Friday, May 30, 2008

CNN - "Housing rescue on the rise; so are foreclosures" (5-30-08)

"Hope Now helped 183,000 at-risk borrowers stay in their homes during the month of April, according to numbers released by the coalition on Friday. The alliance of mortgage lenders, servicers, investors and community advocacy groups also said it has arranged a total of nearly 1.6 million loan workouts since the program began in July, 2007."

Bloomberg - "Kohn Signals Wall Street May Get Permanent Access to Fed Loans" (5-30-08)

"Federal Reserve Board Vice Chairman Donald Kohn raised the possibility of giving Wall Street securities firms permanent access to loans from the central bank, as long as regulators tighten oversight of the companies. Kohn also advocated continuing Fed auctions of funds to commercial banks and loans of Treasuries to Wall Street dealers even after markets stabilize. Such channels would stay open 'ether on a standby basis or operating at a very low level,'he said in a speech in New York yesterday."

Bloomberg - "Subprime Finds New Victim as Muni Defaults Triple" (5-30-08)

"So far this year, $736 million in municipal bonds have defaulted. That doesn't necessarily mean they didn't pay investors; they may have just drawn down reserves. That's what happens just before they stop making payments to bondholders."

MSN - "April insured mortgage defaults rise" (5-30-08)

"MICA said the numbers showed 73,880 insured borrowers were at least 60 days late on payments in April. That is up from 43,161 a year earlier."

Financial Times - "US banks likely to fail as bad loans soar" (5-30-08)

"US banks set aside a record $37.1bn to cover losses on real estate loans and other credits during the first quarter in a sign of the growing economic pain being caused by the global credit crisis, regulators said on Thursday. Sheila Bair, chairwoman of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, said it was likely loan-loss provisions and bank failures would rise in coming quarters as the fallout from market turmoil hits the real economy."

Bloomberg - "Moody's Implied Ratings Lab Reveals Ambac, MBIA Turning to Junk" (5-30-08)

"Moody's Investors Service has created a new unit that surprises even its own director. The team from Moody's Analytics, which operates separately from Moody's ratings division, uses credit-default swap prices as an alternative system of grading debt. These so-called implied ratings often differ significantly from Moody's official grades. The implied ratings frequently show that swap traders think debt is in more danger of defaulting than Moody's credit ratings signify. And here's the kicker: The swaps traders are usually right."

Bloomberg - "Pimco's Auction-Rate Holders Fail to Get Satisfaction" (5-30-08)

"David Chandler is tired of waiting for Pacific Investment Management Co. to decide whether to help investors trapped by the collapse of the $330 billion auction- rate securities market."

Orange County Register - "Laguna Beach home sales dip mid-May, Garden Grove’s up" (5-30-08)

"DataQuick’s freshest stats from mid-May hint at a distinct turn in the market. For the 22 business days ended May 14, the ZIP code with the fastest drop in sales among O.C.’s 83 major ZIP codes was Laguna Beach 92651 (sales down 67.6%) with a $1.15 million median selling price, while the neighborhood with the fastest growing sales was Garden Grove’s 92843 (+100%) with a median of $389,500."

Realty Times - "Which is America's Most Valuable Niche Market?" (5-30-08)

"It's the Military niche -- and it can be yours if you live in a military community and make your specialized services known to its members. You see, military families are re-assigned every 3 to 4 years. And with 1.4 million military members on active duty, and only about 200 military bases in the U.S., that means that hundreds of families are moving in and out of your military community every year."

Realty Times - "Realty Viewpoint: Guess What? Equity Recovers" (5-30-08)

"The California Association of Realtors most recent report notes that state-wide inventory is going down from 11 months on hand a year ago to nine months. That's faster than the national average, folks, which has climbed to 11 months, according to the National Association of Realtors."

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Bloomberg - "Libor Proxies Gain as Traders Seek Truth With Swaps" (5-29-08)

"Libor, the benchmark for 6 million U.S. mortgages and more than $350 trillion of derivatives and corporate bonds, has been called into question since the Bank for International Settlements said in March some lenders may have understated borrowing costs to keep from appearing like they are in financial straits."

Bloomberg - "Treasuries Fall as Economy Grows More Than Initial Estimate" (5-29-08)

"U.S. debt dropped before the Treasury's $19 billion auction of five-year notes, following a $30 billion sale of two-year securities that attracted tepid demand. Dallas Fed President Richard Fisher said yesterday the central bank will probably raise the target lending rate if the public's inflation expectations increase."

Bloomberg - "Higher Treasury Yields Means 'Darker' U.S. Outlook" (5-29-08)

"The yield on the 10-year U.S. Treasury note increased to the highest level of the year after the government said the world's largest economy grew at a faster pace in the first quarter than it originally estimated. Rates on home loans typically track long-term government debt and may soon follow suit, said Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody's in West Chester, Pennsylvania."

Bloomberg - "Centro Talks 'Progressing Well' on A$1.2 Billion Sale" (5-29-08)

"Centro Properties Group, the Melbourne-based owner of more than 650 U.S. malls, said talks are progressing to sell its stake in a fund that manages A$1.2 billion ($1.16 billion) of assets."

Orange County Register - "13% of Calif. homes have quake insurance. Good call?" (5-29-08)

"New state Department of Insurance stats show Californians continue to shun earthquake insurance for their residences. In 2007, 13.07% of residential insurance policies included earthquake coverage, that’s up slightly from 12.8% in 2006 and 11.85% in ‘05."

Los Angeles Times - "Straight to auction: 17 model homes in Palmdale" (5-29-08)

"Another clump of new homes is going straight to auction on June 1. The auction house Kennedy Wilson is billing these 17 homes in Palmdale and Lancaster as 'gorgeous, luxury model homes.'"

Realty Times - "Real Estate Outlook: Forecasts from Top Bank Execs" (5-29-08)

"Howard Atkins, chief financial officer of Wells Fargo, was quoted in the American Banker newspaper as saying that lower mortgage rates -- the latest 30-year average dropped below 6 percent again last week -- plus more affordable housing, and banks newly strengthened by capital infusions, should trigger a recovery this year."

Realty Times - "Realty Viewpoint: HomeBuyers At Walk-Away Price, Best Buys To Come This Summer" (5-29-08)

"In Q1-08, housing prices were down over three percent, the largest decline since OFHEO began tracking the index. The purchase index showed prices falling in 43 states, a testimony to the pervasive credit crunch and fear gripping housing markets, even in economically healthy locales."

Realty Times - "ID Theft Hits Home" (5-29-08)

"A growing number of crooks who steal your identity don't swipe your personal information to pilfer from your financial accounts. They want to get their hands on your home and snatch it right out from under you."

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Mortgage Bankers Association - "Mortgage Applications Drop as Refinance Activity Decreases In Latest MBA Weekly Survey" (5-28-08)

"The Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) today released its Weekly Mortgage Applications Survey for the week ending May 23, 2008. The Market Composite Index, a measure of mortgage loan application volume, was 593.3, a decrease of 4.6 percent on a seasonally adjusted basis from 621.6 one week earlier. On an unadjusted basis, the Index decreased 4.6 percent compared with the previous week and was down 7.5 percent compared with the same week one year earlier."

The Washington Post - "Choosing Bankruptcy to Stay Afloat" (5-28-08)

"Despite the 2005 passage of a law that made it more difficult and expensive to file for personal bankruptcy, more Americans are choosing bankruptcy over destitution. Filings -- including Chapter 7, which wipes out debt, and Chapter 13, which reorganizes it -- totaled 822,590 last year, up 38 percent from 2006."

Bloomberg - "AIG Falls to Lowest Since 1997 on Capital Concerns" (5-28-08)

"AIG may seek $5 billion to $10 billion rather than letting its credit ratings be cut again and risking higher borrowing costs and lower sales, Shanker said late yesterday in a research note. Standard & Poor's, Fitch Ratings and Moody's Investors Service downgraded New York-based AIG this month after the company posted a $7.81 billion first-quarter loss."

Bloomberg - "Standard Pacific Continues to Rise on Equity Firm's Investment" (5-28-08)

"Standard Pacific Corp., the homebuilder that has lost 84 percent of its market value since 2005, rose as much as 12 percent today, a day after a private equity firm said it would invest more than $530 million in the company."

Bloomberg - "KB Home Founder Broad Says U.S. Home Prices Will Drop 10% More" (5-28-08)

"U.S. home prices likely will drop another 10 percent from their peak before the housing market begins to recover, said Eli Broad, founder of Los Angeles-based homebuilder KB Home."

Orange County Register - "O.C.’s commercial construction down in ‘08" (5-28-08)

"The Construction Industry Research Board reports that permits for commercial construction in Orange County fell in every category but two during the first four months of the year."

Orange County Register - "Another subprime hot dog" (5-28-08)

"According to county records obtained by NEWSWEEK, Kellogg was the broker of record for the purchase of 71 houses in Slavic Village from 2003 to 2006—during the height of the subprime investment boom. All of them went into foreclosure within a year or two."

Orange County Register - "SoCal home pricing seen at worst in 43+ years" (5-28-08)

"The Real Estate Research Council of Southern California has perhaps the most curious tracking of local home value: Every six months they send out volunteer appraisers who value the exact same homes over and over again. While it involves a small sample of homes — 308, to be exact — it’s a marker that’s not tilted by changing mixes of homes that sold recent, a problem with other indexes, for example. And RERC’s been doing this math for 43 years, so there’s great history, too."

Realty Times - "Real Estate Marketing Strategies: How to Attract Your Ideal Client" (5-28-08)

"Remember, before people will do business with you, they need to KNOW, LIKE and TRUST you. So follow your basic word of mouth strategies to be in contact with them. Remember--they are your target market now, so you need to join the networking organizations they belong to, speak at places where they will be listening, write articles that they will read and form cross referral relationships with other professionals that work with them."

Realty Times - "Senate Takes On Mortgage Walk-Away" (5-28-08)

"The Senate Banking Committee has just passed the Federal Housing Finance Regulatory Reform Act of 2008 by an overwhelming and bipartisan vote of 19-2. Buried in the proposed legislation is something new and revolutionary, an effort to stop mortgage walk-aways."

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

NAR - "NAR, DOJ Agree on MLS Policy: REALTORS® Compete, Consumers Win" (5-27-08)

"The National Association of Realtors® has reached a favorable settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice, resolving litigation between them regarding how listings from multiple listing services are displayed on brokers’ virtual office Web sites. The proposed final order, to be filed with the federal district court in Chicago today, validates NAR’s longstanding Internet Data Exchange (IDX) policy and strengthens the rule governing participation in multiple listing services."

NAHB - "New-Home Sales Up In April Following Downward Revision In March" (5-27-08)

"Sales of newly built, single-family homes rose 3.3 percent in April to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 526,000 units, the U.S. Commerce Department reported today. However, this gain reflected downward revisions to sales numbers reported for each of the previous three months, including a particularly large revision for March."

CBIA - "New-Home Production Remains Weak in April, CBIA Announces" (5-27-08)

"Total housing starts in California, as measured by building permits issued, fell 42 percent in April when compared to the same month a year ago to 6,197 units, according to housing permit data supplied by the Construction Industry Research Board. Single-family home production dropped 55 percent while construction of multifamily units dipped 15 percent when compared to April of 2007. "

Bloomberg - "Libor Cracks Widen as Bankers Struggle With Reforms" (5-27-08)

"Few companies have suffered from the subprime mortgage collapse more than UBS AG, which has taken $38 billion of writedowns and losses, replaced its chief executive officer and chairman and saw its stock tumble 60 percent."

Bloomberg - "Foreclosures in Military Towns Surge at Four Times U.S. Rate" (5-27-08)

"In the midst of the worst surge in mortgage defaults in seven decades, foreclosures in U.S. towns where soldiers live are increasing at a pace almost four times the national average, according to data compiled by research firm RealtyTrac Inc. in Irvine, California. As military families like the VerSteeghs signed up for the initial lower rates and easier terms of subprime mortgages, the number of people taking out Veterans Administration loans fell to the lowest in at least 12 years."

Bloomberg - "Standard Pacific Soars on $530 Million Investment" (5-27-08)

"Standard Pacific Corp., the homebuilder that has lost $1.4 billion in market value since 2005, had its biggest gain in at least 28 years after announcing a private equity firm will invest more than $530 million in the company."

Bloomberg - "California Home-Price Cuts End Sales Losing Streak" (5-27-08)

"Housing demand in California, where one out of every eight U.S. residents lives, is reviving as bargain hunters buy foreclosed properties, reversing a two-year slide in home sales."

Realty Times - "Realty Viewpoint: Expert Discourages Foreclosures For First-time Buyers" (5-27-08)

"One way first-time homebuyers can keep housing costs down is to get a great deal on a foreclosure. Right? Wrong, says author, real estate attorney and investor James Randel."

Orange County Register - "61 Realtor groups eye statewide MLS" (5-27-08)

"The California Association of Realtors reported recently that 61 multiple listing services or Reator assocaitons have sent in letters indicating that they intend to be part of the new statewide database of homes for sale."
Bloomberg - "UBS Falls After Saying More Mortgage Losses Possible" (5-26-08)

"UBS AG, the European bank hardest hit by the U.S. subprime contagion, fell the most in more than two months in Swiss trading after saying it may face more losses from mortgage securities."

Yahoo - "Plenty of 'For Sale' signs but actual sales lagging" (5-26-08)

"The National Association of Realtors reported that 46 states saw sales decline in the first three months of this year compared with the same period in 2007. Two-thirds of 149 metropolitan areas saw prices decline during the same period, the largest percentage of cities reporting price drops in the history of the NAR survey, which goes back to 1979."

Orange County Register - "O.C. real estate/finance jobs creep up again" (5-26-08)

"State Employment Development Dept. stats, analyzed by your blogger, show that Orange County real estate and finance jobs last month rose again — this time by 800 jobs to 234,400, the first back-to-back, month-to-month gain in 13 months."

Orange County Register - "Renters spooked about homebuying. Agree?" (5-26-08)

"A new National Apartment Association survey reports that 69% of renters plan to stay in their rentals over the next year rather than buying a home."
Ventura County Star - "Home sales offer hope to some" (5-24-08)

"Two reports this week showed an uptick in Ventura County home sales in April that some see as good news for the real estate market. On Friday, the California Association of Realtors reported that sales of existing homes increased from a year ago, while the median price was down 28.2 percent."

Yahoo - "Buffett sees 'long, deep' U.S. recession" (5-24-08)

"The United States is already in a recession and it will be longer as well as deeper than many people expect, U.S. investor Warren Buffett said in an interview published in German magazine Der Spiegel on Saturday."

Orange County Register - "Lenders try to help homeowners in trouble but is it too little, too late?" (5-24-08)

"Banks are helping a broader array of homeowners struggling with their loan payments, but the sheer number of bad loans is overshadowing their efforts. Experts say lenders and loan servicers are now willing to work with financially strapped borrowers even if they are current on their loans. During the housing boom, banks generally modified home loans only after borrowers missed at least one payment and thus dinged their credit, sources said."

North County Times - "HOUSING: Foreclosure crisis to grow before it shrinks" (5-25-08)

"Foreclosures have flooded North County's housing market, and indicators show that the waters will be rising, not receding through the rest of the year.Just as April's sales data was the best in months and provided some encouragement for real estate agents, the month's huge foreclosure numbers offered more ammunition to housing market bears who see San Diego County's housing recession dragging on for two or three years."

The Philadelphia Inquirer - "A nation of borrowers" (5-25-08)

"Just over the last two years, the share of people borrowing from their 401(k) retirement accounts doubled, to 18 percent from 9, according to the Boston College Center for Retirement Research. And Federal Reserve data reveal that credit card debt grew at a yearly rate of 8 percent so far this year, compared with 3 percent in 2005. "

The San Diego Union Tribune - "Fannie, Freddie scrap declining-market label" (5-25-08)

"Fannie switched to a nationally uniform policy of charging borrowers the same minimum down payments irrespective of location. A spokesman for Freddie Mac, Brad German, said his company would be 'suspending' its declining markets policy indefinitely as well."

Friday, May 23, 2008

Yahoo - "Sales of existing homes fall 1 percent in April" (5-23-08)

"Sales of existing homes fell for the eighth time in the past nine months, with the backlog of unsold single-family homes rising to the highest level in more than two decades. The National Association of Realtors said that existing home sales dropped by 1 percent to 4.89 million units, matching the all-time low set in January. These records go back to 1999."

Bloomberg - "Citigroup Says Swaps Mania in Muniland Is Finished" (5-23-08)

"perhaps the most popular type of interest-rate swap engaged in by states and municipalities is history."

Bloomberg - "Muni Yields Fall to 3-Month Low as `Sanity' Returns" (5-23-08)

"U.S. municipal bond yields fell to the lowest in three months as 'sanity' returned to the tax- exempt market following the auction-rate rout, helping borrowers escape interest costs as high as 20 percent. The benchmark Bond Buyer 20 index of yields on long-term tax-exempt debt fell to 4.52 percent this week, the lowest since Feb. 14. Rates declined from a high of 5.11 percent Feb. 28, after investors abandoned the $166 billion market for municipal bonds with yields set through periodic auctions. State and local governments have spent the last three months replacing the debt."

CNN - "In search of a fix for jumbo loans" (5-23-08)

"as part of the Economic Stimulus Act, Congress tried to get funds for jumbo loans flowing again by temporarily raising the dollar limits for mortgages that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac can buy. The two government-sponsored entities (GSE) had previously only been permitted to buy so-called conforming loans of up to $417,000 and then resell them on the secondary market."

Bloomberg - "Ranieri, Ex-GMAC Execs Plan $1 Billion Home-Loan Fund" (5-23-08)

"Ranieri is the latest investor to plunge back into a U.S. housing market wracked by record foreclosures. BlackRock Inc., which manages almost $1.4 trillion, is backing Private National Mortgage Acceptance Corp., or PennyMac, which will buy delinquent mortgages, while firms including Lone Star Funds and Blackstone Group LP raised more than $25 billion to invest in real estate-related assets."

Realty Times - "Realty Viewpoint: Enjoy Those Mortgage Interest Rates While You Can" (5-23-08)

"If you are a home buyer who is dependent on a good interest rate to qualify for a home, or you're a homeowner considering refinancing to lower your interest rate, or you're a Realtor working with buyers, you might consider locking in your mortgage interest rate while they're still below or at 6.00 percent for a 30-year fixed rate."

Realty Times - "Long-Term Rates Slip on Weak Economic News" (5-23-08)

"Freddie Mac today released the results of its Primary Mortgage Market Survey (PMMS) in which the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage (FRM) averaged 5.98 percent with an average 0.5 point for the week ending May 22, 2008, down from last week when it averaged 6.01 percent. Last year at this time, the 30-year FRM averaged 6.37 percent."

Orange County Register - "Early May O.C. home price below $500,000" (5-23-08)

"Fresh homebuying stats from DataQuick shows you no longer need a half-million bucks to buy the mythical 'typical' Orange County residence. For the 22 business days ended May 6, the median selling price was $490,750, a 22.1% drop from a year ago and 23.9% off the June ‘07 peak of $645,000. If the current pricing hold for all of May, it would mark the first time a month’s median had been below $500,000 since March ‘04."

Orange County Register - "Good credit, good job but still need mortgage aid? Maybe…" (5-23-08)

"Credit counselors say lenders are now willing to work with borrowers who have trouble paying their mortgage, even if they have good credit and are current on their payments. That’s a big shift from the housing boom when most of the time homeowners had to start missing payments, and thus ding their credit, before a lender would even talk about cutting a deal."

The Wall Street Journal - "Builders Tout Incentives In Bid to Sell Homes" (5-23-08)

"Highlighting their desperation to sell houses, builders are bringing back the gimmicks -- mortgage rates that start low, help with down payments, zero out-of-pocket expenses -- that helped fuel the housing bubble before it went bust."

Thursday, May 22, 2008

NAR - "REALTORS® Say RESPA Reform Too Confusing and Overly Expansive" (5-22-08)

"The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development's proposed Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act reform 'tips the balance in favor of the largest financial industry players, opens the door to legal challenges, and does little if anything to benefit consumers,' according to the National Association of Realtors®."

NAR - "Permanent Loan Limit Increase would be good for Homeownership, Says NAR" (5-22-08)

"Making the temporary loan limit increases authorized by the Economic Stimulus Act of 2008 permanent will give families in high-cost areas equal access to fair and affordable loans on a continuous basis, according to the National Association of Realtors®."

DQNews - "California April 2008 Home Sales" (5-22-08)

"A total of 31,150 new and resale houses and condos were sold statewide last month. That was up 26.8 percent from 24,565 in March and down 10.9 percent from 34,949 for April last year. While last month's total made for the slowest April since 1995 when 27,625 homes sold, it was the first month since August last year that wasn't a record low in DataQuick's statistics, which go back to 1988."

Mortgage Bankers Association - "MBA’s Agenda to Stabilize the Housing Market" (5-22-08)

"Congress and the Administration can help keep people in their homes by addressing policy issues in three areas: stabilizing the mortgage market, helping distressed borrowers and ensuring that the problems we see in today’s market do not recur. At the same time, it is important that Congress not take action like allowing bankruptcy cram downs that could further destabilize the market by increasing borrowing costs, promoting uncertainty or limiting the availability of credit."

Reuters - "Crunch turns back clock on mortgage lending" (5-22-08)

"As U.S. banks mop up the mess from billions of dollars of bad home loans, buyers are finding the days of cheap money are over and, in many cases, tougher versions of old lending rules now apply."

The Washington Post - "Fallout From a Bailout" (5-22-08)

"Politicians seeking to expand the role of government to help ease problems in the mortgage market face an inconvenient fact: Most Americans own their homes outright, meet their mortgage payments or are renters. As a consequence, mortgage relief never polls well. When people are asked whether they think government aid should be given to households failing to meet their mortgage obligations, a majority routinely says no. The average American, meeting the struggle to live within his or her means, bridles at the notion that those who are overextended should be helped."

Bloomberg - "Fed Signals Contraction Won't Spur Interest-Rate Cut" (5-22-08)

"Federal Reserve policy makers signaled that an economic contraction in the first half won't be enough to spur further interest-rate cuts because of a rising threat from inflation."

Yahoo - "S&P: Subprime delinquencies continue to climb" (5-22-08)

"Credit ratings agency Standard & Poor's said Thursday that subprime mortgages bundled into securities that were rated between 2005 and 2007 continue to increasingly default."

Bloomberg - "Citigroup's `Last Roman' CDO Shows Enron Accounting" (5-22-08)

"Citigroup Inc. created a $2.5 billion mortgage-backed security called Bonifacius Ltd. in August as capital markets seized up and panic swept Wall Street."

Bloomberg - "Cerberus Rues ResCap as Mortgages Put Brakes on Plans" (5-22-08)

"Cerberus Capital Management LP's $7.4 billion purchase of General Motors Corp.'s finance arm in 2006 also won control of a mortgage unit supplying a steady stream of cash to finance the auto lender. Then the home-loan money disappeared in a flood of subprime losses. Now the GMAC LLC unit, Residential Capital LLC, is fighting to avoid bankruptcy. ResCap has been forced to stop making loans to borrowers with poor credit histories after losses of $5.3 billion during the past six quarters. "

Bloomberg - "Hotel Deals May Fall More Than 50% on Credit Crunch" (5-22-08)

"Hotel investment fell to about $8 billion in the first quarter of 2008, after exceeding $20 billion a year earlier, Jones Lang LaSalle, the world's second-largest real-estate broker, said this month. The last time global hotel investment was below $50 billion was in 2005 when transactions totaled $47 billion, de Haast said."

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

NAR - "Leading Commercial Real Estate Index Contracts in First Quarter" (5-21-08)

"The Commercial Leading Indicator for Brokerage Activity1 edged down 0.7 percent to an index of 119.0 in the first quarter from a downwardly revised reading of 119.9 in the fourth quarter, and is 0.8 percent below the first quarter of 2007 when it stood at 120.0."

Mortgage Bankers Association - "Mortgage Applications Decrease In Latest MBA Weekly Survey" (5-21-08)

"The Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) today released its Weekly Mortgage Applications Survey for the week ending May 16, 2008. The Market Composite Index, a measure of mortgage loan application volume, was 621.6, a decrease of 7.8 percent on a seasonally adjusted basis from 674.4 one week earlier."

Yahoo - "Where Home Prices Are Holding Up" (5-21-08)

"Consider the San Francisco Bay area. Overall, prices there slid 17% in the 12 months through February, the most-recent data available, and were down 8% over the first two months of 2008 alone, making it one of the worst-performing metro areas in the country, according to the S&P/Case Shiller Home Price Indices. Yet prices within the city of San Francisco are up 0.3% over the first quarter of 2008, according to DataQuick Information Systems, a San Diego-based real-estate-data firm."

Bloomberg - "Moody's Begins Probe on Report Bug Caused Aaa Grades" (5-21-08)

"Moody's Investors Service said it's conducting 'a thorough review' of whether a computer error was responsible for assigning Aaa ratings to debt securities that later fell in value."

Bloomberg - "Freddie Mac Suffers Bout of Temporary Insanity" (5-21-08)

"How long does the word 'temporary' mean? The accountant who wants to stay employed knows the right answer: 'How long do you want it to mean?' That new twist on an old joke goes a long way toward explaining Freddie Mac's net loss last quarter of $151 million, which was smaller than analysts' estimates. In reality, Freddie is gushing much more red ink than that. Yet hardly any of it is showing up on the company's income statement."

Bloomberg - "Greenspan Helped Pimco Make Billions, Gross Says" (5-21-08)

"During a 30-minute discussion on banks several months before the global credit crisis, Greenspan's 'brilliance in terms of forecasting the potential for exactly what happened was a big money saver for us,' Gross, who runs the world's largest bond fund, said yesterday at a conference organized by the Asia Society in Los Angeles. 'He's made and saved billions of dollars for Pimco already.'"

Orange County Register - "Impac Mortgage posts $2 billion loss for ‘07" (5-21-08)

"Impac Mortgage Holdings on Tuesday reported a $2 billion loss for 2007, mostly because it set aside an additional $1.4 billion for potential losses on problematic loans amid a housing slump and tepid investor demand for securities backed by mortgages."

Orange County Register - "Traders see LA/OC price falling 24.8% more" (5-21-08)

"My occasional glance at TFS Derivatives‘ weekly report on trading of home-price contracts shows that money’s being bet on further drops in regional values as measured by the S&P/Case-Shiller indexes. It’s one more projection, one backed up by somebody’s cash."

The Wall Street Journal - "Why a Housing Bailout Won't Help" (5-21-08)

"Proponents say a bailout would benefit all homeowners, halting foreclosures and propping up prices. But it wouldn't. Even by the generous reckoning of the Congressional Budget Office, only a small fraction of the soon-to-be-foreclosed would voluntarily take up the House plan or Monday's proposed Senate version on its offer."

Realty Times - "How to Make a Success of Short Sales" (5-21-08)

"If you are in a declining market (who isn't) you should probably begin adding a qualifier into your normal list presentation right now. I know a lot of Realtors who find out in the 11th hour that Joe and Jane seller have not made a mortgage payment in three months and that the auction is looming. This throws your entire system out of whack. You now have to rev up you marketing, get with the lender, drop the price and call everyone you know to try and get an offer at the last minute. Chances are that without an offer on the table, the lender will not stop the sheriff sale. All your time, money and efforts are now wasted because you just didn't know."

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

NAR - "REALTORS® See Senate Stimulus Bill as Step Toward Housing and Mortgage Market Stabilization" (5-20-08)

"The National Association of Realtors® expressed appreciation to Senate Banking Committee Chairman Christopher Dodd, D-Conn., and Ranking Member Richard Shelby, R-Ala., for their efforts to bring forth a bipartisan bill that can bring stability to the housing market and help stem the rising rate of foreclosures. Today, the committee voted to pass the Federal Housing Finance Regulatory Reform Act of 2008."

CBIA - "California Still Home to Nation’s Least-Affordable Housing, CBIA Announces" (5-20-08)

"Fueled by sharp price reductions in many Central Valley communities, housing affordability soared in many parts of California during the first quarter of 2008, but the welcome news for prospective homebuyers doesn’t mean an end to the state’s chronic housing affordability crisis, the CEO of the California Building Industry Association said today."

DQNews - "Bay Area home sales edge up in April" (5-20-08)

"A total of 6,310 new and resale houses and condos sold in the nine- county Bay Area in April. That was up 28.8 percent from 4,898 in March, and down 15.3 percent from 7,447 for April 2007, DataQuick Information Systems reported."

Mortgage Bankers Association - "MBA Releases Policy Paper Clarifying Roles of Mortgage Bankers and Brokers" (5-20-08)

"The Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) today released a new policy paper titled, 'Mortgage Bankers and Mortgage Brokers: Distinct Businesses Warranting Distinct Regulation.' The paper brings clarity about the roles and responsibilities of mortgage bankers and mortgage brokers to current legislative and regulatory discussions."

Bloomberg - "Credit Crisis Will Extend Into 2009, Oppenheimer Says" (5-20-08)

"The U.S. credit crisis will extend into and even beyond 2009 as banks will write off more than $170 billion of additional reserves by the end of next year, according to Oppenheimer & Co. estimates."

Bloomberg - "Mary Had a Little Lamb and a Jumbo Mortgage" (5-20-08)

"Fannie announced it will now accept mortgages with a loan-to-value (LTV) ratio of up to 97 percent on a primary, single-family residence, even in areas where prices are declining."

Financial Times - "Housing slowdown hurts Home Depot" (5-20-08)

"Home Depot’s first-quarter earnings tumbled by 66 per cent after the world’s largest home improvement retailer was hit by costs from store closings and scrapping new stores, as well as a worsening housing market. Net income fell to $356m, or 21 cents a share, from $1.05bn, or 53 cents, a year ago."

Bloomberg - "Dollar Falls on Oil Surge, Speculation ECB Will Keep Rates High" (5-20-08)

"The dollar fell the most in more than a month against the euro as the price of oil rose above $129 for the first time and speculation increased that the European Central Bank will keep interest rates high."

Market Watch - "Fed's Kohn signals intention to hold rates steady" (5-20-08)

"Federal Reserve Vice Chairman Donald Kohn gave the clearest signal to date Tuesday that U.S. central bankers want to hold short-term interest rates steady in the weeks ahead until the outlook for the economy becomes clearer."

Monday, May 19, 2008

DQNews - "Southland home sales highest in eight months" (5-19-08)

"Southern California home sales surged last month to the highest level since August as bargain shoppers took advantage of price slashing. Although some higher-end costal markets also posted gains, the swell in transactions mainly reflects more sales of homes under $500,000 in inland areas where depreciation and foreclosures have been greatest, a real estate information service reported."

Bloomerg - "California Luxury Home Prices Fall for Second Straight Quarter" (5-19-08)

"The average price of a luxury home in the San Francisco Bay Area declined 0.8 percent from the previous three months to $3 million, according to a survey by First Republic Bank, a unit of Merrill Lynch & Co. Los Angeles prices dropped 2.2 percent to $2.35 million and San Diego prices fell 2.2 percent to $2.06 million."

Bloomberg - "UBS $100 Billion Wager Prompted $24 Billion Loss in Nine Months" (5-19-08)

"In the nine months ended on March 31, UBS lost 25.4 billion Swiss francs ($24.3 billion), more than any other bank caught in the worldwide credit crunch."

Market Watch - "Continued weakness in housing seen in data" (5-19-08)

"U.S. consumers won't really feel comfortable until home values stop falling. They could be in for a rough year because there's no sign that home-price declines are letting up. And with home prices falling, fewer buyers are willing to take the plunge."

The Washington Post - "The Old Titans All Collapsed. Is the U.S. Next?" (5-19-08)

"Back in August, during the panic over mortgages, Alan Greenspan offered reassurance to an anxious public. The current turmoil, the former Federal Reserve Board chairman said, strongly resembled brief financial scares such as the Russian debt crisis of 1998 or the U.S. stock market crash of 1987. Not to worry. But in the background, one could hear the groans and feel the tremors as larger political and economic tectonic plates collided. Nine months later, Greenspan's soothing analogies no longer wash. The U.S. economy faces unprecedented debt levels, soaring commodity prices and sliding home prices, to say nothing of a weak dollar. Despite the recent stabilization of the economy, some economists fear that the world will soon face the greatest financial crisis since the 1930s."

Yahoo - "Lowe's profit falls nearly 18 pct, lowers view" (5-19-08)

"A struggling economy and continued turmoil in the housing market drove the nation's second-biggest home improvement retailer to report a nearly 18 percent drop in first-quarter earnings from a year earlier and lower its guidance for the year on Monday."

Bloomberg - "Home Depot May Say Profit Fell Again on Housing Slump" (5-19-08)

"First-quarter net income, which Home Depot said will include expenses to close stores, may fall 68 percent to $331 million, said Daniel Binder, an analyst at Jefferies & Co. Excluding the costs, the average profit estimate of 21 analysts surveyed by Bloomberg was 37 cents a share. Revenue excluding the wholesale-supply unit sold last year may have fallen 4.9 percent to $17.6 billion, 17 analysts predict."

Realty Times - "Washington Report: Risk-Based Pricing" (5-19-08)

"The Federal Housing Administration shook up Washington's mortgage and real estate leaders last week by announcing that it's shifting its entire production line to risk-based pricing -- starting this summer."

Realty Times - "Be Effective In Sales By Understanding People" (5-19-08)

"People are egocentric: This means they are self-focused. They are clearly fixated on what's in it for them. If we don't know what they want and link that with the benefits of doing business with us, we will stumble in sales. We all look at the world based on how a given situation or opportunity relates to us personally. When we fail to connect the dots personally with our customers, we are rendered less effective."
The San Diego Union Tribune - "Senate, Bush need to act on bill to help homeowners" (5-18-08)

"Nationwide, more than 1.2 million homes are in foreclosure – and we're not even halfway through the foreclosure wave. By the time the smoke clears in 2010, as many as 3 million more homes will be foreclosed upon nationwide, some analysts predict."

The San Diego Union Tribune - "Risk-based loan system in the works" (5-18-08)

"Inside the country's fastest-growing home mortgage program, the surprising answer is: People with lower incomes have slightly higher FICO scores. That finding, which emerged from a statistical analysis of all approved mortgages insured by the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) during fiscal 2007, is now buttressing a forthcoming major policy switch that could affect thousands of buyers and refinancers."

Boston Herald - "$1M mortgage mess: No English? No income? No problem!" (5-18-08)

"On Friday, federal authorities announced the indictment of 11 Boston lawyers, mortgage brokers and others who allegedly engaged in a $10.6 million mortgage-fraud scheme that employed straw buyers to buy properties in Boston, Quincy, Cohasset and Brockton at inflated prices. Many of the properties are foreclosed, blighting stretches of neighborhoods."

Orange County Register - "Shaky credit no big problem for SoCal rental applicants" (5-18-08)

"First Advantage SafeRent’s latest rental-applicant study suggests that SoCal homeowners may be hurting financially, but would-be tenants seem to be doing fine. LA-OC-Riverside ranked fourth in the U.S. during the first quarter for the high credit quality of its rental applicants, by First Advantage SafeRent’s math."
The Press Democrat - "Homes sales up for first time since 2005" (5-17-08)

"In a sign Sonoma County's unsettled housing market may be slowly starting to stabilize, home sales rose in April for the first annual increase in more than two years."

The San Diego Union Tribune - "When lenders need menders" (5-17-08)

"When the housing slump cost him his job as a home-building executive, Jay Kerr turned to the burgeoning foreclosure market to jump-start his stalled career. The former San Diego division president of Centex Homes has made a place for himself in an expanding niche: repairing damaged foreclosure homes for the lenders who have reclaimed them."

The Press Enterprise - "Two counties to lower property taxes on homes worth less than sale price" (5-17-08)

"Those who bought Inland Southern California houses at the top of the market and have watched their property values plummet can expect lower property taxes this year, say assessors for Riverside and San Bernardino counties. Starting this month, the assessors' staffs will review 381,000 residential properties to determine if their assessed values should be lowered. They are using new computer software for the daunting task, which must be accomplished by the end of June, when the assessment roll is updated."

Orange County Register - "Mortgage-market hogs of tomorrow" (5-17-08)

"Yesterday’s big dog was Countrywide Financial, but that company is about to be swallowed up by Bank of America, and if that deal falls through it could face a worse fate. In the subprime space, all of Orange County’s top players are gone. In a series of writings, I plan to spotlight companies best poised to grab market share in home lending after things settle. These companies may even change how Americans shop for loans and the types of loans they get."

Friday, May 16, 2008

NAHB - "Downswing In Single-Family Market Deepens In April, Multifamily Construction Bumps Up For The Month" (5-16-08)

"The downswing in the single-family housing market deepened in April while a bump up for the month in the extremely volatile multifamily market lifted total housing starts 8.2 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.032 million units, according to figures released by the Commerce Department today. Total starts were down 30.6 percent from a year earlier. Single-family housing starts dropped 1.7 percent for the month to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 692,000 units, the lowest monthly production rate since January 1991 and 42.2 percent below April 2007."

The San Diego Union Tribune - "April housing construction news positive" (5-16-08)

"Two positive signals in the housing industry – higher construction permits and improved builder confidence – suggested yesterday that the market is not moving inexorably in a downward direction."

Yahoo - "Hovnanian Announces Debt Refinancing" (5-16-08)

"Hovnanian Enterprises, Inc. announced today that it plans to issue an aggregate principal amount of up to $600.0 million of 5-year senior secured notes (the 'Notes') in a private placement. The Company also expects to enter into an amendment to its revolving credit agreement which decreases total commitments thereunder to $300.0 million, increases the amount of collateral, and substantially eliminates maintenance covenants (the 'New Revolving Credit Agreement'). The amendment has been approved by the Lenders subject to issuance of the Notes."

The Washington Post - "Senate Short of Agreement on Housing Rescue" (5-16-08)

"Senate negotiators broke off talks last night without striking a deal to rescue hundreds of thousands of homeowners at risk of foreclosure, but they said they were close to an agreement. Senate Banking Committee Chairman Christopher J. Dodd (D-Conn.) and Sen. Richard C. Shelby (Ala.), the panel's senior Republican, said they plan to meet again Tuesday to discuss the proposal to help troubled borrowers trade exotic mortgages with escalating monthly payments for more affordable loans backed by the federal government."

The San Diego Union Tribune - "San Diego gets S&P blessing on credit" (5-16-08)

"Mayor Jerry Sanders, who is in the midst of a tough re-election campaign, said the news from Standard & Poor's, one of three major credit-rating agencies, marked “the most significant day” for San Diegans in four years."

Yahoo - "Fannie Mae scraps higher downpayment requirements" (5-16-08)

"Fannie Mae is doing away with higher minimum down-payment requirements for borrowers in parts of the country where home prices are dropping. The government-sponsored mortgage finance company said Friday it will require minimum down payments of between 3 percent and 5 percent for all loans that it guarantees. That replaces a December policy that required a higher minimum if the loan was for a home in a zip code with declining real estate prices."

Orange County Register - "O.C. homebuying near 8-month high in late April" (5-16-08)

"DataQuick’s freshest Orange County homebuying stats from late April hint the month could mark the first month with more than 2,000 homes sales since August. For the 22 business days ended April 28, 2,117 residences were sold, down 29.4% vs. a year ago. Pricing was soft, too, off 20.6% vs. a year ago."

Realty Times - "What To Take And What To Leave Behind When Downsizing" (5-16-08)

"Over the years all of us have accumulated an enormous amount of stuff -- some of it is near and dear to our heart and the rest, well, we might classify it as just cumbersome stuff. But somehow when we downsize from, say, a 3,600 square foot home to a 1,700 square foot home, as one reader who telephoned me is doing, figuring out what to take and what to leave behind can be a painful process."

Realty Times - "Market Conditions: San Francisco Bay Area" (5-16-08)

"Market expert Suzie Provo says the San Francisco Bay Area market remains very strong, and prices have remained stable with homes selling usually within 14 to 30 days."

Realty Times - "Realty Viewpoint: Economic Stimulus Checks Can't Fix Our Values" (5-16-08)

"As economic stimulus checks arrive, relieved households are spending them on gas, food and bills, thwarting the government's intention. That's because we have a problem that a $600 check can't fix -- our values."

Thursday, May 15, 2008

NAR - "Congressman Frank Notes REALTORS®' Importance to Economic Stability" (5-15-08)

"The House passed a bipartisan bill last week that should have a major impact on the housing and mortgage industry. 'As the leading advocate for housing issues, NAR applauds Chairman Frank’s leadership and we hope that the Senate will move quickly to finalize a bill and send it to President Bush, regardless of his stated objections to some parts of the legislation,' said NAR President Dick Gaylord, a broker with RE/MAX Real Estate Specialists in Long Beach, Calif."

NAHB - "Builder Confidence Edges Downward In May" (5-15-08)

"Home builders remained considerably downbeat as market conditions continued to erode in May, according to the NAHB/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index (HMI), released today. The HMI fell a single point to 19, bringing it within one point of the record low 18 set in December 2007 (the series began in January of 1985)."

CBIA - "California New Home Market Close to the Bottom, CBIA Announces" (5-15-08)

"While the pace of sales at California new-home communities continued to remain slow in March, year-over-year sales declines are steadily shrinking, adding to mounting evidence that the bottom of the current housing cycle is near, the California Building Industry Association reported today. The monthly CBIA/Hanley Wood Market Intelligence (HWMI) New Home Sales and Pricing Report showed that new home sales in March were 49 percent below March 2007. While a significant decline, the drop is an improvement from the year-over-year decline of over 57 percent in February."

The Washington Post - "Luxury Foreclosures" (5-15-08)

"In Loudoun County, 60 houses priced over $750,000 are among the 932 foreclosures and short sales -- an exit strategy of selling the house at a loss with the bank's blessing to avoid foreclosure."

CNN - "U.S. still world's most competitive economy - survey" (5-15-08)

"The United States topped world competitiveness rankings for the 15th straight year, but its economy is showing the same signs of weakness that sank booming Japan in the early 1990s, according to an annual survey released Thursday. Asian tigers Singapore and Hong Kong ranked just behind the U.S., as they did last year. Switzerland jumped two places to fourth, while Luxembourg rounded out the top five most competitive national economies, said the Lausanne, Switzerland-based IMD business school, publisher of the World Competitiveness Yearbook."

Washington Post - "Alice in Housing Land" (5-15-08)

"Perhaps some lenders who were lied to were culpably indifferent to dishonesty because they planned to sell to others mortgages that the lenders knew were risky. But the victimization narrative that is turning turbulence in the housing market into a morality tale involves borrowers victimized by "predatory" lenders. The narrative remains murky because there is scant information about the percentage of currently distressed borrowers who were untruthful about their incomes or net worth when talking to lenders."

CNN - "Why more homeowners aren't getting help" (5-15-08)

"Nationwide, as home prices plummet and foreclosures rise, thousands of Americans at risk of losing their home are trying to work out new loans. In Washington, Congress is debating a massive rescue aimed at 500,000 people. And all of the efforts to keep people in their homes run through the mortgage servicers, who are responsible for deciding which troubled borrowers will get more affordable mortgages."

CNN - "Housing rescue stokes partisan split" (5-15-08)

"The Senate Banking Committee is scheduled to debate and possibly vote Thursday on a housing bill sponsored by Committee Chairman Christopher Dodd, D-Conn. The Senate proposal has been propelled by mounting concern about foreclosures. But its prospects have turned murky as some Republican senators have come out against the bill."

Bloomberg - "Bernanke Urges `Hunkering' Banks to Raise Capital" (5-15-08)

"Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke pushed banks to keep raising capital in the aftermath of losses from the credit crisis to avert deeper damage to the U.S. economy.
'Firms are hunkering down,' Bernanke said at a conference in Chicago today. 'They have at least partially replaced the losses with new capital raising, but not entirely. They are being rather conservative in making new loans, which has implications for the broader economy.'"

Bloomberg - "Fed Adds Liquidity and Economy Avoids Recession" (5-15-08)

"The Federal Reserve is supplying the financial system with more than $150 billion in cash, a liquidity cushion that has helped keep enough credit flowing to ensure the economy's growth. After another auction of term funds on May 19, the amount of cash from the Fed will probably top $175 billion. And if the system needs still more, Fed Chairman Ben S. Bernanke said in a May 13 speech, the Fed stands ready to supply it."

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

NAR - "REALTORS® Increasing Professionalism, Survey Shows" (5-14-08)

"REALTORS® are raising their level of professionalism through training and experience to better serve consumers, and are demonstrating their versatility and breadth of expertise in a changing marketplace, according to 2008 National Association of REALTORS® Member Profile. The survey results are representative of more than 1.2 million REALTORS® – about 60 percent of the nearly 2 million active real estate licensees across the country."

NAHB - "NAHB Offers Tips For Remodeling Your Home To Age In Place" (5-14-08)

"With an increasing number of Baby Boomers choosing to stay in their homes as they age, homeowners are turning to remodelers for help to renovate their homes to accommodate their changing lifestyles. During May – National Home Remodeling Month – the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) Remodelers highlights benefits of aging in place with the help of a certified professional."

Mortgage Bankers Association - "Mortgage Applications Increase In Latest MBA Weekly Survey" (5-14-08)

"The Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) today released its Weekly Mortgage Applications Survey for the week ending May 9, 2008. The Market Composite Index, a measure of mortgage loan application volume, was 674.4, an increase of 2.9 percent on a seasonally adjusted basis from 655.4 one week earlier. On an unadjusted basis, the Index increased 2.9 percent compared with the previous week and was down 1.1 percent compared with the same week one year earlier."

Yahoo - "US foreclosure filings surge 65 percent in April" (5-14-08)

"More U.S. homeowners fell behind on mortgage payments last month, driving the number of homes facing foreclosure up 65 percent versus the same month last year and contributing to a deepening slide in home values, a research company said Tuesday."

USA Today - "FBI warns of escalating mortgage fraud" (5-14-08)

"The agency said Tuesday that reports of suspected mortgage fraud rose 31% to 46,717 from 35,617 in the previous fiscal year ending Oct. 31. In the first half of fiscal 2008, there were more than 33,000 such reports, quickening the pace of mortgage fraud for this fiscal year, an FBI spokesman said."

Yahoo - "Schwarzenegger to propose borrowing against lottery" (5-14-08)

"Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger will propose borrowing against future state lottery revenue to help close a budget shortfall estimated as high as $20 billion, administration officials told The Associated Press."

Market Watch - "Greenspan sees U.S. house price bottom in '09: reports" (5-14-08)

"U.S. home prices will likely bottom out in early 2009 after the market absorbs excess inventories, former U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan told audiences in Asia Wednesday, according to news reports. Greenspan, who spoke by video link to audiences in Hong Kong and Singapore, said the current pace of liquidation will accelerate, but excess supply won't be eliminated until early 2009, according to Dow Jones Newswires, which cited prepared remarks provided to investors by Deutsche Bank, which sponsored the conference. Greenspan told the audience U.S. economy is showing resilience and flexibility. He also said high oil prices are structural and will likely continue due to a lack of investment in capacity and infrastructure, the report said."

Yahoo - "Economic 'misery' more widespread" (5-14-08)

"The official numbers produce a current Misery Index of only 8.9 - inflation of 3.9% plus unemployment of 5%. That's not far from the Misery Index's low of 6.1 seen in 1998. But using the estimates on CPI and unemployment from economists skeptical of the government numbers, the Misery Index is actually in the teens. Some worry it could even approach the post-World War II record of 20.6 in 1980."

Realty Times - "HUD Plans Risk-Based Premiums For FHA Borrowers" (5-14-08)

"What's the truth? According to the most-recent official numbers from HUD, since September just 1,987 delinquent conventional borrowers have been able to refinance with an FHA mortgage. Why has HUD made such exaggerated claims regarding the FHASecure program? One obvious reason is that it's good politics: Big numbers suggest that the government is trying to help those facing foreclosure."

Realty Times - "New Homes: Homebuilders Doing What it Takes" (5-14-08)

"So how can they convince buyers to sign on the dotted line? Some builders in the San Francisco Bay Area are offering price guarantees. Builders like KB Homes and Taylor Morrison are willing to lower the price of a home before the close of escrow if another home in the neighborhood sells for less in the meantime."

The Wall Street Journal - "Home Buyers, Start Your Engines" (5-14-08)

"If you were thinking of buying a home, start looking. The latest data from the housing market shows that sellers, after months and years in denial, are finally giving in to reality and slashing prices."

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Bloomberg - "Libor Set for Overhaul as Credibility Is Doubted" (5-13-08)

"The benchmark interest rate for at least $347 trillion of derivatives and 6 million U.S. mortgages is set for its biggest shakeup in a decade on concern that banks misquoted their true borrowing costs. "

Market Watch - "AIG prices 2 offers, will raise $11.9 bln vs. $7.5 bln plan" (5-13-08)

"American International Group Inc., the New York insurance and financial-services provider, priced an offering of 171.1 million common shares at $38, valuing the deal at $6.5 billion. In a statement late on Monday, AIG also said it priced an offering of 72 million equity units at $75 each, a deal value of $5.4 billion. The 'threshold appreciation price' of the units is $45.60, which represents a premium of 20% to the $38 price on the common-share offering, AIG said."

Yahoo - "BofA customers under significant economic pressure" (5-13-08)

"The Charlotte-based company said it expects losses in its home equity portfolio to increase in the near-term and projected future losses in that area that exceed the bank's earlier range of 2 percent to 2.5 percent."

Yahoo - "Home prices continue sharp descent" (5-13-08)

"Single-family home prices dropped 7.7% in the first quarter in the largest year-over-year decline since the National Association of Realtors began reporting prices in 1982. The median sales price fell to $196,300, down 4.8% compared with the last three months of 2007."

Bloomberg - "Toll Brothers Revenue Drops as Housing Slump Persists" (5-13-08)

"Toll Brothers Inc., the largest U.S. luxury-home builder, reported its eighth consecutive quarterly decline in revenue as demand for new homes tumbled. Fiscal second-quarter homebuilding revenue fell 30 percent to $818 million from a year earlier, the Horsham, Pennsylvania- based company said today in a statement. That beat the average estimate of $741 million from analysts surveyed by Bloomberg."

Orange County Register - "OC Register calls on Bush to veto mortgage bailout" (5-13-08)

"this approach would take money from the vast majority of homeowners (in their role as taxpayers) who have not gone into default to aid a small minority who have gotten into trouble. Thus it would provide an ongoing incentive for irresponsible behavior."

Orange County Register - "O.C. one of riskiest places to make a home loan" (5-13-08)

"First American CoreLogic’s nationwide ranking of riskiest places to make a home loan in the second quarter has Orange County in the Top 10 — probably not the kind of Top 10 the county wants to be a part of. O.C. rose nine slots to No. 8 out of 381 markets. In the first quarter, O.C. ranked No. 17."

Orange County Register - "Newer O.C. apartments suffer more vacancies" (5-13-08)

"REIS Inc. reports that during the first quarter, O.C. apartments built after 1999 had 2.5 times the vacancy rate of the county as a whole.Countywide vacancies were 4% in the 784 O.C. complexes that REIS studied. Units constructed after 1999, however, had a 10% vacancy rate. The oldest apartments — built before 1970 — had the fewest vacancies at 2.8%."

Realty Times - "Market Conditions: Seattle Puget Sound" (5-13-08)

"Rouser predicts a relatively strong 2008 spring, followed by moderate summer activity. And based on past performance, she believes things will slow during the elections, with spring 2009 being the start of a strong upswing."

Realty Times - "Getting The Best Home Price Data" (5-13-08)

"In a rising or falling market, data that is more than a month or two old is too stale to satisfy the appetites of buyers and sellers hungry for the most current prices. The Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight (OFHEO) is beginning to get the message."

Realty Times - "The Lessons for 2008" (5-13-08)

"Whatever it is, smash out of your bubble. Maybe your 'Comfort Zone' is crunching numbers and shuffling papers. If so, get out of the office and join a networking group. Force yourself to get out there and meet people."

Monday, May 12, 2008

Bloomberg - "Standard Pacific Considers Sale After Reporting Loss" (5-12-08)

"Standard Pacific Corp., the California homebuilder that has lost more than 80 percent of its value in the past year, said it's considering a possible sale after reporting a wider first-quarter loss in the deepening housing slump. The shares plunged as much as 28 percent. The loss of $216.4 million, or $3.34 a share, was the sixth consecutive for the company and more than double analysts' estimates. Irvine-based Standard Pacific said the board is examining alternatives including selling stock, debt or the whole company."

Bloomberg - "IndyMac Reports Loss, Doesn't See Profit in 2008" (5-12-08)

"IndyMac Bancorp Inc., the second- biggest independent U.S. mortgage company, reported a first- quarter loss, omitted some dividends and said it probably won't make money this year. The shares fell to an all-time low. The $184 million loss, equal to $2.27 a share, compares with profit a year earlier of $52.4 million, or 70 cents, the Pasadena, California-based company said today in a statement. Mortgages that stopped collecting interest rose 39 percent. That's 11 percent of all loans, more than the 8.8 percent estimate of RBC Capital Markets analyst Jason Arnold."

Bloomberg - "Meruelo Maddux Tumble Puts Los Angeles on Sale at 65% Discount" (5-12-08)

"A package of Los Angeles real estate on sale for 35 cents on the dollar is attracting investors to the depressed shares of Meruelo Maddux Properties Inc., the biggest private landowner in the city's four-square-mile downtown. The stock has plummeted 85 percent since an initial public offering 15 months ago as the global credit crisis threatens to disrupt refinancing of $200 million in mortgage debt coming due in the next 12 months, as well as completion of the city's tallest downtown residential tower."

Orange County Register - "IndyMac expects to lose money for all of 2008" (5-12-08)

"IndyMac Bancorp, which has operations in Irvine, said Monday it lost $184.2 million in the first quarter as deteriorating credit markets forced it to lower the value of mortgage-backed securities and warned it would not post a profitable quarter in 2008, reports the Associated Press. That compares with a profit of $52.4 million a year earlier."

Realty Times - "Wild, Wild West: Silicon Valley Price Fall Spreads" (5-12-08)

"Silicon Valley's median price on single-family homes in closed sales is back where it was two years ago and a whopping $100,000 less than it was when the market peaked a year ago, Calhoun reported. The region's April median price for single-family homes came in at $768,000. Two years ago it was $775,000. That median price peaked at about $868,000 a year ago."

Realty Times - "Washington Report: Are 'Jumbo' Loans Overpriced?" (5-12-08)

"Capitol Hill's most influential legislator on housing issues says Wall Street and the mortgage lending industry are needlessly overpricing "jumbo" loans designed to help borrowers in areas with high home costs. Barney Frank, chairman of the House Financial Services committee and chief author of legislation that raised the maximum mortgage limits of Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and FHA to $729,750 through the end of the year, plans to haul officials of major mortgage firms before Congress next week to explain why interest rates and fees for new jumbo loans are so high."

Realty Times - "AD&C Loans Tighten with Financial Markets" (5-12-08)

"The mortgage credit crunch has spilled over into land acquisition, land development and home construction (AD&C) lending, increasing the challenges faced by builders in the current housing downturn, according to the National Association of Home Builders."

Realty Times - "Realty Viewpoint: Real-time Housing Index Says Falling Prices Easing" (5-12-08)

"The Real-Time Housing Market Report shows an interesting trend. Housing prices are down a little over half a percent. That's no surprise, but out of 25 markets, only seven fell in asking price. That's a big improvement over March when listing prices fell 2.7 percent."
The New York Times - "When Should the Fed Crash the Party?" (5-11-08)

"Did Mr. Greenspan’s Fed make the right decisions? Did it set a bad example for Mr. Bernanke to follow? It is important to remember that deflation is devilishly hard to deal with. When people expect prices to decline, they tend to hold back from spending, which only makes prices fall further. The policy choices open to the Fed are limited. It can try to stem the tide by cutting interest rates, but once the interest rate falls to zero, there is no place else for it to go. Then the authorities have no choice but to open up the monetary spigot, a route that can haunt them later by creating inflationary pressures or asset bubbles."

Morgan Florida Real Estate Group - "REO Failure at Fannie Mae" (5-11-08)

"We've been finding an increasing number of 'hidden listings' of REO properties. A hidden listing is when a broker lists the property in such a fashion that it cannot be found by local agents working with buyers. This might be unintentional, due to gross negligence, or it might be fraud. The fraud end is clear. If the listing is hidden, eventually the REO owner will keep dropping the price until it is sold. At some point, when the price is low enough, the listing agent can call a friend to buy the property, which they will flip after closing."

Orange County Register - "Half of 2005-07 O.C. buyers owe more than home’s value" (5-11-08)

"Buyers who purchased in 2005 and 2006 were in the worst shape, figures by figures show. They bought at the peak of the market, and their median down payment was just 10% of their home’s value, hence they had less equity to begin with. (Equity is the amount of a home’s value above the amount owed.)"