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Category Archive: ‘Psycho-babble’

Mission Accomplished

NAR President Moe Veissi praises new help for struggling homeowners.    The Federal Housing Finance Agency on Tuesday announced measures to make “short sales” of underwater homes easier for homeowners, including extending help to people who have financial difficulties but haven’t missed mortgage payments.

Posted by on Aug 30, 2012 in Psycho-babble, Short Sales | 2 comments

San Diego Case-Shiller Index, June

From the S&P Dow Jones press release:

“The National Composite rose by 6.9% in the second quarter alone, and is up 1.2% from the same quarter of 2011. The 10- and 20-City Composites closely mimic these results; the 10-City was up 5.8% over the quarter and the 20-City was up 6.0%. The two Composites also entered positive territory on an annual basis, up 0.1% and 0.5%, respectively.

All 20 cities studied by S&P Dow Jones reported positive price gains for the second consecutive month in a row. Only Charlotte and Dallas saw a deceleration in annual gains during June, while 18 of 20 metro areas posted better price returns over last year.

“There were only six cities – Atlanta, Chicago, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, New York and San Diego – where the annual rates of change were still negative,” said David Blitzer, chairman of the index committee at S&P Dow Jones Indices.

“We seem to be witnessing exactly what we needed for a sustained recovery; monthly increases coupled with improving annual rates of change. The market may have finally turned around.”

From cnbc.com:

“The combined positive news coming from both monthly and annual rates of change in home prices bode well for the housing market,” said David Blitzer, chairman of the S&P’s index committee.

Jonathan Basile, an economist with Credit Suisse, said improving home prices should boost home sales further in the coming months.

“Persistent news of rising house prices should start convincing prospective home sellers that it’s not just a buyers’ market,” Basile said. “And when Americans become more comfortable with selling their home, they also become more comfortable with buying another one.”

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San Diego Case-Shiller Index, June 2012

Month Seas-Adj. Chg. Non-SA Chg.
June 12
154.09
154.76
May 12
153.50
+0.38%
153.06
+1.1% M-O-M
June 11
154.38
-0.19%
155.06
-0.19% Y-O-Y

It must be getting pretty comfortable in those ivory towers for these guys to finally mention that there could be a recovery. Case, Shiller, and Blitzer never talk about sales counts, which are better indicators of things to come.

Once the summer push is over in about 30 days, we should start seeing the sales counts drop off dramatically around San Diego – there’s not enough well-priced inventory left to sell.

Could buyers who just listen to these soundbites rush out in a panic and go pay more than they should? Maybe, but I doubt it – not after waiting this long.

I don’t agree with his assertion that ‘improving home prices should boost home sales further in the coming months.”  Improving prices make sellers want to wait until they go higher – especially those potential sellers who are underwater.

Case-Shiller Home Price Index: San Diego, CA Chart

Posted by on Aug 28, 2012 in Forecasts, Psycho-babble, Same-House Sales | 2 comments

Low Inflation in SD

From GC@sddt:

Consumers around San Diego County are probably scratching their heads in response to a new report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics showing the region’s rate of inflation is among the lowest in the nation.

The report shows that the Consumer Price Index, which measures changes in retail prices across a broad range of products and services, rose by 1.3 percent over the first six months of 2012 and has advanced just 1.7 percent during the past 12 months.

San Diego has the third lowest rate of inflation among the 27 metropolitan regions in the United States tracked by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Read More

Posted by on Aug 18, 2012 in Local Flavor, Market Conditions, Psycho-babble | 5 comments

Heard This Before?

From HW:

The Southern California region is facing a another wave of foreclosures with many San Diego borrowers underwater on option ARM and Alt-A loans that are scheduled to reset soon, according to San Diego real estate investment firm Blue Sky Capital.

Blue Sky Capital said it has been tracking properties in San Diego County and many of those with adjustable rates will not be able to afford larger monthly payments when their loans reset. The REIT says more than 36% of San Diego mortgages are currently underwater.

“While these option ARM and alt-A loans exist throughout the county, areas like Carmel Valley are filled with them. During our tracking of distressed properties in the county we found many homes in areas like Carmel Valley were purchased with zero, or a small amount down, so there is very little equity in theses properties,” said Chris Williams, CEO of Blue Sky Capital. “Carmel Valley, just north of the city of San Diego, has a median income of $90,000 and while higher end families have been able to withstand the initial housing meltdown, things are about to change. We will see more housing distress in Carmel Valley, and as a result, more foreclosures and short sales.”

Many homes in the area remain in negative equity, cutting down on the inventory of for-sale homes, Blue Sky Capital said. The result of this trend is higher prices since limited inventory pushes prices higher.

“You could say the positive of this negative equity is that it helps drive home prices up, as underwater homeowners delay as long as possible putting their home on the market which creates a supply constriction. But it’s only temporary and not a real sign,” said Williams. “These situations are unsustainable and certainly short lived. Strategic defaults, foreclosures and property value declines have to happen for the market to reset and clear itself of the toxicity from the greatest mortgage mess of this century.”

Posted by on Jun 27, 2012 in Carmel Valley, Market Conditions, Psycho-babble | 11 comments

“Collective Euphoria”

From HW:

The meltdown of the U.S. housing finance system resulted from overly optimistic views on home prices as opposed to a type of gross negligence in the mortgage industry, a new Federal Reserve Bank of Boston report concluded.

The report attacks several common assumptions about the cause of the recent financial crisis, including the popular notion that mortgage finance firms, and insiders in the business, are primarily to blame for the housing fallout.

Instead, a collective euphoria over the rise in home prices and the false expectation of constant price increases led to the mortgage industry and borrowers miscalculating the risks.

“If both groups believed house prices would continue to rise rapidly for the foreseeable future, then it is not surprising to find borrowers stretching to buy the biggest houses they could and investors lining up to give them the money,” wrote the report’s authors Christopher Foote, Kristopher Gerardi and Paul Willen. “Rising house prices generate large capital gains for home purchasers. They also raise the value of the collateral backing mortgages, and thus reduce or eliminate credit losses for lenders.”

The group attacks the idea that payment shocks on adjustable-rate mortgages created an atmosphere of extreme default. The report analyzes ARMs originated in 2005 and 2006. The 2006 loans experienced a less severe payment shock than the 2005 group, but ended up with a much higher delinquency rate, killing the idea that payment hikes alone on ARMs caused the problem.

84% of foreclosed borrowers, for example, were overdue on payments equal to when the mortgage first originated.

The authors go on to claim there was little substantive change or innovation in the mortgage markets in the 2000s. Government policy toward mortgages did not change as much as theorized in reports about the market fallout. The report says investors knew the risks, but like many buyers, based their short-term and long-term calculations on overly optimistic home-price growth.

 

Posted by on May 4, 2012 in Mortgage News, Psycho-babble | 10 comments

Do Looks Matter?

Hat tip to SM for sending this along, from BigThink.com:

I am trying to sell my house at the moment in a particularly hot local housing market. The market isn’t the only thing that is hot. So is my agent. It turns out that her attractiveness could be very good news in terms of the price the house is sold for, but bad news in terms of how long it is on the market.

Research published last month finds that the personal characteristics of real estate agents matter to house prices and the length of time a house is on the market, even after controlling for the quality of the house.

In their analysis the researchers control for age of the property, size of the house, number of bedrooms, number of bathrooms, location of the home and, as controls for quality, whether or not the house has hardwood flooring, brick siding and granite countertops.

It turns out having a male agent is bad for the selling price of a house. Both male listing agents (those acting on behalf of the seller) and male selling agents (those acting on behalf of the buyer) are associated with lower house prices than their female counterparts. The gender of the agent, however, has no effect on how long a house is on the market.

Being attractive, for both listing and selling agents, is associated with higher final sale price for a house, with the effect on house prices of having an attractive listing agent is about twice as large as that of an attractive selling agent.

Where homeowners lose out on having an attractive listing agent, however, is in having their house on the market for longer. The attractiveness of the selling agent has no effect on length of time on the market (which makes sense since, presumably, the characteristics of the buyer’s agent only matter when the house is finally sold).

Attractive agents don’t necessarily earn more annually than less attractive agents. The houses they sell go for a higher price, but they sell fewer houses than do less attractive agents (presumably because each house is on the market for longer).

The study also finds that non-white listing agents are associated with lower final prices and both non-white listing agents and selling agents are associated with longer times on the market.

The authors argue that this evidence of higher house prices and longer time on market for attractive agents is suggestive of two theories. Either attractive agents use their physical beauty to compensate for low productivity (i.e., they don’t actually work that hard to sell the house because their attractiveness helps get a higher price). Or they use their beauty to attract better listings that command higher prices but are no better (or worse) at selling them than other agents.

The authors of this paper side with the second explanation – that agents don’t actually use their beauty to sell properties more successfully, but rather are better at attracting listings that they can sell for higher prices.

If my agent read this piece I suspect that she would think to herself: I wonder if anyone has every done a study on the relationship between having an economist as a client and the length of time a house spends on the market? I have to admit to feeling a bit badly about how analytical I have been about the whole thing. The good news is, though, that the combination of being patient (which I am) and being attractive (which she is) appears to be a winner. Here’s hoping!

Posted by on Apr 15, 2012 in Psycho-babble | 7 comments

Foreign Buyers

An excerpt from an article of dubious quality from the latimesthanks daytrip!

Foreign clients bought $41 billion worth of stateside houses and apartments during the 12-month period that ended in March 2011, according to the latest tally by the National Assn. of Realtors. That’s roughly the same as the previous year.

But add in the $41 billion spent by immigrants who moved here within the last two years and individuals with visas of more than six months, and the total is $82 billion worth of U.S. residential real estate taken off the market by international buyers, up from $66 billion the year before.

The demand for American real estate is so strong that last fall, the Realtors association launched an international version of its listing website. Now, the 4.4 million properties displayed on Realtor.com can be viewed more easily by buyers from practically any place in the world, and in almost a dozen languages.

In the 1980s, when investors from Japan and other countries were buying large amounts of commercial real estate, including such iconic properties as the Pebble Beach golf club and Rockefeller Center in New York, there was fear in some quarters that the U.S. was for sale to foreigners.

There’s no such outcry this time around, if only because the foreign share of the domestic housing market is but a small sliver of a $1.07-trillion pie. And in markets where foreign buyers are most active, their pesos, pounds and rupees are being welcomed with open arms because they are helping unclog the logjam of unsold and foreclosed houses, a jam-up many believe must be cleared before residential real estate can regain its equilibrium.

“At a time when there are a lot of homes on the market and an overhang of distressed properties, an active foreign demand relieves these worries,” says Michael Fratantoni, vice president of research at the Mortgage Bankers Assn.

While most states have some international buyers, the Realtors group says foreigners are buying largely in four states — Florida, California, Texas and Arizona. Of those, only Texas is not being held back by a glut of unsold inventory.

More recent data square with the association’s findings. According to DataQuick, nearly 55% of all U.S. residential real estate sales to foreigners from May to November last year were in Florida, and more than 17% were in Arizona. Nearly 6% were in California, and close to 5% were in Nevada, another state hit hard by the housing downturn.

According to an analysis of Internet searches of U.S. real estate by foreigners in last year’s fourth quarter by Point2, a real estate technology company, Florida holds the most interest, followed by Arizona, Nevada and California.

None of this is terribly surprising. Not only are housing prices languishing in these spots, but most people prefer warmer climates. What may be surprising, though, is that many foreign buyers are not coming to the U.S. from that far away.

While the Realtors counted buyers from more than 70 countries, Canada accounted for nearly a fourth of all international sales, followed by China at 9% and India, Mexico and Britain each with a 7% share. Together, these five countries accounted for 53% of the transactions.

Canadians have always been big investors in American real estate, especially in warmer climates. But Saul Klein of Vancouver, Canada, firm Point2 says interest is also keen among Canadians in states such as Michigan, which is close to home. Michigan has been hit particularly hard by the downturn and, therefore, offers “very attractive” investment opportunities, Klein says.

But pure investment isn’t necessarily the main driver of the decision to buy houses in America, even if the buyers expect to use them only on vacations with family and friends. Rather, it’s foreign buyers’ desire to protect their money from the ravages of their own economies.

Even though the value of the U.S. dollar isn’t what it once was, most foreigners believe the U.S. is the “best place in the world” to park their money, says Faith Xenos of Singer Xenos, a Coral Gables, Fla., wealth management firm that works with Brazilian clients. “There is a certain allure and prestige to being a U.S. investor. So when people do well, they put their money in American real estate or a Swiss bank account,” Xenos says.

Most foreign purchases are in cash, if only because the long-term, big-ticket borrowing arrangements common in this country are, well, foreign to foreigners.

Stephen Davis, an immigration lawyer in Jacksonville, Fla., says foreigners can buy homes in the United States under several visa programs. But to grease the wheels a bit further, Sens. Charles E. Schumer, a New York Democrat, and Mike Lee, a Utah Republican, have introduced legislation that would grant three-year visas to those who spend at least $500,000 in cash on at least one house.

Noting the strong desire to own homes in places where the inventory of properties for sale is currently bloated, Schumer said of the measure: “This is a way of letting them live here and solving our housing crisis.”

Posted by on Mar 12, 2012 in Market Conditions, Psycho-babble | 1 comment

Pushback on Principal Reductions

From the latimes.com:

Reporting from Washington—

The regulator over Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac pushed back against mounting pressure that the mortgage finance giants start reducing the principal owed on troubled loans, insisting the practice could hurt taxpayers and that alternatives were better at avoiding foreclosures.

Edward J. DeMarco, acting director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency, told U.S. senators Tuesday that reducing the principal on mortgages owned or guaranteed by Fannie and Freddie would not protect taxpayers.

The government has pumped about $183 billion in taxpayer money into the companies, which the agency seized in 2008 as they teetered on the brink of bankruptcy.

Lawmakers, especially Democrats, have maintained that the agency needed to direct Fannie and Freddie to write down the mortgage principal on loans that exceeded the value of homes when struggling borrowers were facing foreclosures.

Five of the nation’s major banks agreed to similar terms to settle a nationwide lawsuit. Fannie and Freddie, which own or guarantee 60% of existing mortgages and back 75% of all new mortgages, was not part of that lawsuit.

DeMarco said executives at Fannie and Freddie advised him that it wasn’t “in the best interest of the companies” to write down mortgage principal to reduce foreclosures. The companies would lose part of the total amounts lent out.

He touted other steps, such as interest rate reductions that Fannie and Freddie have approved, to help keep struggling homeowners from defaulting.

“Foreclosure is the worst possible outcome in most instances. It is the most costly, it is the most devastating to the family, and it is the most devastating to the neighborhood,” DeMarco told the Senate Banking Committee.

The agency has “a responsibility to find all prudent actions” to prevent foreclosures, he said. Refinancing, modifying the lengths of loans and deferring payments on mortgage principal are more effective at keeping people in their homes without increasing the risk of losses at Fannie and Freddie, DeMarco said.

Democrats argued that principal reductions would help stabilize the housing market, ultimately reducing taxpayer losses on the Fannie and Freddie bailout because mortgages would not end up in foreclosures.

“In my view, the FHFA has shown a dismal lack of initiative in the housing crisis and needs to be far more aggressive in taking steps that can help both homeowners and taxpayers,” said Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.).

“The banks are finding it profitable to give principal reductions to about 20% of their own loans while, ironically, the government isn’t allowing principal reductions on any loans,” he said.

Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan said that principal reduction was the one foreclosure-prevention tool that the administration has made the least progress in employing.

But FHFA is an independent agency. DeMarco had been chief operating officer at the agency and became acting director in 2009. The White House has tried to replace him, but Senate Republicans blocked confirmation of President Obama’s nominee for the job.

Republicans, who oppose more government intervention in the housing market, praised DeMarco. But he acknowledged that “there appears to be a lot of criticism” of his performance.

California Atty. Gen. Kamala D. Harris has called on DeMarco to resign.

In a letter released Monday, she asked him to freeze foreclosures in the state until the agency did a “thorough, transparent analysis of whether principal reduction is in the best interests of struggling homeowners as well as taxpayers.”

Also Monday, 115 House members wrote to DeMarco to urge him to allow Fannie and Freddie to write down loan principals.

Posted by on Feb 29, 2012 in Principal Reductions, Psycho-babble | 8 comments

Fabricating A Story

Do you get the feeling that this guy had a desired outcome, and just lined up his ideas? From Time:

While experts continue to warn that housing has not yet hit bottom, a slew of indicators suggest otherwise.

The latest is a stellar quarterly earnings report from Home Depot, which is benefitting from hopeful owners sprucing up for the spring selling season.

Home Depot said Tuesday that net income jumped 32% for the quarter ending Jan. 29, blowing past Wall Street estimates. Top-performing store categories included electrical supplies, building materials, paint, lumber, lighting and flooring. Also strong: gutters, roofing and vinyl siding.

The company saw more shoppers: Number of transactions rose 3.6%. Shoppers spent more: The average customer ticket rose 2.4%. Meanwhile, the number of customers who spent more than $900 rose 3% as those who spent under $50 rose just 1.3%.

Good weather and pent-up demand for improvements from recession-weary homeowners may help explain the results. But an unmistakable sense of optimism underlies this activity. Yes, there are always high hopes for housing at this time of year. Yet people generally do not make a big investment in their home unless they feel they have equity and it is secure. Among other hopeful signs:

  • The job market is improving. Last month, unemployment hit its lowest level in three years. The unemployment rate has improved five months in a row.
  • Homebuilder sentiment in February climbed to its highest level in nearly five years.
  • Housing stocks are soaring. The stock market isn’t always right. But it often predicts developments six to nine months down the road—and companies that build houses have seen share prices increase 60% since October. Home Depot stock has rallied in similar fashion, in part because people who buy homes tend to spend money fixing them up.
  • New housing starts in January nearly matched November’s three-year high.
  • Sensing a turn, big investors are buying mortgage securities as eagerly as they once sold them. “There is light at the end of the tunnel,” Kenneth J. Taubes, the head of United States investment for Pioneer Investments, told The New York Times. “The mortgage crisis is getting behind us, and things are getting back to some semblance of normality.”
  • State and federal authorities have reached a $26 billion settlement with big banks that is expected to provide some mortgage relief and possibly ease the foreclosure nightmare.

Yes, we’ve seen false bottoms before. The foreclosure mess, especially, still hangs over the market. But housing downturns like this one end at some point—and most people are surprised when it happens. Keep an eye on mortgage rates. If they start to move up it may push buyers to act before they miss the lowest rates on recordand then higher prices would follow.

 

Posted by on Feb 23, 2012 in Psycho-babble | 12 comments