:

Decreased trading volume over the holiday season opens the door for volatility. So changes that wouldn't normally have a big impact on markets can have a much bigger impact over the next week. Durable Goods, Jobless Claims, and Consumer Confidence will all be released tomorrow. If these are weak, we could get a nice rate improvement. But the opposite is just as true. Float with Caution. Keep an eye on stocks today. As for tomorrow, if you think the reports might be weaker than expected, keep floating. Even if bond prices push lower yet again tomorrow, technical factors would indicate that prices will "see-saw" back up, even if they continue to trend down.


Durable Goods Orders were down more than expected at +0.1% (expectations were +3.0%). This is bond-friendly news as is signals a potential slow down in the manufacturing sector. When the revised numbers from this report are released in roughly two weeks, this sentiment could change or be reinforced.

Jobless claims were also up just slightly higher than expected. 349k as opposed to 343k. This isn't enough in and of itself to have an impact on rates, but the tepid reading fails to mitigate the impact of other reports.

One report that is mitigating the positive impact on the bond market is the consumer confidence report which came in at a higher than expected 88.6 (expected at 86.5). Strong consumer confidence means strong spending, which means strong economy, which means investors put money in stocks rather than bonds, which means bond prices go down, which mean mortgage rates go up.

As a result of all this info, bond prices are up this morning, countering a reasonable amount of the losses after yesterday's weakly bid 2 year treasury auction. 5.5% FNMA 30 yr coupon currently bid at 98 and 30/32nds. Mortgage rates should be slightly better than yesterday afternoon, closer to those of yesterday morning.

30 YEAR FIXED PAR NOTE RATE: 5.75%-5.875%

Lock Comment: Weak bidding on the 2 year treasury auction yesterday led to some weakness in the entire bond market. There is another auction today at 1pm EST. It should be a relatively safe risk to float until then, but keep an eye on the economic news. If the 5 year auction in weakly bid, lock ASAP.

23 Aralık 2007 Pazar

FHA Legislation Will Help Homeowners, Economy, Says NAR

The FHA Modernization Act of 2007, passed today by the U.S. Senate, would help protect the interest of America’s current and future homeowners by giving borrowers a safer alternative to riskier mortgage products while also helping many homeowners who may be facing foreclosure, according to the National Association of Realtors®.

“A reformed FHA is positioned to help homeowners who face unaffordable mortgage payments as a result of resetting adjustable subprime loans and help bring stability to local markets and economies,” said NAR President Richard Gaylord, a broker with RE/MAX Real Estate Specialists in Long Beach, Calif. “NAR commends the leadership of Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.; Senate Banking Chairman Christopher Dodd, D-Conn.; and Sens. Mel Martinez, R-Fla., and Richard Shelby, R-Ala., for passing the Federal Housing Administration reform bill, S. 2338, today.”

NAR has long supported FHA modernization legislation that would increase loan limits, reduce or eliminate the statutory 3 percent minimum cash down payment, and give FHA increased flexibility and the ability to streamline certain programs, in addition to strengthening the loss mitigation program.

“FHA can once again be a leader in providing safe loan products and preventing foreclosures by authorizing lenders to help borrowers who are in default. That assistance will make a substantial difference for many families that may otherwise face foreclosure,” Gaylord said.

In addition, the increase in FHA mortgage loan limits would help first-time home buyers, minority buyers, and people who do not qualify for conventional mortgages. Increased loan limits would also help people living in high-cost areas; current FHA limits make the program unusable in these areas,” said Gaylord.

Gaylord noted that FHA has made mortgage insurance widely available to individuals regardless of race, ethnicity or social status during periods of prosperity and economic depression. The FHA program makes it possible for higher risk yet creditworthy borrowers to obtain prime financing.

“NAR recognizes and appreciates the Senate’s bipartisan effort. We hope this bill is sent quickly to the President and that he signs it into law swiftly,” said Gaylord. “As the leading advocate for homeownership and housing issues, NAR believes that FHA reform not only helps home buyers, but also is a good catalyst for the nation’s economy.”

The National Association of Realtors®, “The Voice for Real Estate,” is America’s largest trade association, representing more than 1.3 million members involved in all aspects of the residential

Statement on President Bush's Signing of Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief By NAR President Richard F. Gaylord

“On behalf of the many individuals and families who would have been burdened by a tax after losing their home, the National Association of Realtors® thanks President George W. Bush for signing the Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act into law. Today the president offered a Christmas present to many people who have suffered the agony and humiliation of losing their home due to a short sale, foreclosure, deed in lieu of foreclosure or any similar arrangement that relieves the borrower of the obligation to pay some portion of their debt.

“NAR has been advocating for such a change to the IRS tax code for nearly 10 years. We have always believed that it is clearly an issue of fairness and of not kicking people when they are down. By making the forgiven debt taxable income, individuals in already unfortunate situations most likely faced IRS actions because they did not have the money to pay the additional taxes. This legislation will relieve that additional burden and may also encourage families to work with their lender to negotiate terms, knowing they will now not be subject to an IRS bill.

“Today’s bill will ensure that any debt forgiven on a mortgage secured for a principal residence will not be taxed. This is very significant legislation. This may also mean that some day in the future these families can once again achieve the dream of homeownership.”

The National Association of Realtors®, “The Voice for Real Estate,” is America’s largest trade association, representing more than 1.3 million members involved in all aspects of the residential and commercial real estate industries.

Commercial Real Estate Fundamentals Are Sound But Investment Slowing

NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun said commercial fundamentals are essentially sound. “Although vacancy rates remain relatively low for all sectors, they are expected to rise slightly in the office and industrial markets during the coming year because much of the space being absorbed is in high-quality buildings or is built-to-suit,” he said. “As a result, there is a fair amount of older space on the market, particularly in the industrial sector where obsolescence is a factor, although industrial rents are showing healthy gains. Vacancy rates in the retail and multifamily sectors are projected to tighten in 2008 with rents rising in all sectors.”

Yun said the credit crunch has been impacting the market over the last few months, but 2007 is already a record for commercial real estate investment. “Tighter credit conditions will limit individual commercial real estate investment deals moving forward,” he said. “Because capitalization rates are already very low, it is likely that commercial property prices will ease. The era of rapid commercial property price increases has ended.”

A record $325.0 billion was invested in commercial real estate in the first 10 months of 2007, up from $306.8 billion for all of 2006; that total does not include transactions valued at less than $5 million or investments in the hospitality sector, based on analysis of data from Real Capital Analytics.

Patricia Nooney of Saint Louis, chair of the Realtors® Commercial Alliance, said commercial real estate investment is expected to stay historically strong. “Even with the credit crunch there’s been no significant impact on institutional investors, and it’s unrealistic to set new records every year in a cyclical business,” she said. “There’s been a shift in investment activity to foreign buyers, who are taking advantage of the dollar’s decline relative to other currencies. With many areas showing favorable fundamentals, commercial property in the U.S. has become very attractive to foreign investors.”

The NAR forecast in four major commercial sectors analyzes quarterly data for various tracked metro areas. The sectors are the office, industrial, retail and multifamily markets. Historic metro data were provided by Torto Wheaton Research and Real Capital Analytics.

Office Market

With jobs still being created, the demand for office space remains positive and is helping to absorb the more than 30 million square feet of new space becoming available in the current quarter. Investment grade office properties with solid income streams will be the most in demand by institutional investors, equity funds and foreign investors.

Since not all of the vacated space is being back-filled or leased, office vacancies are forecast to rise to 13.2 percent by the fourth quarter of 2008 from an estimated 12.9 percent in the current quarter; it was 12.6 percent at the end of 2006. Annual rent growth in the office sector should be 8.0 percent this year and 2.0 percent in 2008, after rising 5.2 percent in 2006.

Projections for the fourth quarter show areas with the lowest office vacancies include New York City; Honolulu; Tucson, Ariz.; Long Island, N.Y.; Los Angeles; and Riverside, Calif., all with vacancy rates of 10.0 percent or less.

Net absorption of office space in 57 markets tracked, which includes the leasing of new space coming on the market as well as space in existing properties, is likely total 55.4 million square feet in 2007 and 43.0 million next year, but below the 81.2 million in 2006.

Office building transaction volume in the first 10 months of this year totaled a record $173.5 billion, compared with $133.5 billion for all of 2006. So far this year foreign investors purchased $12.5 billion worth of office properties, with buyers from the Middle East and Germany accounting for half of that volume.

Industrial Market

The weaker dollar is fueling an increase in exports, but leasing activity has declined in port distribution hubs, and vacancy rates in those markets are edging up; some users are building or renting in secondary markets.

With abundant land and relatively low concerns regarding site remediation, secondary and tertiary markets are experiencing greater interest. So far this year, almost 16 percent of industrial investment has taken place outside of the 58 primary markets tracked.

Vacancy rates in the industrial sector are projected to average 9.4 percent in the fourth quarter and 9.5 percent by the end of 2008; vacancies averaged 9.4 percent in the fourth quarter of 2006. Annual rent growth will more than double to 3.3 percent by the end of 2007 and is seen at 1.3 percent a year from now, compared with a 1.4 percent annual gain at the end of 2006.

The areas with the lowest industrial vacancies include Los Angeles; San Francisco; Tucson; Orange County, Calif.; Portland, Ore.; and Las Vegas, all with vacancy rates of 6.1 percent or less.

Net absorption of industrial space in 58 markets tracked is expected total 127.4 million square feet in 2007 and 144.0 million next year, down from 205.4 million in 2006.

Industrial transaction volume in the first 10 months of 2007 was $35.8 billion, compared with $38.9 billion for all of 2006.

Retail Market

Even with a decline in consumer confidence, retail vacancy rates remain fairly stable. Declining production of new space will help improve fundamentals in this sector during 2008.

Vacancy rates in the retail sector will probably rise to 8.9 percent in the current quarter from 8.0 percent at the end of last year, and then ease to 8.6 percent by the fourth quarter of 2008. Average retail rent should grow by 2.2 percent this year and 1.9 percent in 2008, after rising 3.9 percent in 2006.

Retail markets with the lowest vacancies include San Francisco; Orange County, Calif.; San Jose, Calif.; Ventura County, Calif.; Washington, D.C.; and San Diego, all with vacancy rates of 5.5 percent or less.

Net absorption of retail space in 53 tracked markets is forecast at 18.6 million square feet for 2007 and 24.7 million next year, up from 10.5 million in 2006.

Retail transaction volume in the first 10 months of this year totaled $52.9 billion, exceeding the $46.9 billion for all of 2006. The Southeast is the most sought-out region this year.

Multifamily Market

The apartment rental market – multifamily housing – is experiencing increased demand from the slowdown in home sales. With a rising population and a growing number of households, vacancies are tightening and rents are rising.

Multifamily vacancy rates are projected to average 5.4 percent in the current quarter, down from 5.9 percent in the fourth quarter of last year, and then continue to decline to 5.1 percent by the end of 2008. Average rent is likely to rise 3.1 percent for 2007 and 3.8 percent next year, following a 4.1 percent increase in 2006.

Multifamily net absorption is expected to total 234,400 units in 59 tracked metro areas in 2007, below the 229,500 last year, but should rise to 245,800 in 2008.

The areas with the lowest apartment vacancies include Northern New Jersey, Salt Lake City, San Jose, San Diego, Nashville and Philadelphia, all with vacancy rates of 3.3 percent or less.

Multifamily transactions in the first 10 months of this year totaled $62.3 billion, compared with $87.4 billion for all of 2006. The sale of buildings originally constructed as condos are being sold to multifamily investors in markets like Washington, D.C., and South Florida. Many markets have seen condo “for sale” signs change to “apartment for lease” signs almost overnight. Some condominium complexes are being converted into office buildings, and others are becoming mixed-use projects.

The COMMERCIAL REAL ESTATE OUTLOOK is published by the NAR Research Division for the Realtors® Commercial Alliance. The RCA, formed by NAR in 1999, serves the needs of the commercial market and the commercial constituency within NAR, including commercial members; commercial committees, subcommittees and forums; commercial real estate boards and structures; and NAR affiliate organizations.

Organizations in the RCA include the CCIM Institute, the Institute of Real Estate Management, the Realtors® Land Institute, the Society of Industrial and Office Realtors®, and the Counselors of Real Estate. The RCA also provides commercial products and services.

Nearly 140,000 NAR members offer commercial services, and 73,000 of those are currently members of the RCA.

The National Association of Realtors®, “The Voice for Real Estate,” is America’s largest trade association, representing more than 1.3 million members involved in all aspects of the residential and commercial real estate industries.
# # #

The next Commercial Leading Indicator index will be February 20; the next commercial real estate market forecast is scheduled for March 12.

16 Aralık 2007 Pazar

Realtors' Forecast Bucks Conventional Wisdom

Bucking conventional wisdom, a trade group for real estate agents on Monday said the battered housing market is on the verge of stabilizing and inched up its outlook for 2007 and 2008 home sales.

The revised monthly forecast from the National Association of Realtors, which followed nine straight months of downward revisions, calls for U.S. existing home sales to fall 12.5 percent this year to 5.67 million - the lowest level since 2002. Last month, the association predicted 5.66 million existing homes would be sold this year.

The Realtors' group also forecast sales will rise slightly in 2008 to 5.7 million, up from last month's prediction of 5.69 million.

Numerous other economists, however, are far less optimistic than the trade group. They predict weak sales and falling prices through next year and beyond and emphasize that those problems could worsen if the economy sinks into a recession.

Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody's Economy.com, predicted at a housing forum last week that, if the economy slips into recession or if efforts to prevent foreclosures don't pick up substantially, the housing market downturn could last through the end of the decade.

The trade group's chief economist, Lawrence Yun, cited job growth and the replacement of subprime lenders to borrowers with weak credit with government-backed loans as reasons for the improved outlook.

"Despite over-exaggerated negative coverage on the housing conditions, many local markets are actually seeing price increases," Yun said at a press briefing. "Mortgage availability is improving"

The trade group also said its index that forecasts near-term home sales inched upward in October. The trade group's seasonally adjusted index of pending sales for existing homes rose 0.6 percent to 87.2 from an upwardly revised September index of 86.7, but was down 18.4 percent from a year ago - the third-largest year-over year decline on record.

The Realtors group also said the median price for U.S. existing homes - the point at which half sold for more and half for less - will sink by 1.9 percent to $217,600 this year and rise 0.3 percent next year to $218,300.

If median prices fall this year, it will be the first price decline in the nearly 40 years that the trade group has tracked that data.

Other ways to measure national housing prices, such as the S&P/Case-Shiller index, have already shown price declines.

A government index of national home prices in the fourth quarter marked a quarterly decline for the first time in 13 years in the third quarter.

Home prices dipped 0.4 percent nationwide in the July-September period, compared with the previous quarter, the Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight said last month, citing weakening prices in much of the country.

Compared with the third quarter of 2006, U.S home prices posted an increase of 1.8 percent, but it was the smallest year-over-year increase since 1995, according to the agency, which oversees the big mortgage-finance companies Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

14 Aralık 2007 Cuma

California new-home sales sink 46% in October

New-home sales dropped 45.6 percent in California while median new-home prices fell 10.8 percent in October compared to October 2007, the California Building Industry Association and Hanley Wood Market Intelligence reported today.

The groups reported 3,292 new-home sales statewide for all new-home types in October, down from 6,047 sales in October 2006, according to the report. The median price across all new-home types was $405,900, down from $455,000 in October 2006.

Single-family new-home sales fell 37 percent, from 4,075 in October 2006 to 2,568 in October 2007, while the median price of single-family new homes fell 12.9 percent, from $461,400 in October 2006 to $401,990 in October 2007.

Among those market areas with more than 100 sales in October, sales for all new-home types fell 75 percent in Sacramento compared to October 2006 and dropped 54.1 percent in Santa Ana-Anaheim-Irvine, 51 percent in San Diego-Carlsbad-San Marcos, 47.6 percent in Bakersfield, 41.4 percent in Los Angeles-Long Beach-Glendale, 34.5 percent in Oakland-Fremont-Hayward, 28.6 percent in Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario and 10.7 percent in Fresno.

The median price for all new-home types in the Fresno area dropped 14.1 percent year-over-year in October, and fell 12.2 percent in Riverside, 10.7 percent in Bakersfield, 6.3 percent in Sacramento, 1 percent in San Diego, and 0.6 percent in Los Angeles while rising 0.5 percent in Oakland and 13.5 percent in the Santa Ana market area.

New condo sales dropped 70.6 percent in California year-over-year in October, falling from 1,481 in October 2006 to 436 in October 2007. And the median price of new condos in the state dropped 1 percent, from $415,000 in October 2006 to $411,000 in October 2007.

Sales of new townhomes and plexes (duplexes, triplexes, etc.) dropped 41.3 percent, from 491 in October 2006 to 288 in October 2007, while the median price of new townhomes and plexes dropped 11.3 percent, from $469,000 in October 2006 to $415,900 in October 2007.

Jonathan Dienhart, director of published research for Manley Wood Market Intelligence, said in a statement, "There doesn't currently seem to be an end in sight in regards to the problems in the mortgage industry. The market must once again find equilibrium; that can only happen when more home buyers gain access to credit again, and home prices have relaxed to the point where they can still qualify for a mortgage under more strict lending guidelines."

He added, "If potential home buyers are convinced it's a bad time to purchase a house, there is only so much that pricing and credit options are going to help. Consumers need to regain their confidence regarding housing before we will see widespread recovery."

And Robert Rivinius, president and CEO for the state builders' group, said in a statement, "As of this week, the latest projections are that the state's budget next year will be $14 billion in the red -- with much of the deficit directly linked to the continued weakness in the housing sector."

New-home sales and prices, October 2007, all new-home types

House ponders mortgage bankruptcy bill

Committee to vote Wednesday; lending industry opposed to proposal, which would aid bankrupt homeowners by letting judges reduce their loans.

WASHINGTON (AP) -- A House committee is scheduled to vote Wednesday on legislation that would permit judges to shrink the size of home loans for bankrupt homeowners - a mortgage-mess remedy supported by consumer advocates and ardently opposed by the lending industry.

Many Democrats say the proposal is a better way to help homeowners than a plan to freeze interest rates announced by the Bush administration last week and negotiated with lenders and investors.

Mortgage-industry leaders say the proposed legislation would open a floodgate of bankruptcy filings, further threatening the industry's already shaky footing. Lenders, they argue, would be forced to charge higher rates to offset any unpaid loan balances that would be reduced in court.

The House Judiciary Committee's hearing is scheduled for 10:15 a.m. EST. The bill is unlikely to head to the full House until next year, but could gather steam as Congress faces increasing pressure to do something about mounting foreclosures and defaults.

Under existing law, judges can't modify loan terms on a borrower's primary residence, but can do so for mortgages on second homes.

Democrats have pushed for legislation to extend a bankruptcy judge's so-called 'cramdown' power to primary home loans. Doing so, advocates say, could help more than 500,000 homeowners avoid foreclosure.

The bill up for consideration Wednesday is a compromise between House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers, D-Mich., and Rep. Steve Chabot, R-Ohio.

It would apply to subprime loans made since 2000 to borrowers with shaky credit, and other nontraditional loans, such as those in which borrowers only make interest payments.

The bill "assists a broad category of homeowners who would not otherwise benefit" from the Bush administration's proposal, Conyers said in a statement Tuesday.

The Center for Responsible Lending, a Durham, N.C.-based consumer group, estimates that 145,000 households will qualify for the administration's rate freeze. Mark Zandi, chief economist with Moody's Economy.com, calculates that about 250,000 borrowers will likely benefit from it.

President Bush, announcing the initiative last Thursday, said 1.2 million homeowners could be eligible for relief, which includes the rate freeze and efforts to helping people refinance into more affordable mortgages.

Financial markets have been turbulent for much of the year amid worries about the growing scope of losses in investments tied to residential mortgages. On Tuesday, the chief executives of government sponsored mortgage-finance companies Fannie Mae (Charts) and Freddie Mac (Charts, Fortune 500) warned the suffering isn't over for their ailing mortgage-finance companies.

Freddie's CEO, Richard Syron, said the McLean, Va.-based company could lose an additional $5.5 billion to $7.5 billion over the next few years from soured home loans.

Mortgage applications rise

Despite a jump in interest rates, the Mortgage Bankers Association's application index increases in latest week to 811.8 from 791.8.

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Mortgage application volume increased 2.5 percent for the week ending Dec. 7, according to the trade group Mortgage Bankers Association's weekly application survey.

The MBA's weekly application index rose to 811.8 from 791.8 the previous week.

Refinance volume increased 4.3 percent, while purchase volume grew 1.7 percent. Refinance applications accounted for 57.6 percent of total mortgage applications during the week ending Dec. 7, compared with 56 percent during the prior week.

The index peaked at 1,856.7 during the week ending May 30, 2003, at the height of the housing boom.

An index value of 100 is equal to the application volume on March 16, 1990, the first week the MBA tracked application volume. A reading of 811.8 means mortgage application activity is 8.118 times higher than it was when the MBA began tracking the data.

The survey provides a snapshot of mortgage lending activity among mortgage bankers, commercial banks and thrifts. It covers about 50 percent of all residential retail mortgage originations each week.

Mortgage applications rose despite a jump in interest rates. The average interest rate for traditional, 30-year fixed-rate mortgages grew to 6.07 percent during the week ending Dec. 7, from 5.82 percent during the prior week.

The average interest rate for one-year adjustable-rate mortgages increased to 6.31 percent from 6.28 percent.

7 Aralık 2007 Cuma

Top 5ive Mortgages to Avoid

SHOPPING AROUND FOR a mortgage is nothing short of confusing. Thanks to plenty of innovative products on the market, a consumer has more than 50 loans to choose from. "While there is a mortgage out there for everyone, not every mortgage is right for every consumer," says Mark Lefanowicz, president of E-Loan, an online lending site. And now that the real estate market is softening, there's no guarantee that home prices will continue to appreciate — at least not over the next few years. So buyers need to be particularly wary and not take on additional risk.

Here are five popular, yet risky, loans that the average consumer should avoid.

1. The Multiple-Choice Mortgage

Product: The Pay-Option Adjustable Rate Mortgage (ARM)
Why You Should Avoid It: Could end up owing more than you borrowed.

This is considered the riskiest mortgage around. The pay-option ARM offers borrowers a low initial interest rate and then allows them to choose one of four monthly payments. On the more conservative side, homeowners can opt to write a check for both the interest and principal on a fully amortized loan. On the other end of the spectrum, borrowers can make a payment that's so small it doesn't even cover all of the interest due on the mortgage.

While some advocates argue these mortgages are good for people with modest salaries but large bonuses — think Wall Street — many average home buyers are taking advantage of them, too. And that spells trouble. It's simply too tempting to make that minimum payment when families have others bills to pay off. The risk? In just a few months a homeowner could find he's "upside down" in his loan, warns E-Loans Lefanowicz. That means he owes more to the bank than he initially borrowed.

2. Cash-Out Financing

Product: 103s, 107s, and 125s
Why You Should Avoid Them: Can't count on home appreciation to build equity.

Think of it as easy money. Lenders now allow homeowners to take out a mortgage for more money than a home is actually worth. Consumers can borrow an extra 3%, 7% and even 25% of a property's value to help fund closing costs and renovations or even pay off credit-card debt.

Here's the rub: If a home doesn't appreciate in value enough to cover the total amount of the loan, a homeowner could end coughing up the extra cash to pay off the mortgage upon moving. This wasn't considered too risky a few years ago when the real estate market was hot and home prices were moving higher by the day. Now, however, all data point to a softer market with fear of a correction ahead, says Celia Chen, director of housing economics at Economy.com. As for interest rates, borrowers should expect to pay through the nose. Lenders will often charge 50% more for one of these highly leveraged products, says Lefanowicz.

3. Adjustable Rate Mortgages (ARMs)

Product: One-Year and Three-Year Fixed-Rate ARMs
Why You Should Avoid Them: Tough on budgets, since the monthly payments are variable in just one to three years.

Call this the high-risk, little-reward mortgage, at least in today's rising interest rate environment. Here's how they work: Borrowers lock in a slightly lower interest rate for the first one to three years. The product then readjusts every year in tandem with highly volatile short-term interest rates. Since 2004, the one-year ARM has increased two percentage points to 6% from around 4%. That means a homeowner with a $300,000 mortgage is now paying $4,400 more a year than when he first took out his loan.

A few years ago, these loans appealed to consumers who needed a little extra help making their monthly payments during the first few years of homeownership. But now, there is only a half a percentage point difference between the interest rate on the 30-year fixed and the one- and three-year ARM. While that discount might still appeal to some homeowners, the risk of that mortgage readjusting upward is too great to justify the minimal savings, says Keith Gumbinger, vice president of HSH Associates Financial Publishers. Better to lock in the interest rate on a 30-year fixed-rate product and never think again about what the Federal Reserve will say at its next meeting. (Click here to compare payments on a fixed rate mortgage vs. an ARM.)

4. Interest-Only Payments

Product: Three-Year, Five-Year, Seven-Year and 10-Year Interest-Only Option on an ARM (Commonly referred to as the Interest Only Mortgage)
Why You Should Avoid Them: Monthly payments can quickly balloon.

Can't afford a home in today's pricy environment? A mortgage that gives you the option to pay just the interest on a mortgage offers consumers yet another way to slash their monthly payments. As the name implies, borrowers don't pay down any principal for the first three, five, seven or 10 years of their loan.

Now it's time to read the fine print. After the initial "interest only" portion expires, the monthly payments balloon to cover the remaining interest and all of the principal payments on that mortgage. Borrowers are also charged a slight premium on their interest rate, compared with fixed-rate ARMs, since people who take on these loans are more likely to go into default. Add it up and the new payment is likely to break the average family's budget, especially if they could only afford the interest portion to begin with, warns HSH's Gumbinger. At this point many borrowers will either have to spend a few thousand dollars to refinance or sell the house.

5. Fixed-Rate Loans

Product: 40-Year and 50-Year Fixed-Rate Mortgages
Why You Should Avoid Them: Builds equity too slowly.

As the name implies, these long-term vehicles are mortgages that amortize over a period of 40 or 50 years. The selling point is that a homeowner could lower his monthly payments by stretching out the terms of the loans. But when you do the math the savings just aren't that significant. On a $300,000 mortgage, a borrower would reduce his monthly mortgage payment by roughly $80 with a 40-year vs. a traditional 30-year fixed rate mortgage.

What does a homeowner have to sacrifice for that minimal monthly savings? It will take significantly longer to build up any equity in a home compared with a 30-year mortgage, says Lefanowicz. Consumers will also pay a lot more in interest over the life of the loan since the interest rate is typically a quarter of a point higher than the more traditional alternative.

4 Aralık 2007 Salı

British Investor See’s US Commercial Deals Like After the S-L Crisis

It looks like the combination of a weak dollar and softening commercial market are creating opportunities for overseas investors to come in and buy cheap.

Capitalism is funny that way; money and assets will always be looking for value and what may not be a value for United States residents right now may be one for international investors.

Tchenguiz intends to invest as much as £200 million, or $411 million, globally over the next three years buying commercial property assets, including stores, offices and possibly debt.
“Some of the biggest opportunities will be in the U.S.,” the Iranian-born British entrepreneur said during an interview in London. “A big amount of property is going to get reshuffled in the U.S.”
The shortage of liquidity in credit markets following the subprime mortgage crisis in the United States has pushed up the cost of borrowing, prompting a fall in property values and putting borrowers who need to refinance debt under pressure from their lenders.
The opportunities that would present themselves in the United States in the next few months are likely to resemble those arising from the U.S. savings and loans crisis in the 1980s, Tchenguiz said.

Newspaper Advertising Down, Online Advertising Growing, You Make The Call

Hey Real Estate agents and brokers, are you still having trouble kicking the newspaper advertising habit. Well, don’t be the last one throwing money into dark, grainy pictures and smudged type. It looks from the new numbers released that many are fleeing the newsprint to online.

So if your boss thinks that putting ads in the local papers is still necessary or your customers are begging you to ego list their homes in the paper, here is more ammunition for you.

Total advertising expenditures at newspaper companies were $10.9 billion for the third quarter of 2007, a 7.4% decrease from the same period a year earlier. Spending for print ads in newspapers totaled $10.1 billion, down 9% compared with the third quarter of 2006.

Among the major print components in the third quarter, classified advertising fell 17% to $3.4 billion. Retail declined 4.9% to $5.1 billion, and national was down 2.5%, coming in at $1.7 billion.

Meanwhile online advertising in the newspaper industry is growing by double digits.

You make the call.

Why The Holiday Season May Be a Great Time to Buy a Home

If you believe conventional wisdom buying or selling a home in the holiday season makes no sense. The buyers are looking at real estate agents looking for a break and sellers who do not want to open their homes during the holidays if they haven’t already pulled their listing already.

My opinion, if you believe in conventional wisdom in this real estate market you are the greater fool.

Sellers who are listing in the holiday period are motivated. Odds are they have a job change, a life change, or a mortgage they have to get out of. They need to sell their home and want to do so as quickly as possible.

Meanwhile, the buyers in the market are motivated. Who wants to slog around looking at homes in the holiday season when it is cold and bleak and all their friends are drinking the egg nog and having parties? Not these buyers, they too are motivated to make a deal.

So when trying to decide whether to list your home right now expect fewer potential buyers. But be assured that these folks are actual buyers, not tire kickers.

In addition to the typical holiday sellers - those going through major life change or relocating for a new job - there’s another crop of homeowners who are deciding now is the time to sell, according to Coldwell Banker’s Droubi.
“We’re seeing some people with adjustable rate loans whose payments have come up and who are very overextended enter the market,” she said. “At this time of year you’re dealing with people for whom time is not on their side. They need to sell and they need to sell quickly.”

Ivanka Trump Interview Shows Potential With International Buyers

The Atlanta Journal Constitution ran an interview with Ivanka Trump in the paper recently and this question and answer really popped out at me.

Q: And of those contracts, how many are foreign investors? We’re starting to see a lot foreign investment in the U.S.

A: We’re seeing that in all of our properties.
I think [the reasons are] two-fold: Our Trump brand is known throughout the world. So if a foreign investor is interested in the luxury sector and looking in Atlanta, they’re going to come to our property.
We always have a larger foreign base than is typical in a market, especially here in Atlanta.
And if you’re paying with a Euro, you’re buying at a 50 percent discount. And Atlanta is a less expensive market. So when you compound that with the discount due to the weakness of the dollar, it’s an amazing deal for a foreigner

← Even The AP Sees Rehabbing Homes Can Be Profitable

Fizber, Web 2.0 Meets For Sale By Owner →

Ivanka Trump Interview Shows Potential With International Buyers
December 3rd, 2007 | 2008 Real Estate Predictions, Real Estate Internet, Real Estate Tools, real estate indicators, Real Estate Sales

The Atlanta Journal Constitution ran an interview with Ivanka Trump in the paper recently and this question and answer really popped out at me.

Q: And of those contracts, how many are foreign investors? We’re starting to see a lot foreign investment in the U.S.

A: We’re seeing that in all of our properties.
I think [the reasons are] two-fold: Our Trump brand is known throughout the world. So if a foreign investor is interested in the luxury sector and looking in Atlanta, they’re going to come to our property.
We always have a larger foreign base than is typical in a market, especially here in Atlanta.
And if you’re paying with a Euro, you’re buying at a 50 percent discount. And Atlanta is a less expensive market. So when you compound that with the discount due to the weakness of the dollar, it’s an amazing deal for a foreigner. via ajc.com.

Now I know that few markets will sustain a very strong international marketplace. Easy access by air to Europe and the city offering either something Europe does not have such as sandy beaches would help greatly.

However, if you are selling in these markets and are internet savvy I would work very hard to try to market overseas. Ivanka has a great point that the Europeans are in a position to buy at a huge discount right now. Even if the market drops another 10 percent they will still be eager to buy quality properties as the savings and long term benefit will be amazing.

Here is a hint, if I was selling a condo project in Miami I would invest in a couple of amazing multi lingual concierges and concentrate all of my marketing dollars at Europe. Sell the property as a comfortable winter retreat for the European market. Bet you could make a killing doing so and move some real estate that right now is very stagnant.