Sunday, June 29, 2008

Arizona homeowners could avoid tax increase

Arizona homeowners could avoid tax increase
Reported by: Katrina Wessman
Last Update: 3/27/08 2:03 pm

The Arizona House passed a bill on Tuesday that would permanently repeals the statewide property tax on Tuesday.

The bill would help ensure homeowners in the state avoid a $250 million tax increase.

The Legislature previously suspended the property tax for three years.

The tax will reappear if there is no action taken this year.

"While this bill helps our struggling economy by eliminating the tax on businesses, it is also for the small guy - by keeping Arizona families in their homes," said House Speaker Jim Weiers. "I do not want to see our homeowners burdened by this massive tax increase."

“Without action, property owners will see the tax return in January. At a time when foreclosures in Arizona are skyrocketing, this bill brings a little relief,” Weiers said.

Gov. Janet Napolitano and other opponents call the move ill-advised and ill-timed when the state has big budget problems.

The bill now goes to the Senate.

Homebuyer beware, seller could hide flaws in your dream home

Homebuyer beware, seller could hide flaws in your dream home
Last Update: 4/08

We've all heard it's a home buyer's market, but that could mean the home seller is desperate.

They may go as far as hiding flaws in the house, so how do you make sure you're not buying damaged goods?

Homebuyers need to know how to ask the smart questions in this Home Smart consumer alert.

Home sellers are required by law to 'tell all' when selling their home, but you and your real estate agent will want to have a licensed, bonded professional look for chinks in the armor from rooftop to foundation.

Buyers want to check there is no settling or cracking in the foundation, no 'waving' of carpets, or cracks in walls.

The inspector will check the air conditioning system, hot water heater and plumbing and electrical systems.

But there is a limit to what the seller has to divulge, such as whether a crime has been committed in the house or if a sex offender had lived there.

So before signing on the bottom line, make sure you have checked every nook and cranny so you don't get burned.

Historic Phoenix homes Specialist, Laura Boyajian has become an expert in this field. She knows what to look for and how to look for it. She has worked extensively with Structural Engineers, Architects and Contractors and Builders gaining an extraordinary knowledge. Contact her today for more information and to have her help you find a solid historic home in downtown Phoenix.

First Valley fissure maps completed to help homebuyers

First Valley fissure maps completed to help homebuyers
Reported by: staff

Homebuyers in the Valley are getting some help in locating areas where fissures are a problem.

Fissures are cracks in the ground that can cause structural damage.

The Arizona Geological Survey has completed detailed maps of two areas that have lots of fissures.

The new maps of Chandler Heights near Queen Creek and Apache Junction are the first step in AGZS' effort to map fissures statewide.

The project was mandated by 2006 legislation that came in response to homeowners concerned about fissures.

There are 20 more Arizona areas to map.

Some Valley home prices go up despite down real estate market

Some Valley home prices go up despite down real estate market
by Anne Yeager


Everywhere you look in the Valley, homes are for sale.

And while they may be gorgeous inside, in many cases they're not worth what the sellers originally paid for them.

"As they say, whatever goes up must come down to some extent," said Joe Propati, chief appraiser at the Maricopa County Assessor's Office.

"Some areas held their values a little better than others, while most went down," Propati said.

According to the Assessor, the average residential property value dropped 13 percent from last year.

The general rule is the further to the outskirts, the more values went down.

John Halvorsen put a lot into his West Valley home, which is now worth about a $100,000 less than he paid.

He lives in zip code 85355, out near the White Tank Mountains, an area with beautiful views but values down 24 percent.

"It's my life actually," Halvorsen said. "It's hard to swallow, but there's really nothing we can do about it."

Now for the good news, we take you to one of the few parts of the Valley where values actually went up, zip code 85004.

Beverly Moodey has lived in the East Alvarado Historic District for nearly two decades.

"It's a good neighborhood," Moodey said. "It has the virtues of downtown."

His zip code is so attractive that values there are up 23 percent.

"It's all a function of location and demand within a specific area," Propati said.

And a lot of that demand now comes from high-rise downtown condos, which is driving up everything around it.

But the Assessor's Office believes other parts of the Valley will turn back up in the near future.

"No one should panic at this point. It's all cyclical," Propati said.

"Buying a home in historic Phoenix is still a wonderful idea. The locations are ripe for a profitable future," says Laura Boyajian of DPR Realty, LLC who specializes in downtown Phoenix historic properties. "There are many parts of downtown Phoenix homes which have gone up in value as opposed to taking losses. It's a incredible time to buy, especially since the bottom has been in effect for some time and, that rates are beginning to rise again."

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Tempe Butte steps closer to historic register -

Tempe Butte steps closer to historic register

Mesa, Arizona - Tempe Butte is composed of volcanic rock, desert vegetation and history.

Through centuries, the geographic feature also known as Hayden Butte has held significance among three communities: Tempe residents, Arizona State University and local American Indians.

This is why, city officials believe, Tempe Butte belongs on the Tempe Historic Property Register.

Following the Tempe Historic Preservation Commission's unanimous vote supporting the designation on Thursday night, there are only a few more steps to go before the butte is placed at No. 34 on the register. The City Council will have the final say at its Aug. 7 meeting

Such a designation, city preservation officials take pains to note, will not change how the butte is used. People can still hike or bike the trail to the top, Christmas decorations will be erected every winter and ASU students can still paint the giant "A" - as long as they have the proper permit.

In 1961, the City Council changed the mountain's name to Hayden Butte, honoring Tempe's founder and his son, former U.S. Sen. Carl Hayden. However, the city never takes up the change with the U.S. Geological Survey, leading to the two names.

Actually, not all of Tempe Butte will be placed on the register; ASU owns the eastern half, with the divider being a chain-link fence that roughly follows College Avenue north. Because the state owns that land, the city cannot apply on its behalf.

The first citizens of Tempe Butte were the Hohokam, who lived on the mountain while tending their crops which were irrigated by canals stemming from the adjacent Salt River. Even today, hikers can see the ancient people's petroglyphs carved into the rocks.

The Hohokam vanished, but their descendents now comprise the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community. In the recent past, the Salt River community has helped pay for archaeological research on the mountain.

In the 1870's, city founder Charles Trumbull Hayden thought the butte was a fine place to open a flour mill and blacksmith shop. Soon, Hayden's Ferry was one of the Valley's preeminent crossing points on the Salt River.

In the following years, the milestones piled up:

1887 - Quarries open on the butte's north and south sides. Much of the rock is used to build railroad beds throughout the region, but some stone is made into the trim of ASU's Old Main building.

1902 - Tempe starts up its first waterworks with a storage reservoir on the mountain.

1918 - ASU's predecessor, Tempe Normal School, places a giant "N" on the rocks. Twelve years later, the letter is changed to "T" for Tempe State Teachers College. The "A" comes in 1938 to recognize Arizona State Teacher's College.

1958 - ASU's Sun Devil Stadium is constructed in the butte's saddle.

Tempe Butte rises 346 feet above the desert floor, with its peak elevation just short of 1,500 feet above sea level.

To buy a historic home in Tempe, AZ or any home in Tempe, AZ, call Laura Boyajian today at 602.400.0008. You may also visit her award wining website at:

Friday, June 27, 2008

May Existing-Home Sales Show Modest Gain

May Existing-Home Sales Show Modest Gain
Thursday, June 26, 2008

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Existing-homes sales increased in May with buyers responding to lower home prices, according to the National Association of Realtors®.

Existing-home sales including single-family, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops increased 2.0 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.99 million units in May from a level of 4.89 million in April, but are 15.9 percent below the 5.93 million-unit pace in May 2007.

NAR President Richard F. Gaylord, a broker with RE/MAX Real Estate Specialists in Long Beach, Calif., said buyers are seeing value in the current housing market. “Home buyers are starting to get off the fence and into the market, drawn by drops in home prices in many areas and armed with greater access to affordable mortgages,” he said. “Today’s buyer plans to stay in a home for 10 years, which is a good strategy for building long-term wealth.”

The national median existing-home price for all housing types was $208,600 in May, down 6.3 percent from a year ago when the median was $222,700.

Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, said there’s still a lot of inventory in the market. “The large supply of homes on the market clearly favors buyers, and it should take several months to draw the inventory down,” he said. “Stabilization in home prices can only occur with buyers returning to the market, so we are encouraged by rising home sales, particularly in distressed markets. Foreclosures and short sales appear to be a larger part of the market, particularly in California, and are creating a drag on current home prices.”

Total housing inventory at the end of May fell 1.4 percent to 4.49 million existing homes available for sale, which represents a 10.8-month supply at the current sales pace, down from a 11.2-month supply in April.

Although conditions remain mixed around the country, unpublished snapshot data shows a number of areas are experiencing much higher sales activity than May 2007, including Sacramento, the San Fernando Valley and Monterey County in California; Sarasota, Fla.; and Battle Creek, Mich.

“Keep in mind that the volume of home sales is the primary driver of economic activity that is tied to housing,” Yun said. “It’d be premature to say the improvement marks a turnaround. The market is fragile, so a first-time home buyer tax credit and a permanent raise in loan limits would be important steps to get the housing engine humming.”

According to Freddie Mac, the national average commitment rate for a 30-year, conventional, fixed-rate mortgage rose to 6.04 percent in May from 5.92 percent in April; the rate was 6.26 percent in May 2007.

Single-family home sales rose 1.6 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.41 million in May from 4.34 million in April, but are 14.5 percent below the 5.16 million-unit pace in May 2007. The median existing single-family home price was $206,700 in May, which is 6.8 percent below a year ago.

Existing condominium and co-op sales increased 5.5 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 580,000 units in May from 550,000 in April, but are 24.6 percent lower than the 769,000-unit level a year ago. The median existing condo price was $223,400 in May, down 2.1 percent from May 2007.

Regionally, existing-home sales in the Midwest rose 5.5 percent in May to a pace of 1.16 million but are 16.5 percent lower than a year ago. The median price in the Midwest was $165,300, which is 0.7 percent below May 2007.

In the Northeast, existing-home sales rose 4.6 percent to an annual rate of 910,000 in May, but are 15.0 percent below May 2007. The median price in the Northeast was $278,000, down 2.4 percent from a year ago.

Existing-home sales in the West increased 2.0 percent to an annual pace of 1.02 million in May, but are 12.8 percent below a year ago. The median price in the West was $286,600, which is 16.0 percent lower than May 2007.

In the South, existing-home sales slipped 0.5 percent to an annual rate of 1.91 million in May, and are 17.0 percent below May 2007. The median price in the South was $175,000, down 4.3 percent from May 2007.

To buy a home in Downtown Phoenix, AZ or a Historic Phoenix Home, contact Laura B. today at 602.400.0008. You may also visit her award winning website at

Friday, June 20, 2008

Real Estate in Phoenix: Ready to Rebound?

Real Estate in Phoenix: Ready to Rebound?
Experts anticipate a more stable market after Phoenix housing price correction
Published on: Tuesday, May 20, 2008
Written by: Melana Yanos

Real estate in Phoenix has been hurt badly by the housing crisis, and since the turmoil began a dark cloud has loomed over the Valley of the Sun. But is there a silver lining in sight? Although local experts can’t say for certain, it is presumed—if nothing else—that the worst is almost over.

“Those who are waiting for the bottom of the market may be surprised to discover that it has already occurred in a few areas,” Chuck Willman, a real estate agent for Gentry Realty and founder of, said in an e-mail interview. “Whereas the market decline can be prolonged, the rebound can be quite quick.”

The city of Phoenix is larger than Los Angeles and has an accordingly complex property marketInvestors should keep in mind that the Phoenix real estate market is vast. The city alone is geographically larger than Los Angeles, occupying an area of 517 square miles, according to the City of Phoenix government website. As a result, specific parts of the property sector that show potential for upward growth may be easily buried in collective market trends.

“You have to take those numbers with a grain of salt because Phoenix is so big and spread out,” Jay Thompson, broker and owner for Thompsons Realty and blog author of, said. “There are houses here from tiny, older homes that are about $100,000 dollars, all the way up to multi-million dollar homes.”

And as prices fall, affordable opportunities for investment are becoming increasingly abundant.

“It’s a buyer’s market—there’s no question about that,” Thompson said.

For investors who are interested in capturing the potential for growth in a recovering market, real estate in Phoenix might be worth further investigation.

A short history

Phoenix real estate prices began to skyrocket in the winter of 2004 and continued for “two solid years of incredible surges in value,” Greg Swann, designated broker for, said. In the fourth quarter of 2003, the median home price in the Phoenix metro area was $155,000, according to the NAHB/Wells Fargo Housing Opportunity Index. Two years later, the median home price peaked at $264,000—an increase of 70 percent. Speculation flooded the market.

Map data ©2008 Tele Atlas - Terms of UseMap of Phoenix-Scottsdale-Mesa MSA Investor activity, however, quickly became a “fool’s parade,” according to Swann. Investors snapped up properties in hopes that they could reap significant profits based on appreciation alone, regardless of the property’s cash flow potential. Nevertheless, sellers who got out of the market when the “music stopped” easily doubled their money, Swann said.

But investors who stayed late or bought late in the game found themselves in a great deal of trouble.

“When the correction hit, many of the less savvy investors who had overextended themselves discovered that they couldn’t find renters to cover their expenses,” Willman said. “We’re currently seeing the fallout of the investor scramble.”

“There’s a lot of people who are upside down in their mortgages, and there’s a lot of short sales and a lot of foreclosures on the market right now,” Thompson said.

The overall inventory of homes has grown at an exponential rate. 3,400 homes were on the books for the Phoenix metro area as of January 2005; today, the supply of homes for sale numbers 45,000, according to Thompson. In addition, metropolitan Phoenix has an estimated 13.7 months’ supply of inventory, according to the most recent quarterly survey of housing conditions of major U.S. metro areas by The Wall Street Journal.

Urban sprawl abutting the mountains in Phoenix

Phoenix was also ranked as one of NuWire’s Top 5 Overbuilt Markets of 2007.

Total home sales have plummeted, compounding the overall detriment to the market. In 2005, annual home sales numbered 178,410; by the end of 2007, that number had plunged to 95,085, according to research by Arizona State University Realty Studies. Although quarterly sales continue to experience a slowdown across the board, existing homes sales have modestly increased, from 10,180 sales in the fourth quarter of 2007 to 11,390 in the first quarter of 2008.

Housing prices have dropped quarter after quarter, probably as a result of decreased buyer activity and the plethora of homes for sale. For the first quarter of 2008, median home price had fallen to $220,000—a decrease of more than 15 percent from the first quarter of 2007, according to a report by The Phoenix Business Journal earlier this month.

The Phoenix real estate market may be troubled, but positive economic trends hold the key to a healthy recovery. As of March 2008, Phoenix had an unemployment rate of 3.5 percent, the third lowest of all large metro areas in the U.S., according to the Bureau of Labor statistics.

Furthermore, Phoenix is one of the fastest-growing metro areas in the U.S., consistently adding more than 100,000 people to its population each year for the past eight years. The “pure growth factor” should have a positive long-term effect on the area, according to Willman.

Arizona is also viewed as a “business-friendly” state, especially when compared to highly-taxed and highly-regulated states such as California, Swann said. A number of tech companies have established a presence in Phoenix. Its geographical location is an ideal place for server farms, because there is little risk of “cataclysmic events,” such as hurricanes or earthquakes, “that [would] result in massive loss of data,” Swann said.

Overall, “given the fact that Phoenix has good population growth, good jobs, low unemployment—all those economic indicators [suggest] that when we hit bottom, it won’t last very long,” Thompson said.

Opportunities for investment

Phoenix is no longer a flipping market, but local experts have observed growing interest among investors returning the region.

“There’s a lot of investors and even speculators that think Phoenix is probably close to returning to a moderate appreciation rate, and that appeals to [them],” Thompson said. “The days of buying and selling it three months later for 20 percent profit are gone...but if you can buy and hold, there [are] still a lot of opportunities here.”

Phoenix's population growth and strong job market may bring quick recovery from the downturnThe recent upsurge of real estate owned (REO) properties, for instance, is “getting snapped up like crazy,” according to Swann. Foreclosure actions have bombarded the Phoenix market in record numbers, with the greater Maricopa County documenting 4,421 notices of trustee sales in April 2008, a 331 percent increase from April 2007, according to a report by The Phoenix Business Journal earlier this month.

“I think this is an excellent time for investors to be in this market, especially if they’re willing to put in the sweat equity, either directly or by contractor, to take these lender-owned homes and whip them into shape,” Swann said. Rehabilitated homes can then be sold or turned into rental properties.

Because it is a buyer’s market, investors can “pit sellers against each other” by making simultaneous offers on several REO properties at once, according to Swann. However, it is important for investors to bear in mind that these are often distressed properties and require thorough inspection on the part of the buyer. Furthermore, REO properties seldom sell for much less than market value. For more information about REO property considerations, read our previous article, Investing in REO Properties: Deal or No Deal?

The outlook for investment properties is heavily dependent on the outlook for individual neighborhoods within the Phoenix metro area. Subdivisions with unique amenities, such as golf course communities, appear to hold their value better than properties in “typical suburbia,” Thompson said.

Destination places such as Scottsdale, which “has a hint of luxury to its name,” are also more resistant to real estate market fluctuations, according to Willman.

Smart investors should scout specific areas for solid investment opportunities, such as properties with positive cash flow potential.

“When it rents for more than it sells for, that’s when you know that you have an undervalued property,” Willman said. “There’s a little bit of math [involved], but there’s a whole lot of [need to know] the neighborhoods.”

Homes within walking or driving distance of Arizona State University, for instance, can show great potential for cash flow because of the demand created by students in need of housing. A growing elderly population may also be attracted to the amenities available near colleges.

“If you look at the number of days on the market and pricing at homes near major universities, you’ll see that these areas have great potential,” Willman said.

Bargains on new homes can be found, especially among homes that have been constructed by large, publicly-traded builders. These builders “tend to more aggressively price their homes,” Willman said. New homes also come with warranties, presenting an additional advantage to buyers.

Arizona's climate, economy and scenery will continue to attract tourists and new residentsInvestors may want to keep their eye on homes closer to the center of Phoenix, which seem to show better price performance than homes in outlying areas. Arizona has traditionally been a commuter state, and people were amenable to driving a greater distance if it meant they could get “more house for their money,” Willman said. However, rising gas prices have lowered the cost effectiveness of commuting to work.

As a result, “homes in the far flung sections of the valley are going to continue to face pricing pressures. There is room for prices to continue to fall,” Willman said. “Meanwhile, existing homes in the heart of the valley...those closest to Phoenix are beginning to see better activity.”

Properties in greater Phoenix, however, are not necessarily a loser’s game. These properties may appeal to retirees, who are not as concerned with the commute, according to Thompson. “[Phoenix] is appealing to a very large senior community,” especially for those who are searching for a warmer climate to retire, he said.

It is also anticipated that baby boomers will flock to Phoenix as they reach retirement age, according to Swann.

Lastly, the opportunity to purchase land in Phoenix is the “biggest speculative area right now,” Willman said. Acquiring land at bargain prices is generally easier for those who have cash and time on their hands; those who need to borrow money will discover that banks have difficulty valuing land without tenants or without a commercial purpose.

“Although there are many bargains out there as some cash-strapped people are selling off near fast growing cities, and highways—current and planned—are becoming harder to find at a low price,” Willman said.

The collective market numbers may seem discouraging, but a wide range of solid real estate investment opportunities in Phoenix can be easily overlooked. Investors who are interested in buying real estate in Phoenix, however, need to take an educated approach in order to increase their likelihood of success.

“If you are]going to invest in today’s Phoenix real estate market, it’s pretty important to know what you’re know what you’re getting into, and to have realistic expectations,” Thompson said.

Call expert Real Estate Agent Laura Boyajian if you want proper guidance, counsel and knowledge. You may also visit her award winning website at

Pending home sales move higher in April

Pending home sales move higher in April
Associated Press ~ June 9, 2008 08:27 AM

NEW YORK - Pending home sales unexpectedly increased in April to the highest reading since October, an industry group said Monday, but they remain more than 13 percent below a year ago.

The National Association of Realtors' seasonally adjusted index of pending sales for existing homes rose to 88.2 from a March reading of 83.0, the lowest since the index was started in 2001. The index stood at 101.5 in April 2007.

Wall Street economists polled by Thomson/IFR had predicted the index would remain steady at 83.

A reading of 100 is equal to the average level of sales activity in 2001.

The April index in the West climbed 8.3 percent from March and is 4 percent higher than a year ago. In the Midwest, the index jumped 13 percent, but is still lower than in 2007. The South posted a 4.6 percent gain, while the Northeast index declined 1.9 percent.

NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun noted that pending sales contracts have ticked up in areas with the largest price declines such as Detroit and Las Vegas.

"Bargain hunters have entered the market en masse," he said. "Sharp price reductions are leading to a quicker discovery of price equilibrium points."

Yun forecasts that the median price of an existing home will drop 8.4 percent in the first half of the year before stabilizing. In 2009, prices will rise 4.4 percent to $213,900, he predicts.

Existing home sales this year are expected to total 5.40 million and then increase to 5.74 million next year, Yun said.

Canadian investors snapping up Valley homes

Canadian investors snapping up Valley homesCatherine Reagor ~ The Arizona Republic April 9, 2008

Canadian investor Trevor Matheson has taken an interest in metro Phoenix's real-estate market. So much so that he plans to buy six homes in the area over the next year.

"There are definitely deals to be found in Phoenix," said Matheson, who plans to hold onto the properties for at least three to five years.

Matheson is among a growing group of investors from north of the border converging on the Valley's real-estate market to take advantage of falling home prices and a weak dollar.

Last year, 752 Canadian buyers purchased Valley homes, according to the real-estate data firm Information Market. That's almost double the number in 2006 and even in the boom years of 2004-05. Though Canadians account for only small part of the Valley's total housing market, their interest is growing, and that's giving home sales a boost. Through mid-March of this year, 381 buyers from Canada invested in metro Phoenix homes.

Valley real-estate agents, who have seen home sales fall dramatically during the past few years, are abuzz about all the calls and visits they are getting from Canadian clients.

"I am working with five different Canadian buyers now," out of the Scottsdale office of Realty Executives. "Many Canadians are seeing the weak dollar and what a great long-term investment Arizona real estate is going to be."

Short-sale bargains

Matheson purchased his first Valley home in January. Watson found him a house in north Phoenix's Kierland area that sold for $785,000 in 2006. The owners were facing foreclosure, and Matheson got it through a short sale for $470,000. Short sales let sellers avoid foreclosure, but a lender has to first agree to the price, which is less than what is owed on the home.

Matheson is looking to sell six homes in Edmonton, Alberta, to buy homes here. He is selling at the peak of the market in Edmonton, where the oil industry is big and the economy is booming as a result of record-high gas prices.

Canadian buyers are helping the Valley's sagging housing market, said Amy Swaney, vice president of Artisan Lending of Phoenix.

But they aren't typically getting financing through local lenders because U.S. lenders have pulled back on all types of investment loans as part of the mortgage meltdown.

Matheson is using a Canadian line of credit to buy his Valley properties to protect himself against fluctuations between the U.S. dollar and the Canadian dollar, known as the loonie. The loonie was worth about 70 cents to the dollar five years ago, but it's now almost equal.

Lowballing is risky

Last month, Canadian attorney Jeffrey Slopen took advantage of the low value of the dollar to pay $14 million in cash for a Paradise Valley estate. It's the priciest Arizona home sale to date.

Bob Hassett of the Paradise Valley office of Russ Lyon Realty said he is getting calls about luxury homes from many Canadians and some Europeans. Florida and East Coast cities are attracting more European buyers, while Arizona is seeing more Canadian investors looking for bargains. The state has long attracted Canadian visitors during the winter. Arizona is second only to Florida for Canadian tourists.

But some potential investors are losing out by lowballing the market.

Watson was recently working with a Canadian couple who were interested in a home that had been foreclosed on in north Scottsdale, where comparables sales were in the mid-$500,000s.

"This home was well-maintained and was listed in the mid $400,000s - a great buy," Watson said. "My advice was to come in with at least a $375,000 offer. However, they decided to offer $250,000."

She said the couple had heard property was selling for 50 cents on the dollar in metro Phoenix. So no matter what, they weren't going to offer more than 50 percent of the asking price, she said, and the bank turned the offer down.

"The buyers wound up getting back on a plane to Canada without having purchased anything," Watson said. "They could have had a great buy if they had just been realistic about the market."

Contact Laura Boyajian today at 602-400-0008. She is an expert in short sales and can guide you to a phenomenal bargain.

You may also visit her website at

Lenders pledge speedy response on loan help

Lenders pledge speedy response on loan help
Associated Press ~ June 17, 2008

WASHINGTON - Mortgage companies are pledging to let troubled borrowers know whether they're approved for help within 45 days of receiving a homeowner's application.

The promise is expected to be announced Tuesday by the Hope Now Alliance, a Bush administration-backed industry group. The new efforts come as the industry draws fire for not doing enough to alleviate the housing crisis.

The changes, outlined in a copy of mortgage industry guidelines obtained by the Associated Press, are designed to clarify the mortgage assistance process for borrowers and the industry alike.

The mortgage industry is also trying to alleviate a major stumbling block: the reluctance of companies that hold second mortgages, such as home equity loans, to agree to such modifications.

Statistics released last month by Hope Now showed that nearly 183,000 borrowers received some form of loan workout in April, the highest monthly number since the effort started last summer.

Lawmakers in Congress and consumer advocates, however, call the industry's efforts inadequate. They are pushing for a new $300 billion program to allow the government to back new loans for struggling homeowners.

The Hope Now group also was criticized last week by a federal bank regulator, who questioned the accuracy of trade groups' mortgage assistance data. The regulator, Comptroller of the Currency John Dugan called them "responses to surveys that produced aggregate, unverified results from individual firms."

Foreclosure filings last month were up nearly 50 percent compared with a year earlier. Nationwide, 261,255 homes received at least one foreclosure-related filing in May, up 48 percent from 176,137 in the same month last year and up 7 percent from April, foreclosure listing service RealtyTrac Inc. said Friday.

Members of Hope Now include Bank of America Corp., Citigroup Inc., Washington Mutual Inc. and Wells Fargo & Co.

To get free counsel on buying a home and/or loans, contact Laura Boyajian today at 602.400.0008. You may also visit her website at:

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Housing Market Key Indicator Alert - A Few Bits of Better News

Housing Market Key Indicator Alert
By: Hanley Wood

A Few Bits of Better News
Housing data in April provided some unexpected signs of hope that the housing market may be stabilizing. While still premature to declare that ‘the bottom has been reached,’ we may be getting close. Positive permits and housing starts data was followed by a rare up-tick for new home sales in April. While April was the first time in over a year that single-family building permits posted a monthly gain, it was also the first time since October 2007 that new home sales posted an increase. However, the gain could be attributed to aggressive price cuts by builders in an attempt to undercut the resale market.

We continue to see positive fundamental changes in the new homes market like declining inventory levels and improved affordability levels. It will important for this kind of progress to continue as this year’s home-buying season is more important than ever.

Equities swung back and forth during the past week as the market tried to digest record-high crude prices, concerns about inflation, but relatively positive economic data. Leading indicators suggested that economic growth may have bottomed out as the index posted a slight increase in April. Revised GDP also showed that the economy grew at a slightly faster pace than the advance report had shown. And while crude ended the week trading at over $127/barrel, it reached a new all-time high earlier in the week. Sustained high crude prices will continue to hurt consumer discretionary spending along with igniting concerns of inflation going forward. If price pressures begin to increase, it will not be surprising for the Fed to raise rates before the end of the year.

The Economy
Preliminary estimates for first quarter gross domestic product were revised slightly higher to 0.9% from the advance figure of 0.6%. Many had expected the economy to contract during the first quarter due to the credit crunch and the continued troubles in the financial and housing markets. It is still widely expected that growth will remain weak going into the second quarter. The economy grew at a 0.6% clip during the previous quarter and the first quarter of last year. Revisions that showed a sharp drop in imports helped to improve growth estimates for the quarter.

Leading indicators in April increased slightly for the second straight month. The leading index now stands at 102.0, up from a March figure of 101.90. The index is also down from its levels six months ago when it was 103.20. Seven out of the ten components showed a month over month increase from March levels.

Consumer confidence in May fell for the fifth straight month to its lowest levels since October 1992. The consumer confidence index declined to 57.2 in May from an upwardly revised 62.8 in April which represents a 5.6 point drop from the previous month. Both the present situation and expectations index reported monthly declines as well.

Housing Market
New and existing home sales moved in opposite directions in April. New home sales posted a rare 3.3% increase in April to a seasonally-adjusted 526,000 homes, up from a revised March figure of 509,000. This is the first time since October 2007 in which seasonally-adjusted annualized sales have posted a monthly increase. Sales for the previous three months, however, were revised lower by 30,000 units. At the current sales pace, there are 10.6 months of new homes supply on the market. The number of new homes for sale continued to decline as builders continue to scale back production. New home inventory declined to 454,000 which is the lowest it has been since May 2005. In April, median new home prices rebounded from its lowest levels since September 2006 in March to $246,100 in April. It was also the first time since November that median new home prices recorded a year-over-year gain.

Annualized sales of total existing homes declined 1.0% in April to 4.89 million units. Sales of existing homes are down 17.5% from the 5.93 million units in April 2007. Median existing home prices in April increased for the second straight month to $202,300 from a revised $200,100 in March. The number of existing homes for sale increased jumped 10.5% to 4.552 million units in April. At the current sales pace, there are 11.2 months of existing homes supply on the market. Existing home affordability declined slightly in March due to the increase in median existing home prices.

National average mortgage rates increased to 6.08% in the latest Primary Mortgage Market Survey released weekly by Freddie Mac on May 29th. This is the highest rates have been since mid-March. In the week ending May 23rd, the MBA’s seasonally-adjusted Purchase Index increased slightly to 352.7 from 352.5 in the previous week. The latest figure reflects a 0.06 percent increase from last week but a 17.40 percent drop from the same period last year.

About the Author
Hanley Wood: Hanley Wood Market Intelligence is the housing industry’s leading independent real estate research firm providing residential construction information and analysis for real estate development and new-home construction. Builders, developers, lenders, and manufacturers turn to Market Intelligence products and services to fuel their strategic decisions. The Key Indicator newsletter is a free publication to over 25,000 industry professionals and provides an overview of recent economic trends and analysis.

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