Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Senate Dems on Board with Credit Extension

Senate Banking Committee Chairman Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) says Senate Democrats have agreed to extend the first-time home buyer tax credit. The latest version extends the program to home sales signed — not closed — by April 30. Purchasers would have another 60 days to close the sale. The credit will also be expanded to include so-called step-up buyers who have lived in their current home for at least five years.

The credit would be cut nearly 10 percent to a $7,290 cap. Income eligibility for first-time home buyers would stay the same, but it would rise for step-up buyers to $125,000 for individuals and $250,000 for couples.

Source: Bloomberg News, Dawn Kopecki and Ryan Donmoyer (10/27/2009)

Monday, October 19, 2009

Things Condo Buyers Should Consider

Buyers who are considering the purchase of a condominium should inspect the health of the home owner’s association before they close.

The seller should provide the buyer all financial documents relating to the association in time for an attorney for the buyer to review them before closing.Here’s some advice from Leonard Baron, professor of finance at San Diego State University, about the information that the seller should consider:
  • Does the association budget include money for operating expenses such as water, lights, elevator maintenance, and landscaping?

  • Is there extra money set aside in a reserve fund for long-term maintenance? If there is an outside reserve study, that should be provided. If not, there should be adequate money in the reserves right now to cover 50 percent of the estimated cost of repairs over the next 30 years.

  • Do the condo’s expenses exceed revenues due to a high foreclosure rate or other reasons that owners’ debts go unpaid?

  • If there is a shortfall, does the association have a plan besides cutting back on services for making it up?

Source: The Wall Street Journal, June Fletcher (10/17/2009) Photo ©Teresa Butler 2010. All rights reserved.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Construction Should Pick Up in 2010

If mortgage rates stay low and the home buyer tax credit is extended, single-family housing starts should increase 30 percent in 2010, predicted the McGraw-Hill construction forecast released Friday. The overall value of construction starts is expected to rise 11 percent to $466.2 billion in 2010, according to the survey.

This year has been a tough one for the industry, with the value of starts expected to decline 25 percent to $419 billion through December.

Source: The Wall Street Journal, Dawn Wotapka (10/16/2009)

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Banks Making Short Sales Tougher

Banks are backing away from short sales, forcing sellers to pay extra at closing or demanding a promissory note for the amount due. One-third of borrowers owe more on their mortgages than their properties are worth, according First American CoreLogic.

When their situations were really tough, most banks preferred short sales because they were their best opportunity to get the most money back. But with an improving economy, and because the losses on many of these properties have already been written off the books, banks are increasingly reluctant to negotiate a short sale.

Today, banks demand 9.5 weeks to respond to a short-sale request, compared to 4.5 weeks a year ago, according to research firm Campbell Communications. Their reluctance is frequently stymieing sales and frustrating real estate practitioners.

"It drives me up a wall," says Robert G. Hertzog of Summit Home Consultants in Phoenix. "[The bank is] holding my client hostage.

"Source: BusinessWeek, Christopher Palmeri (10/09/2009)

Monday, October 12, 2009

Bathroom upgrades pay-off

More than 80 percent of new single-family homes have at least two bathrooms, which occupy an average of 300 square feet of floor space, or 12 percent of the total area, according to a study by the National Association of Home Builders.

The home builder's study reports a major return on value for extra bathrooms: "When the number of bathrooms is approximately equal to the number of bedrooms, an additional half-bath adds about 10 percent to the home's value and one additional bath adds about 19 percent."

A mid-range bathroom remodel, which costs $10,500 on average nationwide, repays a homebuyer at least 100 percent of the outlay when the property is sold, the home buyer study concludes.

Source: Chicago Tribune. Photo ©Teresa Butler 2010. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Buyers Are Cutting the Fluff, Architects say

Home buyers are scaling back, according to a quarterly survey by the American Institute of Architects, choosing energy-saving amenities over recreational ones.

Two-thirds of architects say their clients want better insulation, including double- and triple-glazed windows, water-saving devices, and solar panels. The most popular bonus room is a home office, with 46 percent of architects saying these rooms are gaining in popularity.

The architects identified a sharp decline in the demand for high-end kitchens and baths and said that there was also less interest in game and media rooms and in-law suites.

The AIA said residential billings, a leading indicator of activity, rose to 38 in the second quarter, up 20 points from the first quarter of 2009.

Source: Reuters News (10/06/2009)

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

A Historic Time to Buy

Young people just starting to invest and buying their first homes are potentially the winners in this recession.

First-time homebuyers, most between the ages of 25 and 45, accounted for about 45 percent of home sales from January through July 2009, according to the National Association of REALTORS®

"This is a historic time," says George Jaramillo, a 35-year-old business analyst in Atlanta, who recently bought three homes, two of them foreclosures. "It's a great opportunity to make some great gains in the future."

A study by investment company T. Rowe Price points out that investing when prices are low can result in amazing gains. For instance, between 1970 and 1990, the annualized rate of return for the S&P 500 was 11.5 percent.

"We need to be shouting from the rooftops that this is not the time to get out of the market if you're young," says Christine Fahlund, a senior financial planner with T. Rowe Price. "This is the time to be in the market."

Source: The Associated Press, Chip Cutter (10/05/2009). Photo ©Teresa Butler 2010. All rights reserved.

Monday, October 05, 2009

Builders Cut Back on Incentives

Home builders are cutting back on the freebies they’ve been tacking on new homes for the last couple of years to woo buyers.

The reason is simple: Demand is almost back in sync with supply. According to Jeffrey Laverty, analyst with research firm Oscar Gruss & Son, new-home inventory has declined from 12.4 months in January to 7.3 in August, close to the six-month mark considered standard.

While eliminating incentives like free cars and free pools, some builders are continuing to offer to pay points on mortgages and discounts on upgrades—“Incentives that make sense,” says Laura VanVelthoven, Hovnanian's corporate vice president of marketing and sales.

Source: The Wall Street Journal, Dawn Wotapka (10/05/2009)
Bathroom Upgrades Pay Off

More than 80 percent of new single-family homes have at least two bathrooms, which occupy an average of 300 square feet of floor space, or 12 percent of the total area, according to a study by the National Association of Home Builders.

The home builder’s study reports a major return on value for extra bathrooms: "When the number of bathrooms is approximately equal to the number of bedrooms, an additional half-bath adds about 10 percent to the home's value, and one additional bath adds about 19 percent."

A mid-range bathroom remodel, which costs $10,500 on average nationwide, repays a home buyer at least 100 percent of the outlay when the property is sold, the home buyer study concludes.


Source: Chicago Tribune, Mike McClintock (09/21/2009). Photo ©Teresa Butler 2010. All rights reserved.