Thursday, April 27, 2006

30-Year Mortgages Climb to 6.43%

Rates on 30-year mortgages rose this week to the highest level in 2 1/2 years as financial markets began to worry more about inflation. (Read More)

Source: Washington Post

Realtor Study Says Market May Be Cooling, but Slowly

The housing market is not slowing as fast as economists expected, but some say the data suggest a more pronounced contraction in the next few months. (Read More)

Source: NY Times

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

One woman's sinkhole disaster could be a harbinger of things to come in California

What lurks beneath the surface? Does it lurk for you?

Real estate nightmares often resemble modern Edgar Allan Poe stories. A private nuisance engulfs a life and erodes the quietude of even the gentlest existence. In this case though, the shortsightedness of our urban planning and the irresistible profits of coastal California real estate have created a horror story so pervasive it may be headed to a home near you.

Welcome to the drainage disaster zone... (Read More)

Source: SFGate: Surreal Estate

March housing starts, permits decline

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The pace of U.S. housing construction slowed more than expected in March as both the rate of starts and permits declined to their lowest levels in a year, the government said on Tuesday in a report suggesting further cooling in the market. (Read More)

Source: Washington Post

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Experts keep eye on housing market

Statistics support predictions of leveling off at 'high plateau'

Al Fernandez moved from Tampa to Miami two years ago, and acquaintances kept telling him to take advantage of the booming housing market before prices became too high.

But he held off until recently, uneasy about a "frenzy" in the market, where prices were rising too quickly. He decided to temporarily rent an apartment until the market cooled and he could research his purchase -- likely a condo in the $400,000 range.

"It was just so crazy, the housing market then. People were saying, 'Get in on this condo because in three months, it's going to go up $100,000,'" Fernandez said.
 (Read More)

Source: Baltimore Sun

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Selling in a buyers' market

Pete Montero listed his Ann Arbor, Mich., home nearly a year ago at $379,000.

The 2,600-square-foot home didn't attract buyers, so Montero dropped the price in $10,000 increments — he's down to $329,900 — and has considered remodeling the kitchen.

"We really didn't think any individual thing about the house would make it difficult to sell," said Montero, whose four-bedroom home has a finished basement and sits on a cul-de-sac.

Spring is typically the busiest time of the year for home sales. But with  (Read More)

Source: The Seattle Times: Real Estate

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Bending Starker Exchange Rules Can Be Risky Business

Q: What can you do with the investment property you have obtained by way of a Starker exchange? No one I know who has done an exchange has, in my opinion, kept the property as investment.
Three examples:
? A person buys a house as a second home. His lawyer tells him that as long as he runs an ad in the paper showing that he tried to rent the property he can satisfy the IRS questions. He has used the house as a second home for the entire time he has owned it. He runs the ad in an out-of-the-area newspaper and no one has called.(Read More)

Source: Washington Post

Upset Before Settlement

It's the No. 1 complaint that real estate agents make about the home mortgage lending process. And it bugs their home buyer clients as well: The failure of settlement or escrow officials to provide a copy of the final settlement sheet before the closing.

In a new nationwide survey of real estate agents, 50 percent said their biggest gripe was the absence of HUD-1 closing documents for review a day ahead of the settlement. The HUD-1 is the form that lists settlement charges. Real estate agents told pollsters that although "required by government regulations," settlement sheets rarely arrive in advance, thereby denying home buyers an opportunity to see an itemized list of all their charges and fees. (Read More)

Source: Washington Post

Friday, April 21, 2006

30-year mortgages hit 6.53%

Rates on 30-year mortgages reached their highest point in nearly four years, a factor that is taking some oomph out of the housing market. (Read More)

Source: Baltimore Sun

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Hot homes face cooling markets

In some cities, dropoff in sales, rising supply could cause prices to fall

Todd Linsley, a 37-year-old investor, bought a three-bedroom house in Stuart, Fla., for about $318,000 in late 2005. His original plan was to quickly flip the property -- which is in a new housing development about 40 miles north of West Palm Beach -- by selling it for as high as $425,000. But when he saw that the market was turning, he decided to list the home for $379,900. It's been on the market since early January with no takers. (Read More)

Source: Baltimore Sun

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

The best way to build wealth is to become a homeowner

Few spending choices in life are as smart as buying a home.

That fact has been on full display in the United States as the housing market has boomed, rapidly increasing the wealth of homeowners. Unfortunately for renters, it has been a wealth wave they missed.

But it's not too late, said David Bach, author of the best-selling The Automatic Millionaire Homeowner: A Powerful Plan to Finish Rich in Real Estate.

"We're seeing homeownership become accessible to more people," he said in an interview.

Homeownership, however, may not be for everybody. (Read More)

Source: Baltimore Sun

Closing process brings together variety of parties

The closing process, which in different parts of the country is also known as "settlement" or "escrow," is increasingly computerized and automated.

In many cases, buyers and sellers don't need to attend a specific event; signed paperwork can be sent to the closing agent via overnight delivery.

In practice, closings bring together a variety of parties who are part of the "transaction" process. For example, while the history of property ownership has been checked, it's possible that the records contain errors, unrecorded claims or flaws in the review itself, thus title insurance is necessary. (Read More)

Source: The Seattle Times: Real Estate

Monday, April 17, 2006

Brokers Who Represent Buyers

Most agents in New York work for home sellers ? they list the homes and try to attract buyers to make an offer, then collect a commission on the sale price. Often a listing agent shares the commission with another seller's agent who brings in a buyer.

When she first heard of the notion of a buyer's agent, Ms. Adwar said, "I wasn't sure what that entailed," but she decided to go ahead with it rather than trekking alone to yet another open house.(Read More)

Source: NY Times

Report Brings An Ugly Practice To Light

Do real estate agents treat minority home buyers differently than whites?

Ask that question of most agents, and you will almost certainly get indignant denials.

But a recent two-year study funded in part by the federal government suggests that at least for some agents, discriminatory practices are routine.(Read More)

Source: Washington Post

Friday, April 14, 2006

Mortgage Rate Lock-In Can Shelter You From a Surprise at Settlement -- But Get It in Writing

Q: We signed a contract to purchase our first home last week, and settlement is scheduled for mid-May. Before the contract was signed, we shopped around for the best mortgage. After the real estate contract was signed, we immediately contacted the lender we had selected and made a formal application. (Read More)

Source: Washington Post

30-year mortgage rate hits 6.49%

Rates on 30-year mortgages climbed this week to their highest point in nearly four years, a development that could put a further crimp in housing activity. (Read More)

Source: Baltimore Sun

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Google, Craigslist join real estate fray

Popular Web sites offer users easy access to listings of homes for sale and, two Web sites that have fundamentally altered the way consumers buy a broad range of products, are emerging as places to shop for residential real estate, a development that in the long term could weaken Realtors' hold on home selling.  (Read More)

Source: Baltimore Sun

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Carefully examine terms of purchase

While much attention is spent on offering prices, a proposal to buy includes both the price and terms.

In some cases, terms can represent thousands of dollars in additional value for buyers — or additional costs. Terms are extremely important and should be carefully reviewed.

How much?... (Read More)

Source: The Seattle Times: Real Estate

Payment-option mortgages: Do you know all the facts?

An important debate is raging inside the home-mortgage market, though well beyond the earshot of most consumers.

The issue: Wildly popular "payment-option," interest-only and piggyback loans and the financial risks they pose to homebuyers and lenders alike.

On one hand, federal financial regulators say the risks are too significant to ignore, so lenders need to take special care in evaluating and approving customers who apply for these mortgages.... (Read More)

Source: The Seattle Times: Real Estate

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Foreclosure Auctions: Bidder Beware

Buying real estate at foreclosure auctions is an alluring idea, particularly in New York where nearly everyone is scrambling for a deal. Nationwide interest has spawned an industry of foreclosure mavens as well as countless Web sites, infomercials, how-to books and seminars.

Foreclosure auctions, which occur after a lender or government agency forecloses on a parcel, building or apartment, are a judicial process in New York, meaning that they are run by the court system.

Such auctions may have piqued the interest of novice investors anticipating a rise in interest rates and the inability of some owners to meet their financial obligations.  (Read More)

Source: NY Times

Setting a Sale Price in a Slow Market

As the busy spring shopping season gets under way, listings throughout Connecticut are cluttered with winter leftovers. The inventory of available houses is up almost everywhere, suggesting that sellers who want their properties to move quickly have to come to terms with a cooling market and falling consumer confidence. (Read More)

Source: NY Times

Monday, April 10, 2006

There Is No Wrong Side of the Tracks

The seemingly jet-fueled pace at which homes have sold and values have appreciated has slowed, market experts say. But there has been no easing off in demand for housing with good access to mass transit, they add. (Read More)

Source: NY Times

Is Reliance on Real Estate a Crack in the Foundation?

The U.S. economy is more dependent on housing than it has been in a half-century, as the sector fuels consumer spending and has accounted for nearly three-quarters of the nation's job growth in the past five years. (Read More)

Source: Washington Post

Teaser-rate mortgages to jolt poor with big bill

Millions of cheap, teaser-rate mortgages that people took out a few years ago, when interest rates were rock-bottom, are about to get much more expensive.

More than $1 trillion in mortgage debt costing only 4 percent or so - rates locked in three years ago - is about to soar in price to nearly 8 percent in some cases.  (Read More)

Source: Baltimore Sun

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Should Risks Beget Rules?

An important debate is raging inside the home mortgage market, though well beyond the earshot of most consumers.
The issue: Popular "payment-option," interest-only and piggyback loans -- and the financial risks they pose to home buyers and lenders alike. On the one hand, federal financial regulators say the risks are too significant to ignore, so lenders need to take special care in evaluating and approving customers who apply for these mortgages. The regulators want to impose new creditworthiness restrictions and disclosure requirements that would force lenders to be certain that borrowers understand the potential dangers. (Read More)

Source: Washington Post

Agents' 'Acronyisms' Still Remain In Online Age

MILWAUKEE -- Charming house here, as U can C: the U has a BICC, a BIBC and even a FPLC.

The L and M? Briefly put, they're 2 good 2 miss.

Welcome to America's world of real estate marketing, where term limits prevail.

U, L and M stand for upper, lower and main -- the levels of a house. BICC is built-in china cabinet, BIBC is built-in bookcase and FPLC is fireplace.

"Acronyisms" is what Joan T. Seramur, president of Williams Realty in Minocqua, Wis., calls them.(Read More)

Source: Washington Post

Friday, April 07, 2006

Tax benefits of meeting 2-year test substantial

Q: What exactly is the IRS requirement for selling a rental property that's also been owner-occupied? A friend moved into her rental for... (Read More)

Source: The Seattle Times: Home Forum

Audit faults housing authority's wait list

HUD study found documentation missing but said agency generally complies with federal guidelines

Annapolis ' housing authority generally administers its Section 8 housing subsidy program according to federal guidelines but has failed to adequately maintain its applicant waiting list, a federal audit has found.  (Read More)

Source: Baltimore Sun

Mortgage rates hit 2 1/2 -year high

Rates on 30-year mortgages rose this week to the highest level in 2 1/2 years as financial markets began to worry more about inflation. (Read More)

Source: Baltimore Sun

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Proper planning makes purchasing much easier

One of the keys to making the home-buying process easier and more understandable is planning. In doing so, you'll be able to anticipate requests from lenders, lawyers and a host of other professionals. Furthermore, planning will help you discover valuable shortcuts in the home-buying process.

So how do you decide what you want? (Read More)

Source: The Seattle Times: Real Estate

Renting beats overpaying for homes

Two real-estate authors expound on whether 'tis wiser in the wallet to suffer the financial dings of a mortgage - and enjoy the appreciation - or to take arms against conventional financial wisdom and rent a home.  (Read More)

Source: Denver Post

10 strategies for smart selling

1. Get real . Lower-priced homes are selling faster in this climate, so start with a listing price that's closer to that secret number you know you'll accept. (Read More)

Source: Boston Globe

10 strategies to shop for a mortgage

1. Don't panic . Though about a half a percentage point higher than last year, long-term mortgages rates in the mid 6-percent range are still low, and are expected to remain near current levels through this year. So don't rush to make an offer on a house because you're worried rates are going to surge by the end of the ... (Read More)

Source: Boston Globe

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

A Suburban Switch: The Condo's the Thing

For decades, ornate homes with lush yards and multicar garages have been staples of suburban life and the objects of desire of countless families yearning for better schools, safer streets and greener environs far from the city. But as the scarcity of vacant land drove prices to stratospheric highs and many outlying communities began to impose restrictions to curb sprawl, builders trained their eyes on urban neighborhoods. (Read More)

Source: NY Times

Where We Live: For What It's Worth, Look It Up

WHEN the real estate Web site began in February, it made a big splash with $32 million in financing and a high-profile chief executive, Rich Barton, a creator of

The site allows users to type in an address anywhere in the country and get an aerial or satellite picture of the house along with statistics like square footage, property tax, sales history and current estimated value. It promises to put the secrets of 60 million homeowners online for anyone to see.

So far, though, residents of the New York suburbs have responded with a collective ho-hum. That may be because, as of early March, the site's coverage in the region was still spotty.(Read More)

Source: NY Times

Real-estate agents ease way for ethnic buyers

As the country's minority communities grow, their impact on home building and the real-estate industry is creating a new dynamic in home selling.

In the not-too-distant future, it may even change the way some houses are designed as builders take note of the needs of young families and extended families.

Nationally, Hispanics, Asians and African Americans made up more than... (Read More)

Source: The Seattle Times: Real Estate

Tax Law Gave Rise To Second-Home Boom

If you are thinking about buying a second home this spring -- or you bought one in the past couple of years -- you are part of a major transformation in the real estate market. (Read More)

Source: Washington Post

Monday, April 03, 2006

30-year rates go up after Fed acts

Rates on 30-year mortgages rose this week after the Federal Reserve pushed a key short-term rate up for the 15th time and indicated that more rate increases were possible.  (Read More)

Source: Baltimore Sun

Water, Water Anywhere

Though the residential market may be cooling, real estate professionals report that vacation homes are still in demand, especially any place by an ocean, a lake or a river. (Read More)

Source: NY Times

Real Estate Mailbag

DEAR BOB: Many real estate sales contracts provide for mediation or arbitration of disputes that might arise after a sale is closed, such as alleged misrepresentation of a property. Do you favor either mediation or arbitration of disputes, rather than going to court? (Read More)

Source: Washington Post

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Real Estate Mailbag

Q: DEAR BOB: We own a two-bedroom, one-bath home in top condition in a popular vacation area. In August we signed a 90-day listing with a real estate agent. She warned us that the average sales time in the market was about 150 days. We received one low-ball purchase offer. (Read More)

Source: Washington Post

Look for negotiating ability in selecting real-estate agent

How do you get a real-estate agent who will be in your corner and not just looking for a quick deal when you're shopping for a home?

Here are some things to look for as suggested by Elizabeth Razzi, author of "The Fearless Home Buyer": (Read More)

Source: The Seattle Times: Real Estate