Daily Archives: January 24, 2013

Warren Group: Massachusetts housing market as ‘turned the corner’ | Bedford Hills Realtor

In another sign that the housing market may be on the mend, the median sale price of single-family homes in Massachusetts rose more than 12 percent in December to $300,000, the first time since August that median home prices have broken the $300,000 mark, the Warren Group said Thursday.

Looking at the entire year, the Warren Group added that single-family home sales in Massachusetts rose 18 percent in 2012, marking 12 consecutive months of year-over-year sales gains and the best year on record since 2006.

“I would characterize 2012 as the year of robust recovery in the real estate market,” Warren Group chief executive Timothy M. Warren Jr. said in a statement. “It is clear we have turned the corner and are gaining ground rapidly. I contrast the 18 percent gain last year with the decline of 6 percent in 2011.”

As for condo sales in December, they rose 5.4 percent to 1,402 units. The median condo price in December rose 8 percent to $275,000, the Warren Group said.


For 2012, condo sales were up more than 25 percent to 19,061 units.

The Massachusetts Association of Realtors issued a separate monthly report Thursday on the local housing market. The association uses a slightly different method to track real estate activity than the Warren Group does.

According to the association’s press release, 3,737 detached single-family homes sold in December, a 13 percent increase from the previous December. December 2012 was the 18th straight month of year-over-year increases.

The median selling price for single-family home in December was $303,500, which was up 10.4 percent from the price in December 2011.

In the Bay State, there were 1,434 condominiums sold this December, a 14.2 percent increase from the same time last year.

The median selling price for condominium in December was $282,750, which was up 8.7 percent from December 2011.

“December capped off a very active year in 2012 as the real estate market in Massachusetts made significant progress towards recovery,” association president Kimberly Allard-Moccia said in a statement. “With the ‘fiscal cliff’ averted for now and pending activity remaining strong, we anticipate a healthy start to 2013.”

Allard-Moccia suggested that there are some concerns about the short supply of homes on the market.

“2012 was the type of year the market needed to help it eventually recover,” said Allard-Moccia. “With inventory continuing to go down, we’re at risk for slipping back to where we were. A truly vibrant market has a good selection of homes at all price levels for all types of buyers.”


Eurozone Flops Drag Down Global House Prices | Katonah Realtor

The flagging Eurozone is blamed for weighing down global house prices.

By the end of September 2012, house prices were only 5.2% above the lows recorded in the wake of the global downturn in 2009, says global real estate firm Knight Frank.

They say that stalling house prices in the Eurozone’s 17 countries are dragging down the global average and as a result, prices fell by 1.8% in the year to September 2012.

The figures hide some poor performing economies – sluggish Ireland was pushed out of bottom place with a 9.6% fall in property values by Greece’s even worse 11.7% drop in prices.

British property prices continue to struggle, recording a 1.6% drop in the third quarter.

Hardest hit

A Knight Frank spokesman said: “Eurozone house prices continue to be the hardest hit and, as a result, European countries now make up the bottom 12 places of our index.

“It’s no coincidence they are there since the economy is in a second recession in three years.

“The Eurozone isn’t alone – many of the world’s housing markets are in need of an effective stimulus to help them from flagging.”

Other poor European performers include Spain, with a 9.3% price reduction, Portugal with a 3.5% decrease and prices in Italy slumped 3.5%.

The figures, which are based on government or central bank data, also reveal which countries experienced a boom in their house prices.

South America experienced 9.8% growth – led by Brazil, where prices surged by 15.2% in 12 months.

Asia Pacific house prices chalked up a 4.2% increase, seeing Hong Kong perform best with a 14.2% increase.

Price stagnation

Turkey climbed to third place with an 11.5% growth in house prices.

The report also highlights prices in the US have picked up, which will have a positive effect on global property markets. Prices rose 3.6% year on year..

US vacancy rates are also at their lowest since 2005 and housing starts are up 49% on 2011.

“Prices this year in Europe will be affected by lack of confidence, property affordability and the levels of debt. In the US, strict lending criteria is in place, but we are also seeing early signs of economic growth,” said the report.

“In Asia Pacific, there are various regulatory measures in place to keep house price increases in check.

“The picture is not uplifting and the current stagnation looks set to continue well into 2013.”

The death of the mortgage broker? | Waccabuc Realtor


Starting next year, mortgage brokers, who serve as middlemen between homebuyers and lenders, will be subject to new rules that experts say could push many to leave the business. Issued by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau last week, the new rules prohibit brokers from raking in more compensation in exchange for placing borrowers in more expensive mortgages; they also disallow brokers from getting paid by both the borrower and the lender on a mortgage transaction. While the rules will make working with a broker safer for consumers, experts say they may also leave them with fewer brokers to choose from. “It certainly does put some of the more marginal players on the fence,” says Keith Gumbinger, a vice president at mortgage-info website HSH.com.

For borrowers, this unintended consequence may make shopping for a mortgage more difficult. Brokers tend to have access to a large number of lenders and are able to quickly determine the best loans and rates available. Without brokers, mortgage applicants have to contact banks themselves, going from institution to institution until they have a list of mortgage products and rates they qualify for. They can also search mortgage-shopping sites, but many of those sites only provide referrals, without giving consumers enough information to comparison shop.

Of course, there have also been plenty of risks to working with brokers as well. Critics contend that brokers were among the main causes of the housing crash, putting borrowers into risky mortgages that they couldn’t afford because they had a financial incentive to do so—a big reason why the new rules were created.

But now that a lot of the shadier brokers have left the field and the new rules wipe away much of the risk to working with the brokers who remain, the bigger challenge for consumers will likely be finding a broker who can give them access to many lenders. Over the past few years several large banks, including Wells Fargo and Bank of America, have announced they’re no longer working with independent mortgage brokers. (Some of those banks have said that mortgages originated by their own loan officers performed better while others have cited difficulty in controlling negotiations between independent brokers and clients.)

The decline of mortgage brokers has been underway for several years. That’s been largely due to the real-estate downturn that pushed many of them out of the market and earlier regulations for the industry that made it costlier to be a broker. The National Association of Mortgage Brokers currently has roughly 5,000 members, down from 25,000 in 2006, says Don Frommeyer, president of the association. Experts say the disappearing broker has made things harder for mortgage applicants. “Consumers are already having a difficult time getting a mortgage,” says Brad Hunter, chief economist at Metrostudy, a housing market research and consulting firm. And if the number of brokers does decline further, he adds, “that could have an impact, making it more challenging for borrowers to get loans.”

Mortgage brokers’ share of home loans has also dropped as their numbers have declined. During the last two years, mortgage brokers accounted for about 10% of total mortgage originations, compared to 20% in 2008 and more than 30% from 2004 through 2006, according to Inside Mortgage Finance, a trade publication.

Opinion: Obama’s mortgage freebies

Basil Petrou on the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s new mortgage rules and how the feds control nearly every corner of the housing market. Photo: Associated Press

Those figures could decline further due partly to the rising costs that accompany the new rules and declining profits, says Mark Goldman, senior loan officer with C2 Financial Corp., a San Diego-based mortgage brokerage firm. New players are also unlikely to emerge. “They’ve raised the barriers of entry into mortgage brokerage,” he says.

Going forward, borrowers who use brokers will soon have more protections than in the past. It’s less likely that they’ll be steered into a mortgage with a higher interest rate or fees or one that charges a penalty for paying it off in advance. Also, brokers won’t be able to make more money by sending a client to buy title insurance from an affiliate.

Those who have difficulty finding a broker should consider checking out LendingTree.com, which finds lenders within its network that will consider your loan based on your personal information. Separately, consumers who have a relationship with a bank—whether it’s a deposit or brokerage account or wealth management ties—should consider asking the institution if it offers any discounts on rates, closing costs or other mortgage fees.

For their part, most mortgage brokers who are still around say they’ve already implemented most of the new compensation rules, which were initially announced in the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act that was signed into law in 2010 and a Federal Reserve compensation rule that kicked in the following year. (The CFPB’s announcement finalizes those regulations.) Brokers who haven’t done so yet will need to change their practices over the next year to comply with the new rules.  




Economist says housing better, except foreclosures | South Salem Realtor

A top economist with the National Association of Realtors delivered a mostly positive housing message to the Washington Realtors Association on Wednesday, but said more needs to be done about the state’s “shadow” inventory of homes, a term to describe foreclosed or bank-owned properties.

National Association of Realtors economist Dr. Lawrence Yun wasn’t able to attend, so he did his presentation over the phone from New York, spending about 30 minutes addressing about 400 real estate professionals with the Washington Realtors Association.

Wednesday was “Hill Day” for the association, starting in the morning at the Red Lion Hotel Olympia. Then many headed to the Capitol Campus to lobby lawmakers about issues important to the real estate community.

Yun’s housing forecast for the state and nation was upbeat; he said he expects housing markets to benefit from momentum experienced last year. Median prices should rise in the high single digits, and the Seattle area should outperform the country, Yun said.

The Thurston and Pierce county markets showed improvement in 2012: year-over-year sales rose, while median prices didn’t fall but were flat or unchanged, an improvement in itself.

Some hurdles remain, Yun said, including the possible elimination or tweaking of the mortgage interest rate deduction for tax filers, and even stricter lending standards.

Inventory levels have dropped, too, so addressing Washington’s shadow inventory would help free up more homes for buyers, he said.

Shadow inventory levels have fallen throughout the country, except in Washington, he said, which needs to do more to get the court system to work through a backlog of delinquent mortgages.

Thurston County Realtors members agreed Wednesday; they also agreed they expect a good year for housing in 2013.

About 20 of them met with lawmakers, including local Realtors Pat Pieroni, Greg Moe and Bill Hutchinson Jr.

Pieroni said he thinks the market has hit bottom and will continue to improve over the next couple of years. The group also noted that inventory levels have fallen, which means buyer demand, combined with fewer homes to choose from, should lift median prices.

In December, inventory levels in Thurston County fell below 1,000 units for the first time in six years.

“It’s moving from a buyer’s to a seller’s market,” Hutchinson said.

Moe, though, pointed out that state budget issues still can affect the local housing market. Spending decisions in Olympia, essentially a state worker town, has a big effect on consumer confidence, he said.



Westchester County to Offer Free Flu Shots | Katonah NY Realtor

Press Release from the Westchester County Department of Health:

County Executive Robert P. Astorino announced today that the Westchester County Department of Health will offer free flu shots to residents today, Thursday, Jan. 24, from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the Westchester County Center in White Plains.

“With so much demand for the flu shot right now, some doctors and pharmacists are having a hard time keeping up,” Astorino said. “By offering free flu shots, we aim to help those residents who have not yet gotten vaccinated.’’

The county has 1,000 doses which can be given to adults and children ages 9 and up. Residents are strongly encouraged to register in advance for the flu clinic at www.health.ny.gov/Go2Clinic. Those without Internet access can call 914-995-7425, weekdays, starting Tuesday, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

“It’s important for everyone 6 months and older to get a flu shot every year,” said Health Commissioner Sherlita Amler, MD. “We hope residents will take advantage of this opportunity, because flu season can last well into the spring. It’s also equally important to wash your hands frequently, to avoid sick people and to stay home when you are sick. Most people will recover on their own from the flu with no need to go to an emergency room or the doctor.”

Residents can also visit the health department Web site to find providers and pharmacies who are giving flu shots. Physicians can call the health department if they have excess vaccine to share with other providers or if they are willing to give vaccines to people who are not their patients.

The flu shot is safe and provides protection against the three strains of the flu that are circulating this season.

To prevent spreading the flu, cough or sneeze into your elbow and wash your hands often with soap and water. If you do get a respiratory infection, stay home until 24 hours after your fever subsides, to avoid spreading your germs. Clean surfaces you touch frequently, such as doorknobs, water faucets, refrigerator handles and telephones. Get plenty of rest, exercise and eat healthy food.

For more information, visit www.westchestergov.com/health, like us on Facebook at facebook.com/wchealthdept, follow us on Twitter @wchealthdept or call us at 914-813-5000.

Shiller Says U.S. Housing Market May Drop Further | Bedford Hills Realtor

A U.S. housing-market revival may prove illusory and the threat of further weakness remains, said Robert Shiller, a professor at Yale University and co-creator of the S&P/Case-Shiller index of property values.

“The housing market has been declining for something like six years now, it could go on, that’s my worry,” Shiller told Tom Keene in a Bloomberg Television interview today in Davos, Switzerland. “The short-term indicators are up now, it definitely looks better, but we saw that in 2009.”

The property market has shown signs of recovery and homebuilding has rebounded as low borrowing costs spur buyer demand, bolster prices. Values rose 7.4 percent in November from a year earlier, the ninth straight increase and the biggest gain since May 2006, Irvine, California-based data provider CoreLogic said last week.

“It’s a good housing market in the sense that mortgage rates are very low and prices have come down to normal levels, so yes, it’s a good time to buy if nothing bad happens,” Shiller said. “But it’s also a very bad housing market in that most of the mortgages are being supported by the government, and we have the Fed and this buying program. It’s a very abnormal market. There’s a lot of uncertainty going forward.”

The average rate for a 30-year fixed mortgage fell to 3.38 percent in the week ended Jan. 17 from 3.4 percent, McLean, Virginia-based Freddie Mac (FMCC) said that day. The average rate dropped to a record 3.31 percent in November. New-home sales in December picked up to a 385,000 annual rate, according to the median forecast of economists surveyed by Bloomberg ahead of a Commerce Department report tomorrow.

Attending Davos

The S&P/Case-Shiller index of property values in 20 cities increased an annual 4.3 percent in October, the biggest 12-month advance since May 2010, the group said on Dec. 26. The next report is due on Jan. 29.

Data on Jan. 22 showed sales of U.S. existing homes unexpectedly fell in December. Purchases fell 1 percent to a 4.94 million annual rate last month, the National Association of Realtors said. The median forecast in a Bloomberg survey was for a gain to a 5.1 million rate.

Shiller, who spoke while attending the World Economic Forum’s 2013 annual meeting, also said that while global economic conditions are “a little better,” there are still risks to the recovery.

“We’ve been five years in a slow economy, and it could go quite a bit longer,” he said. “We’ve seen gross domestic product growth at sub-normal levels.”

He added, “I think we’re pretty far from irrational exuberance, maybe 50 years 


Housing prices rise in Astoria and Long Island City | Bedford Realtor

Real estate prices and rents in Long Island City and Astoria are on the rise, especially in the luxury housing market, where there isn’t enough supply to meet demand, a new report shows.

The average monthly rent for a one-bedroom was $1,600 in Astoria and $2,400 in Long Island City in the last quarter of 2012, according to real estate brokerage firm Modern Spaces.

And the average one-bedroom sold for $387,786 in Astoria and $501,732 in Long Island City in the same period.

“We’re definitely seeing prices going up,” said Modern Spaces President and CEO Eric Benaim. “There’s not enough housing to support everybody.”

Long Island City rentals saw a roughly $50 monthly hike from the previous year. And though one-bedrooms sold for about $34,000 less in 2012 over 2011, the price per square foot jumped from $700 to $732. There was no 2011 data available for Astoria.

Benaim attributes the hike to Manhattanites getting priced out of the city and moving to Long Island City — despite many of the luxury towers being located on the waterfront in flood warning Zone A.

And now that prices are rising in Long Island City and units are getting smaller, due to a lack of housing, more people are turning to Astoria — where developers are now building upscale units with attractive amenities, he said.

Paul Halvatzis, one of the owners of Amorelli Realty, said he’s starting to see “unique,” “aesthetically pleasing” buildings go up in Astoria — instead of the usual cookie-cutter, two-family homes.

“This area is only going to continue to go up,” he said. “People want to be here.”

Dan Miner, senior vice president at the Long Island City Partnership, a local development group, said he’s seen a dramatic shift in the area in the 13 years he’s worked there.

“Long Island City was a gritty, industrial neighborhood and many people confused its name with Long Island,” Miner said.

Now “we have vibrant industrial, residential, commercial and cultural communities,” said Miner, who pointed out the area’s close proximity to Manhattan. “The future is pretty promising.”

Arthur Rosenfield, president of the Long Island City/Astoria Chamber of Commerce, said he isn’t surprised by the demand for housing in northwestern Queens.

“The schools are good, the crime rate is low,” he said. “The quality of life is just phenomenal.”


Elliman Releases Palm Beach FL Market Report | Pound Ridge Realtor

There was a significant uptick in Palm Beach sales activity this quarter compared to the results last year. We also observed a significant shift towards high end properties as indicated by the jump in overall market prices and luxury market prices. The longer marketing times largely reflected older inventory being sold off. The market improvement has been an encouraging development that we expect to see through most of 2013.


As housing conditions change in South Florida, we strive to present our clients with timely insights on the markets we cover. In a region where housing markets are often mischaracterized and misunderstood, we firmly believe that neutral market analysis is one of the best resources we can offer to enable our clients to make more informed decisions. Douglas Elliman is firmly committed to providing information and services to meet our clients’ needs. Explore our full market report series covering south Florida including Miami, Boca Raton, Fort Lauderdale and Palm Beach at  http://www.ellimanflorida.com/market-reports/

Elliman reports on Boca Raton FL Market | Chappaqua Realtor

It has been a year of changes as housing prices and sales volume continued to press higher in Boca Raton in both the overall and luxury markets. Like we observed in recent quarters, the price indicators continued to show double-digit gains from prior year levels. Consistent with rising prices has been the faster marketing times and falling discounts from list price. The market has clearly turned the corner over the past year despite tight credit conditions. We look forward to additional improvement in 2013.


As housing conditions change in South Florida, we strive to present our clients with timely insights on the markets we cover. In a region where housing markets are often mischaracterized and misunderstood, we firmly believe that neutral market analysis is one of the best resources we can offer to enable our clients to make more informed decisions. Douglas Elliman is firmly committed to providing information and services to meet our clients’ needs. Explore our full market report series covering south Florida including Miami, Boca Raton, Fort Lauderdale and Palm Beach at  http://www.ellimanflorida.com/market-reports/