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Posts Tagged ‘housing crash’

Banks Bulldoze Foreclosed Homes

Tuesday, August 2, 2011 posted by Tommi Crow

Bank of America has come up with a new tool to deal with its glut of abandoned and foreclosed homes…. a Bulldozer.

Bank of America, the nations largest mortage servicer, plans to “donate” 100 blighted homes in Cleveland, OH and contribute cash toward their demolition.  The bank has a similar plan for 100 homes in Detriot, 150 in Chicago, with 9 more cities to follow.  Wells Fargo, Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase and Fannie Mae are also considering their own bulldozing programs.

  Getting rid of repossesed homes is the biggest headache for US lenders.  1,679,125 homes ( 1 in every 77) are in some stage of foreclosure as of June.    Lenders feel that no one will buy many of these homes and they”re trying to cut their losses.  Bulldozing the problem away means the banks won’t owe property taxes to our floundering cities and it won’t have to pay for repairs, maintenance and upkeep on the property.  In addition, there are some perks for giving away a house.  The banks get a bunch of tax write-offs and best case… they may even get a pat on the back and some nice PR, too. 

The idea of Bulldozing houses is nothing new.  Although the banks are not blowing up homes for alturistic reasons…I think we can all agree that removing home inventory is good for all of us.  In 2010, Warren Buffet advised that “blow up a lot of houses” was a viable option and similar to ‘cash for clunkers’ auto program.  I always thought bulldozing abandoned homes and returning the land to a raw state was a smarter solution than handing out money in the form of a homebuyer tax credit.   The tax credit cost billions of dollars, put money into the hands of a few people blessed with good timing and did little to reduce inventory.

Bankers, why not take the “TNT” strategy one step further.   Donate unwanted houses to local non-profits vs blowing them up?  Make a call to Habitat for Humanity, for example?   I can’t understand why Habitat is still building new homes, when we can’t get rid of the ones that are causing problems in our neighborhoods.   Habitat needs to change their business model with the times and so do our lenders.  Families, who are in dire need now, wait up to 6+ months for a new home to be built and the cost of building from scratch far exceeds the costs of rehabbing properties, in most cases.       

Just my two cents….

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Would you like to see what the housing market has in store for 2012?  If so, take a moment to watch this video.

Housing Market 2012

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More than 150 years ago, America’s greatest landscape architect, Frederick Law Olmsted, created Central Park and changed New York forever. He went on to transform dozens more cities, leaving a priceless legacy of vibrant, beautiful cityscapes. And, in the process, he increased property values. 

Olmsted discovered this himself when he tracked the value of land around Central Park and found that the city’s $13 million investment had led to an astounding $209 million increase in just 17 years. The architect recognized what many planners still fail to grasp: Parks and managed green space are vital pieces of urban infrastructure that not only improve the quality of life for millions of people but also drive economic growth. 

Today we must act again to transform our cities. The commercial real estate binge of the past decade and the growth of online shopping as an alternative to brick-and-mortar stores have left more than 200,000 acres of vacant retail, office and industrial space. Residential real estate is a massive problem as well. Distressed properties are a drag on our communities and the economy, and threaten to topple even more banks that hold mortgages on these “toxic assets.”

 We need to move these toxic assets off the banks’ books, reduce the surplus of commercial space and create jobs, all while revitalizing our cities. This brings us back to Olmsted.

 Olmsted designed transformative parks, campuses and greenways; his firm completed an amazing 6,000 commissions and launched a green wave across 19th-century America. The same kind of wave could help resolve the 21st-century real estate mess.  

 We don’t have the luxury of vacant land that Olmsted often started with, so we must bulldoze underperforming and underused property, put people to work creating parks on some of the land and “bank” the rest until the economy recovers.

 Beginning with Atlanta, Georgia Tech is researching what is needed to accomplish this in 12 major cities. The project is known as Red Fields to Green Fields. Under this plan, some of the abandoned or underutilized property would be acquired by a parks agency or by public-private partnerships, which would then begin demolition, park design and construction, putting people to work immediately. More jobs would come as the improved areas attracted development.

 This would not be the first time that property has been bulldozed for economic gain. The railroads, which had many miles of underused track to maintain, pulled up 55 percent of their tracks in the past 60 years to increase profitability, enabling the creation of 19,000 linear miles of “rails-to-trails” parks.

 Pittsburgh, realizing that the steel industry was never coming back, tore down riverfront steel mills and replaced them with an attractive mix of parks and office space. In Michigan, Flint and Detroit are finding ways to “bank” land as open space. 

The banking system and the federal government could play an important role in this effort. Rather than backstop bad real estate paper, the Federal Reserve, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. (FDIC) and the Treasury Department could help finance the acquisition of excess commercial real estate through a land bank fund. 

Instead of buying mortgage-backed securities, why couldn’t the Fed buy excess developed real estate to be held as green space through “land-backed securities”? Why couldn’t the FDIC give some of the useless properties it obtains through bank closures to land banks or nonprofit organizations? 

With the right financing structure, philanthropic entrepreneurs could use leverage to remake America just as some of our bad developers used easy bank financing to help create the excesses. 

Acquisition money could also come from expanding tax incentives that encourage banks and landlords to donate land and encourage wealthy individuals and corporations to buy conservation tax credits. Georgia Tech’s analysis has also shown that the money needed for a nationwide program would be a tiny fraction of current real estate support programs, such as the Fed’s “quantitative easing” or its recent purchase of $1.5 trillion in mortgages. 

The 2009 stimulus package did much to protect jobs but little to stimulate the economy with transformational investments.  Converting underused commercial real estate to green space and “banked” land would be transformational. It would create jobs, strengthen the banking system to encourage lending and stabilize property values so that real estate owners would be ready to spend again. Most important, lush new parks would enhance neighborhoods across the country.    

Michael G. Messner is a Wall Street investment fund manager. He and his wife, Jenny, funded the documentary “The Olmsted Legacy,” which is airing on PBS, and are funding the Red Fields to Green Fields research at Georgia Tech.

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Just Released Housing Snapshot for Major Cities

Tuesday, August 31, 2010 posted by Tommi Crow


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Gulf Oil Spill Pounds Coastal Real Estate

Tuesday, June 29, 2010 posted by Tommi Crow

As we continue our coverage on the affects of the Gulf Oil Spill has on local real estate, we are sorry to report that we’ve seen no real improvement in the last week.  If anything, problems are increasing as tropical storms approach, booms and equipment are reaching the end of their life expectancy.  The only thing constant seems to be the continual flow of often ridiculous red tape, that prevents citizens from protecting themselves and their property. 

Tales from the front include:

Kevin Chiu, a researcher for Housing Predictor, warns:  “Housing analysts contend that the projected losses in housing value will top that of any oil disaster in the nation’s history and will send tens of thousands of additional homes into foreclosure as a result.”

Alabama real estate agent Linda Henderson reports…canceled sales and that the smell at times is so pungent that it drives people back inside their homes.  “I can tell you that things have pretty much dropped to dead,” said Ms Henderson.  “We were on track for our best year since Katrina.  This is just devastating-you can say that the spill killed the real estate recovery.”

Jack McCabe of McCabe Researcn and Consulting in Deerfield Beach, FL sums it up this way…”What the housing recession and the Great Recession couldn’t do to property values along the Gulf, this could easily accomplish.  It’s a knock out punch, plain and simple.”

There is an awful lot of real estate within 20 miles from the coastal beaches of Gulf states.   All forms of real estate, farms, office buildings, schools, government buildings, military installations, utility systems and homes are in peril. How much oil could come onshore and what the aftermath will be is entirely speculative at this point. If the oil spilling into the waters of the Gulf can’t be stopped and cleaned up before a major storm event, the devastation of the entire Gulf Coast region within at least a 20 mile distance will likely render it uninhabitable by humans. Who would want to live there, let alone buy or invest in property?

This raises the final question about BP’s oil spill:   Who will pay for the unintended loss of real estate value and the toll of human misery sure to come?  If one faces the facts as we are learning them about BP, it becomes almost a certainty that there isn’t enough money in their vast holdings to pay for the damages and losses from such an event.   The toll on human life and the economy might only be imagined as apocalyptic in scale.  The effect on the national economy, if not the global economy, is likely to follow.   The economic impact on the world, let alone the nation, is going to be staggering when, not if this event occurs.

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Contained in the clip below are some insightful meditations on the failure of the American Dream in Fresno, CA.  

The short video features skateboarders who comb through the Californian real estate wreckage in search of foreclosed homes with empty pools.

Cannonball from California is a place. on Vimeo.

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Housing Crash Robs Senior Citizens

Thursday, June 11, 2009 posted by Tommi Crow

The worst housing market since the Great Depression is taking a huge toll on senior citizens in this country.  The crash in housing values, especially in retirement haven’s such as Nevada, Florida, California and Arizona, is robbing these long, hard working Americans of their retirement and adequate health care.

While most people believe that seniors have no mortgage on their homes, the reality is that hundreds of thousands of retiree’s owe money on their homes.  Even for those lucky enough to own their house outright, the unprecedented drop in home values means they have less equity to live on or exchange for a move to retirement housing or health care facilities.

  • According to the AARP, 25.5 million people over the age of 50 have a mortgage on their home.  More than 680,000 (which represents 30 percent of all distressed property) baby boomers are deliquent on their mortgage or are in the process of foreclosure. 
  • Many seniors have little saved, other than the equity in their homes.  36 percent of all retiree’s state that their savings and investment nest egg is less than $25,000, excluding home equity and benefit plans.
  • Seniors banked on rising home prices and leveraged their primary asset through equity loans and reverse mortgages.   Those that leveraged assets to afford retirement owe an average of $150,000 on their houses.
  • Retirement communities and long term care facilities are suffering from the housing market, too.  Seniors usually sell their homes to finance admission into senior housing facilities.   Dire market conditions often mean no sale at all, or one at substantially discounted prices.  Many people are left with no choice or options, forcing them to cancel plans to move to housing that fits their changing needs.

Although seniors and retiree’s are often overlooked in the news, the housing and stock market crash have taken a huge toll on their lives and well being.   Most have worked all their lives to build secure nest eggs for their golden years, only to discover that half a lifetime of work and savings vanished in the blink of an eye. 

Click Here to Read More from USA Today

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Bullish Signs for Housing Sales

Friday, May 29, 2009 posted by Tommi Crow

Although all the news about real estate, housing and lending isn’t particularily bullish, there are some compelling new motivations for buying now.   Rising interest rates, Inventory Decreases and the $8000 tax credit which expires December 1.

  1. Interest rates are soaring, as the dollar falls.  Economists predict that the low rates we saw only a month ago, aren’t likely to return anytime soon.   In April, 30 year fixed rate mortgages averaged 4.5 percent.  Last week, rates hit 4.98 percent.  And, this week, is quoting 30 year fixed rates for prime borrowers at just over 5 percent.  Note: An increase of only 1/2 percent in interest rates raises the mortgage payment for a $170,000 loan by $52/month, $624/year or $18,720/over the life of the loan.
  2. The deadline for qualifying for an $8000 tax credit is rapidly approaching.   Although, the December 1st deadline may seem a long way off, in real estate terms it really isn’t.  A lot of people are sitting on the sidelines, waiting to see if prices will drop another 1 or 2 percent over the next 6 months.   Lenders are already warning us that when all those buyers rush into the market in August or September, the backlog in loan applications will mean a wait of 60-90 days to close an average loan.  Note:  Given that the average buyer in this market looks at over 30 homes, over a 3 month period, buyers who don’t want to miss the boat on their $8000 gift, should get serious now.

For those buyer’s hoping to time the market perfectly, we think their ship may be sailing by.    Home inventories are dropping, prices are stabilizing, interest rate increases erase potential gains made by a further fall in prices and $8 grand is on the line, if the December 1 closing deadline can’t be met.   Serious buyer’s should jump on board now, before they find out that the ship has sailed and they missed the boat!!

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Condo and Homeowner Associations in Trouble

Tuesday, April 21, 2009 posted by Tommi Crow

Foreclosures and loan delinquency’s wreck havoc on the budgets of Homeowner’s Associations (HOA’s) across the country. 

Many condominium communities are glutted with nonpaying units that swamp their operating budgets, force cutbacks on promised services and increase monthly dues for owners who are paying their mortgage and association dues.

Crisis In Florida:

In Florida, the land of the condo dweller, things are spinning out of control for HOA’s and property owners.  As a result, Florida constituents are turning to legislators for an help they can provide.

Under the current system in Florida and other states, lenders can avoid paying homeowner’s fee’s until they foreclose and become the owner of the unit.   Lenders face a continuing avalanche of foreclosures and loan defaults, which means that up to 2 or more years can pass before the property transfer gets through the court system.  

During the lengthy legal process, homeowners often continue living in the units, using the ammenities and facilities for free.  Some even rent the units for income, after they have stopped making payments on the property.  Many associations are forced to cover the costs of water, cable, laundry, lawn and pool maintenance and garbage collection for paying and non-paying owner’s alike.  To make up for the added expenses, paying unit owner’s have to foot the bill or the entire association goes down.   

And, things get even more complicated.  Some banks stall on taking title to units because they have a cap that limits the amount of past-due fee’s they have to repay to 6 months or 1 percent of the original loan amount.   Some luxury condo associations report that some units have as much as $50,000 in unpaid fee’s by the time the bank takes ownership.

Downward Spiral:

Lenders are also denying financing for financially unstable buildings, which essentially means the property can not be sold, even if a buyer is found.  In January, mortgage giant Fannie Mae said it would no longer fund loans in buildings if more than 15 percent of the units were 30 or more days past due with their association fee’s.  

The problem has reached a crisis point for many HOA’s that are struggling to cover basic utilites such as water and electricity.   If they raise fee’s on paying owners for the shortfalls, they risk pushing even more residents into delinquency.  Most owners are already upside down on the property and they simply can not afford a higher payment.

Renting out units could offset loses, but rentals are usually prohibited or they are limited to a very small percentage of the number of units in the complex.  Furthermore, lenders such as Fannie Mae also deny funding for buildings that are less than 51 percent owner occupied.   So, raising money with rent income does not appear to be a viable solution, nor does it maintain the quality of life for the paying residents.

The housing crisis has uncovered many problems that we have never encountered before, but the number of failing HOA’s is an imminent crisis.   Unfortunately, it isn’t simple and if solving it isn’t done correctly, more permanent damage may occur.

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From Reuters:




Coldwell Banker Asks Sellers for 10-day price cuts to spur home sales

One of the largest U.S. real estate companies said it is asking its sellers to cut their listing prices by as much as 10 percent to kick-start U.S. home sales in a market plagued by falling prices and near-record unsold inventory supply.

Coldwell Banker Real Estate said some 25,000 sellers, who have homes listed with its brokers, will cut prices during its first national, 10-day sales event starting on Friday, October 10th.  The goal, to lure potential buyers off the sidelines in the worst housing market since the Great Depression.

Most owners still are unrealistic when pricing their homes, and a reduction of 10 percent or less would push the properties “over the tipping point to a sale,” according to Coldwell Banker, which is based in Parsipanny, New Jersey, and is part of Realogy Corp.

“The main driver is to bring buyers and sellers together and to increase the activity in the marketplace,” Jim Gillespie, president and chief executive officer of Coldwell Banker, said in an interview.

Many sellers have been reluctant to slash asking prices, but they face competition from the large number of foreclosed homes on the market at discounted prices.

A recent Coldwell Banker survey found that more than half of the real estate agents said listing prices in their market are too high to attract qualified buyers. Brokers, however, believe that, depending on the market, a price cut of up to 10 percent will be enough to stoke sales.

Kathryn Taylor is one seller who hopes that’s the case.

“The economy. No movement for our home, or even any interest, just because people are scared,” she said, explaining her decision to cut the asking price on her parents’ home in Silver Spring, Maryland, by 10 percent for 10 days.

The two master-bedroom, two-bathroom home in an over-55 community was listed in May at $458,000, undercutting several nearby sellers of the same model.

“This is the first time we’re lowering it, and we really didn’t want to do that because we listed it to sell,” she said. “We knew things were tough, but the home is a really desirable unit in a neighborhood that rarely has anything come open so we didn’t think it would have any problems selling.”

Taylor, a retired government employee, is getting “more antsy” about selling. Her father passed away last year and her mother is moving to a nursing home that costs $9,000 each month.

With stock wealth being roiled, “it’s getting more and more important to keep her afloat by selling this house,” she said of her mother.

Sellers can opt to keep their asking prices lower after the 10-day sale, according to Coldwell Banker.