Thursday, July 31, 2008

Bloomberg - "California's Discount Foreclosure Sales Point to Housing Bottom" (7-31-08)

This article features Bruce Norris

"In Stockton, the U.S. metro area with the highest foreclosure rate, home sales more than doubled in the second quarter after prices fell by an average 37 percent, said PMZ Real Estate Corp., the area's largest broker. Across the state, sales rose for three consecutive months starting in April after 30 straight months of declines, the California Association of Realtors said. About 40 percent of those transactions were foreclosure sales, DataQuick Information Systems reported."

- "Foreclosures linked to subprime fraud" (7-31-08)

"Mortgage scammers took advantage of loopholes in New York State lending laws to defraud homeowners and lending institutions all over the state, according to a new report released Thursday. The New York State Commission of Investigations reported that the state's mortgage borrowers need more regulatory protection from predatory lenders. It also linked subprime loans closely to New York's growing foreclosure problem; in 2007, 59% of all foreclosures statewide involved subprime loans."

CNN - "Freddie aims to slow foreclosures" (7-31-08)

"Freddie Mac is doubling the amount of money it pays loan servicers for each successful mortgage workout among other measures to keep struggling borrowers out of foreclosure, it said Thursday. The mortgage financier is also giving more time to negotiate workouts in states with fast foreclosure processes and will reimburse servicers for door-to-door outreach."

CNN - "Mortgage rates drop as oil eases" (7-31-08)

"Mortgage rates fell slightly this week according to a weekly report released Wednesday, as lower oil prices briefly ease fears of price inflation."

Bloomberg - "U.S. Recession May Have Begun in Last Quarter of 2007" (7-31-080)

"The U.S. economy may have slipped into a recession in the last three months of 2007 as consumer spending slowed more than previously estimated and the housing slump worsened, revised government figures indicated. The world's largest economy contracted at a 0.2 percent annual pace in the fourth quarter of last year compared with a previously reported 0.6 percent gain, the Commerce Department said today in Washington. Growth for the period from 2005 through 2007 was also trimmed."

Bloomberg - "Bear Stearns Demise Proves Premature as 'Ace' Stays" (7-31-08)0

"Bear Stearns, previously the fifth-largest U.S. securities firm, had more than 500 retail brokers under its last chief executive officer, 58-year-old Alan Schwartz, whom JPMorgan said today will leave the firm. The wealth management division booked $830 million of revenue in 2007, 14 percent of the firm's total. JPMorgan didn't have a retail brokerage prior to the purchase, and Jes Staley, 51, who runs the bank's asset management unit, said in December that he wasn't interested in running such a business."

Bloomberg - "Paulson Says Stimulus to Ensure 2nd-Half U.S. Growth" (7-31-08)

"Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson said he expects the government's fiscal stimulus plan will boost economic growth in the second half of the year, offsetting a housing downturn and high energy prices."

Bloomberg - "Merrill Defrauded Auction-Rate Investors, State Says" (7-31-08)

"Merrill Lynch & Co. was accused by Massachusetts Secretary of State William Galvin of misleading investors about the stability of the auction-rate market at the same time the investment bank was marketing the securities."

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

NAHB - "President Bush Signs Landmark Housing Bill Into Law" (7-30-08)

"Landmark housing legislation signed into law today by President Bush is aimed at ending the current cyclical downturn in the housing industry, helping home buyers and strapped borrowers and strengthening the housing finance system, according to the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB)."

Mortgage Bankers Association - "Mortgage Applications Decrease In Latest MBA Weekly Survey" (7-30-08)

"The Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) today released its Weekly Mortgage Applications Survey for the week ending July 25, 2008. The Market Composite Index, a measure of mortgage loan application volume, was 420.8, a decrease of 14.1 percent on a seasonally adjusted basis from 489.6 one week earlier. On an unadjusted basis, the Index decreased 13.7 percent compared with the previous week and was down 30.3 percent compared with the same week one year earlier."

North County Times - "HOUSING: Price decline reaches new record" (7-30-08)

"San Diego County house prices fell by the largest margin yet, tumbling 23 percent from a year ago, according to a report released Tuesday. Though annual declines reached a new peak, the rate of depreciation slowed significantly, reported the Standard & Poor's Case-Shiller Home Price Index."

Yahoo - "The Hidden Tax Traps in the Housing-Rescue Bill" (7-30-08)

"from a tax perspective, the bill is likely to cause more upset than calm. Here is a look at five areas where tax law was changed along with housing law, and the good news and bad news that goes along with each"

Yahoo - "The Private Mortgage Industry's Role in the Current Crisis" (7-30-08)

"Lenders and investment bankers drastically relaxed their underwriting standards in response to the euphoria associated with rapidly rising home prices during 2000-2006. They approved loans that could not possibly be repaid without an indefinite continuation of house price inflation."

Yahoo - "Fed takes steps to break through credit clogs" (7-30-08)

"Focused on getting the nation's credit gears smoothly working again, the Federal Reserve is letting Wall Street firms draw emergency loans into next year and giving financial companies more options to help them overcome credit problems."

Bloomberg - "LandAmerica Plunges After Loss, Slashing Dividend" (7-30-08)

"The loss was $3.29 per share, four times worse than the average estimate of three analysts surveyed by Bloomberg. That compared with profit of $7.9 million, or 42 cents a share, a year earlier, the Richmond, Virginia-based insurer said late yesterday."

Bloomberg - "CB Richard, Jones Lang Fall as Tight Credit Cuts Net" (7-30-08)

"CB Richard Ellis Group Inc. and Jones Lang LaSalle Inc., the world's largest commercial real-estate brokers, plunged after announcing lower profits they blamed on tight credit reducing property sales and leasing."

Bloomberg - "General Growth's 2nd-Quarter Net Rises on Store Rents" (7-30-08)

"General Growth Properties Inc., the second-largest U.S. owner of shopping malls, said second-quarter earnings increased as the company raised store rents. "

Bloomberg - "Centex May Cut Dividend as Housing Slump Continues" (7-30-08)

"Centex Corp. may cut its dividend to conserve cash as the U.S. housing slump continues, Chief Executive Officer Tim Eller said after the country's fourth-largest homebuilder posted its fifth straight quarterly loss."

Orange County Register - "O.C. upper-end sellers cut prices back to January level" (7-30-08)

"HousingTracker’s final July numbers show upper-end O.C. sellers pulling back pricing to where they were at the year’s start. The upper half, measured as the 75th percentile or the median of the top half, dropped pricing for the second consecutive month to $799,000 – just a few dollars away from January’s recent low. (That’s red line on graph. Click on it for bigger version!) Pricing in this half had risen four straight months to $844,725 before reversing. From this month to July ‘07, sellers in the upper half have dropped prices 11.1%."

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

NAHB - "Home Builders Applaud New IRS Regulations On Utility Allowances For LIHTC Properties" (7-29-08)

"Calling it a victory for affordable housing, the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) today applauded new regulations issued by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) that give Low Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) property owners more flexibility in the way they calculate utility allowances for their low-income residents."

The Wall Street Journal - "Amid Housing Slump, Glut Eases Slightly" (7-29-08)

"The number of homes on the market is finally falling in much of the U.S., but tight credit and a flood of foreclosures are still pushing home prices down. Making things worse, a sputtering economy is destroying jobs. That means even more foreclosures and fewer potential home buyers."

Bloomberg - "U.S. Economy: House Prices Drop, Confidence Near Low" (7-29-08)

"Home prices in 20 U.S. metropolitan areas fell at a faster pace in May, and consumer confidence stayed this month near the lowest level since 1992, posing a threat to household spending."

Realty Times - "Market Conditions" (7-29-08)

"The Economic Stimulus Act of 2008 allowed FHA to raise its loan limits from $362,790 to $729,750 in some areas of the country. While the increase is only temporary and will expire December 31, 2008, it has had a major impact. In the four months since Ginnie Mae rolled out this new product, issuers have securitized $17 million in April, $331 million in May, $1.089 billion in June, and $1.470 billion in July of FHA's jumbo loans."

Inman News - "Housing still unaffordable" (7-29-08)

"At last measure in 2006, 39 million households were at least moderately cost-burdened (paying more than 30 percent of income on housing) and nearly 18 million were severely cost-burdened (paying more than 50 percent). From 2001-06, the number of severely burdened households alone surged by almost 4 million. Because of the unprecedented run-up in house prices and lack of real income growth, over half of this increase was among homeowners."

Mortgage Bankers Association - "Second Half 2007 Mortgage Originations Show Preference for Fixed Rate Products Over Adjustable Rate Products" (7-29-08)

"The demand for fixed rate mortgage products increased in the second half of 2007 according to the Mortgage Bankers Association's (MBA) Mortgage Originations Survey released today. This demand was largely due to a substantial decline in long term interest rates and the narrowed spread between the adjustable rate mortgage (ARM) and fixed mortgage rates. Tightened lending standards for subprime and nontraditional loans, where ARM loans were historically more popular, also reduced ARM originations."

Yahoo - "Merrill Writedowns Could Be Watershed For Banks" (7-29-08)

"Merrill Lynch's latest effort to shed its subprime debt could set the standard for a final round of writedowns in the financial sector. The battered Wall Street titan's move to sell its collateralized debt obligations (CDOs) at 22 cents on the dollar was viewed by some market leaders as a watershed moment in the billions of writedowns related to bad bets on high-risk mortgages."

Yahoo - "S&P: Home prices drop by record 15.8 pct. in May" (7-29-08)

"Home prices tumbled by the steepest rate ever in May, according to a closely watched housing index released Tuesday, as the housing slump deepened nationwide. The Standard & Poor's/Case-Shiller 20-city index dropped by 15.8 percent in May compared with a year ago, a record decline since its inception in 2000. The 10-city index plunged 16.9 percent, its biggest decline in its 21-year history."

Orange County Register - "Builders shave $430,000 off new O.C. house prices" (7-29-08)

"The latest figures show May’s contracts for all new home types fell 37% vs. May 2007, declining to 174 units. The steepest decline was for condos, which fell 44% to 46 units. House contracts were down 35% to 85, and contracts to buy townhomes or buildings of one to four units (duplexes, triplexes, etc.) fell 34% to 43."

Monday, July 28, 2008

CNN - "How housing rescue bill can help you" (7-28-08)

"The Senate on Saturday passed a $300 billion housing rescue bill aimed at helping troubled homeowners avoid foreclosure and supporting mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
President Bush is likely to sign the bill into law within days. After the law kicks in on Oct. 1, thousands of at-risk borrowers will be able to refinance their unaffordable old mortgages into new low-cost fixed-rate loans insured by the Federal Housing Administration (FHA)."

USA Today - "Housing rescue bill may fall short; who benefits?" (7-28-08)

"Is it a remedy for the worst housing slump the nation has suffered in decades? Or merely a taxpayer-funded bailout that will fail to reverse the plunge in home prices, the surge in foreclosures and the grave threat that overhangs the economy?"

Bloomberg - "Mortgage Debt Least of Bad Bets as Investing Sinks" (7-28-08)

"The fastest inflation in 17 years and a fourth straight quarter of U.S. profit declines are turning debt sold by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac into the favorites of the world's biggest bond investors. Pacific Investment Management Co., T. Rowe Price Group Inc., RiverSource Institutional Advisors and U.S. Bancorp's FAF Advisors, which oversee more than $1 trillion, say the government's decision to stand behind the beleaguered U.S. housing finance companies and their yields compared with Treasuries make the bonds a buy. The Senate approved legislation on July 26 allowing the U.S. to inject capital into Fannie and Freddie. President George W. Bush plans to sign it into law."

CNN - "Bonds rise after bank shutdowns" (7-28-08)

"Treasury prices rose Monday after the government shutdown of two local banks on Friday sparked further worries about the strength of the U.S. financial sector. The benchmark 10-year note rose 21/32 to 98 27/32, and its yield fell to 4.03% from 4.09% late Friday. Bond prices and yields move in opposite directions."

Bloomberg - "IMF Says End of U.S. Housing Slump `Not Visible'" (7-28-08)

"The International Monetary Fund said there's no end in sight to the U.S. housing recession and warned that deteriorating credit conditions for consumers and banks may prolong a period of slow economic growth. "

Realty Times - "Market Conditions" (7-28-08)

"In the most recent report from the National Association of Realtors, stats shows that existing homes sales fell another 2.6 percent in June. They are now 15.5 percent lower than June of 2007."
The San Diego Union Tribune - "Buy and hold now, or just quit and fold?" (7-27-08)

"Because these market cycles can be rather brief, 'you can miss out on most of the gains' if you're out of stocks and holding cash for the first few months of each new bull cycle, Roge said."

The San Diego Union Tribune - "Renters make their move" (7-27-08)

"The housing market decline that has triggered a wave of foreclosures and deeply eroded recent home equity gains is also opening the door to ownership for renters who can meet tightening lending standards."

Yahoo - "Homeowner rescue awaits President Bush's signature" (7-27-08)

"Congress approved mortgage relief for 400,000 struggling homeowners Saturday as part of an election-year housing plan that also aims to calm jittery financial markets and bolster the sagging economy. President Bush said he would sign it promptly, despite reservations."

Yahoo - "When Pessimism Prevails, It's Time to Get Rich" (7-27-08)

"Am I optimistic for the long-term? Absolutely not. I still believe we're due for the mother of all market crashes, and that the U.S. economy is running on borrowed time -- and I do mean borrowed. I think most baby boomers are in serious financial trouble, and that oil will climb above $200 a barrel. Inflation will also increase, causing more pain for the poor and middle class"

Thursday, July 24, 2008

I Survived Real Estate 2008 panel is finally complete and the event is over 50% full. The panel now consists of Tommy Williams (President of the National Auctioneers Association), Rick Sharga (VP Marketing for RealtyTrac), Richard Lambros (CEO of the Builders Industry Association of Southern California), Annemaria Allen (The Compliance Group), Christopher Thornberg (Principal at Beacon Economics), Philip Tirone (President of the 7 Steps to 720 Credit Score), and Bruce Norris (Moderator and President of The Norris Group). Please visit to find out how you can attend for free and help us raise money for Komen for the Cure.

- "Existing-Home Sales Down In June" (7-24-08)

"Existing-home sales – including single-family, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops – fell 2.6 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate1 of 4.86 million units in June from a pace of 4.99 million in May, and are 15.5 percent lower than the 5.75 million-unit rate in June 2007."

Yahoo - "House OKs rescue for homeowners, Freddie, Fannie" (7-24-08)

"Rescue legislation sailed through the House on Wednesday aimed at helping 400,000 strapped homeowners avoid foreclosure and preventing the collapse of troubled mortgage companies Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. The 272-152 vote reflected a congressional push to send election-year help to struggling borrowers and to reassure jittery financial markets about the health of two pillars of the mortgage market."

Los Angeles Times - "Mortgage woes hit Downey Savings & Loan" (7-24-08)

"Downey's portfolio is laden with the kinds of risky mortgage loans that helped trigger the collapse of Countrywide Financial Corp. of Calabasas and IndyMac Bank of Pasadena. Investors have turned on the bank, sending shares of parent company Downey Financial Corp. down 91% this year. The stock rose 21 cents Wednesday to $2.73."

Yahoo - "Pimco: $1 trillion housing losses seen" (7-24-08)

"The best way to help the ailing housing market recover from the $1 trillion of losses it faces will be to cut the cost of mortgages via the housing bill and rescue package for mortgage finance giants, the manager of the world's biggest bond fund said on Thursday."

CNN - "Grand jury investigates subprime lenders" (7-24-08)

"A federal grand jury is investigating subprime mortgage lenders Countrywide Financial Corp., New Century Financial Corp. and IndyMac Federal Bank, a person familiar with the situation told The Associated Press on Thursday. Subpoenas seeking documents have been issued to all three companies, according to the person, who was not authorized to speak publicly about the case and requested anonymity."

CNN - "How housing rescue bill can help you" (7-24-08)

"The House on Wednesday passed a $300 billion housing rescue bill aimed at helping troubled homeowners avoid foreclosure and supporting mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. If the bill is now passed by the Senate and signed by President Bush, who today withdrew his threat to veto it, thousands of at-risk borrowers will be able to refinance their unaffordable old mortgages into new low-cost fixed-rate loans insured by the Federal Housing Administration (FHA)."

CNN - "Mortgage rates rise again" (7-24-08)

"Rates on 30-year mortgages rose for the third consecutive week amid concerns about mounting inflation, the weak housing market and speculation that the Federal Reserve will hike interest rates soon. Mortgage finance firm Freddie Mac reported Thursday that 30-year fixed-rate mortgages averaged 6.63% this week. That's up from 6.26% last week but still below the 6.69% average a year ago."

Bloomberg - "UBS Faces New York Lawsuit Over Auction-Rate Sales" (7-24-08)

"UBS AG was sued today by New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, alleging the Zurich-based bank's promotion of auction-rate securities as safe, money market-like investments was fraudulent. Cuomo seeks to force UBS to offer to buy back at face value $25 billion in auction-rate securities held by the bank's customers in New York and nationwide. Massachusetts and Texas have filed similar complaints against UBS since the $330 billion market collapsed in February in an effort to force the firm to repurchase securities it marketed in their respective states."

Bloomberg - "Fed Weighs Plans to Spur Bank Investment by LBO Firms" (7-24-08)

"The Federal Reserve, looking to spur investment in lenders hit by credit-market losses, is weighing three measures to ease rules for private-equity funds that buy bank stakes, people with knowledge of the deliberations said."

Orange County Register - "Inland Empire house construction down nearly 90% from ‘05" (7-24-08)

"The California Building Industry Association reports that some of the biggest homebuilding declines occurred just east of here in Riverside and San Bernardino counties, once one of the fastest growing areas in the nation."

Check out Joel Singer, Executive Vice President of the California Association of Realtors, on the Norris Group Real Estate Radio this weekend as we prepare for the I Survived Real Estate 2008 event August 23rd.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008 - "State agency will lend to 1st-time home buyers" (7-22-08)

"A California agency is offering below-market-rate loans to first-time home buyers who purchase certain foreclosed properties in beleaguered areas, including parts of Alameda and Contra Costa counties. The California Housing Finance Agency, which helps finance home ownership for people of modest means, has received a $200 million allocation of bond funds to use for the Community Stabilization Home Loan Program, which it estimates will help 800 to 1,000 Californians purchase their first home. The program is available only for specific foreclosed properties owned by one of the institutions participating in the program. The participating lenders - Wells Fargo, HomeEq, CitiMortgage and Fannie Mae - have agreed to price the properties at 12 percent below market value. CalHFA said other lenders are likely to join the program."

CBIA - "Housing Starts Continue Downward Trend in June, CBIA Announces" (7-22-08)

"According to statistics compiled by the Construction Industry Research Board, homebuilders around the state obtained 6,443 building permits during June, down 10.8 percent from May and down 43.9 percent from June 2007. Single-family permits totaled 3,954, up 9.2 percent from May but down 54.9 percent from June 2007, while multifamily permits totaled 2,489, down 30.9 percent from May and 16.8 percent from June 2007."

DQNews - "Another Increase in California Foreclosure Activity" (7-22-08)

"Mortgage servicers recorded 121,341 'notices of default' during the April-through-June period. That was up 6.6 percent from a revised 113,809 for this year's first quarter, and up 124.9 percent from 53,943 in second-quarter 2007, according to DataQuick Information Systems."

Bloomberg - "Fannie, Freddie Rescue May Cost $25 Billion, CBO Says" (7-22-08)

"Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac would cost U.S. taxpayers an estimated $25 billion over two years under a Bush administration plan to rescue the mortgage-finance companies, the Congressional Budget Office said. While the assessment is more pessimistic than Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson's prediction that a bailout is unlikely, the CBO report may quell concerns among some lawmakers that the price tag would be higher."

Bloomberg - "NVR Says Second-Quarter Net Income Dropped 43 Percent" (7-22-08)

"Net income decreased to $51.3 million, or $8.64 a share, from $90.7 million, or $14.14, a year earlier, the Reston, Virginia- based company said today in a statement. The results exceeded the average estimate of $6.85 a share in a Bloomberg survey of analysts. Shares rose as much as 7.1 percent. "

Orange County Register - "O.C. can’t keep fines for unlicensed real estate agents" (7-22-08)

"Orange County is unable to take advantage of a new law that lets counties keep a portion of the fines levied against people caught working as real estate agents without a license because it’s one of the few metropolitan counties in the state to resist setting up special fraud prosecution units and trust funds. The new law, signed Monday by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, is designed to beef up weak enforcement of real estate license laws."

Orange County Register - "Rents go flat at O.C.’s 3-bedroom townhomes" (7-22-08)

"RealFacts‘ second-quarter O.C. rent report shows that the average asking rents are typically rising the least for the bigger units at Orange County’s larger apartment complexes"

Monday, July 21, 2008

Bloomberg - "Bank of America Advances After Profit Beats Estimates" (7-21-08)

"Second-quarter net income at Bank of America, the biggest U.S. consumer bank, declined 41 percent to $3.41 billion, or 72 cents a share, exceeding the 54-cent average estimate of analysts surveyed by Bloomberg. Revenue was a record $20.6 billion and Chief Executive Officer Kenneth Lewis said there are no plans to cut the dividend."

Bloomberg - "Bill Gross Says Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac Mortgages `Excellent'" (7-21-08)

"Eight of the top 10 holdings in Gross's $128.8 billion Total Return Fund were mortgage-backed securities guaranteed by Fannie Mae, according to data compiled by Bloomberg News as of March 31, the latest date for which figures are available. Mortgage securities made up 61 percent of the fund as of June 30, up from 53 percent a year earlier, according to Pimco's Web site."

Bloomberg - "Paulson Pushes Covered Bonds, Sidestepping Congress" (7-21-08)

"Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, aiming to create a new source of U.S. mortgage financing, wants banks to start issuing covered bonds without waiting for legislation from Congress. Regulators can provide the guidance that lenders are asking to be set in law, said a Treasury official working on the issue who declined to be identified. Banks want a standardized definition of a covered bond, which requires the lender to make good on payments if homeowners default, and guidelines on bondholder protections."

Bloomberg - "Freddie Mac May Slow Purchases of Mortgages, Bonds" (7-21-08)

"Freddie Mac, the second-largest U.S. mortgage-finance company, may cut purchases of home loans from banks and bonds backed by housing debt to shore up its capital amid record delinquencies. The government-sponsored company is also considering selling securities and reducing its dividend while it prepares to issue $5.5 billion of stock, McLean, Virginia-based Freddie Mac said in a July 18 filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. JPMorgan Chase & Co. analyst Matthew Jozoff said in a report last week that growth in mortgage holdings of Freddie Mac and the larger Fannie Mae will be 'weak.'"

Bloomberg - "AIG, Chubb Among Insurers of Executives Facing Losses'" (7-21-08)

"American International Group Inc., Chubb Corp. and other insurers may lose money on coverage of U.S. corporate boards for the first year since at least 2002 as investors burned by subprime losses open more lawsuits."

Mercury News - "Homebuilders, schools at odds" (7-21-08)

"Either the Silicon Valley economy will grind to a halt, or thousands of students will be bused to overcrowded schools. In a dispute over San Jose's largest expansion of housing since its redeveloped downtown, two sparring public bodies predict looming disaster if the other has its way. The city of San Jose hopes to build 32,000 units of housing and add 83,000 jobs in the North San Jose area, extending along North First Street toward Alviso. But the Santa Clara Unified School District says it must accommodate the new families - and needs a way to fund at least three new schools."

Orange County Register - "June sees worst O.C. construction job loss in 15 years" (7-21-08)

"While O.C. construction bosses added 700 workers from May to June, total employment in this sector is off 6,100 people in a year — a 5.8% drop that’s the biggest tumble since 1993. (By the way, from 1990 to 2007, June’s typical one-month construction job surge is 1,600 workers, so even this year’s one-month gain isn’t great news!)"
Bloomberg - "Stern Says Fed Shouldn't Wait for End of Crisis to Raise Rates" (7-19-08)

"The Federal Reserve shouldn't wait for housing and financial markets to stabilize before it begins raising interest rates, central bank policy maker Gary Stern said."

Orange County Register - "How to fix this mess"(7-19-08)

"Although the foreclosure news in Orange County was a little better in June than May, it was still bad news and may get worse. According to RealtyTrac, more than 2,430 notices of default were filed in June – the first step towards foreclosure – down slightly from May, when one thousand county homes went into actual foreclosure, a record high. Chapman University just reported that California’s economy, including Orange County, may be in recession and certainly a factor is the collapse of the housing industry fueled by the subprime crisis and resulting home foreclosures."

The San Diego Union Tribune - "16% office vacancy rates seen in county" (7-19-08)

"San Diego County's office market continued to soften in the second quarter, with vacancy rates reaching 16.1 percent, thanks to tepid demand and new construction adding to supply."

Reuters - "House prices could fall for two years: Citigroup" (7-19-08)

"Citigroup chairman Win Bischoff has warned that house prices in Britain and the United States are likely to keep falling for another two years."

McClatchy - "Housing prices haven't hit bottom yet" (7-20-08)

"The Bush administration's pledge to rescue ailing housing finance giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac raises anew questions about just when the nation's dismal housing market will hit bottom. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke and Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson have suggested over the past year that an end is in sight. But with each prediction, things have grown worse. For many homeowners, the deep housing slump feels like a drop off a skyscraper. Every time another 15 floors have passed, there seems to be more room to fall."

The New York Times - "Uncomfortable Answers to Questions on the Economy" (7-20-08)

"The economy is not in recession until a panel at a private institution called the National Bureau of Economic Research says so. Unofficially, many economists think a recession started six or seven months ago, even as the economy has continued to expand — albeit at a tepid pace."

Friday, July 18, 2008

DQNews - "California June 2008 Home Sales" (7-18-08)

"A total of 35,202 new and resale houses and condos were sold statewide last month. That was up 6.6 percent from 33,024 in May and down 8.1 percent from 38,291 for June last year. Last month's total made for the slowest June in DataQuick's statistics, which go back to 1988."

The Wall Street Journal - "Mortgage Giant Freddie Mac Considers Major Stock Sale" (7-18-08)

"Mortgage giant Freddie Mac -- emboldened by emergency regulatory actions that have triggered a two-day rebound in its battered stock -- is considering raising capital by selling as much as $10 billion in new shares to investors, according to people familiar with the matter."

Mercury News - "Silicon Valley home prices slide to 2005 level" (7-18-08)

"It's a real estate milepost that would have sounded unbelievable just a year ago: One-fifth of the houses for sale in Santa Clara County today are now priced at less than $450,000.
And the median price of houses that changed hands last month fell from $791,000 last year to $670,000. The last time that figure was so low was in March 2005."

Yahoo - "Citigroup posts $2.5B loss, but beats expectations" (7-18-08)

"Citigroup has become the latest big bank to assuage Wall Street's worries about the financial sector, posting a $2.5 billion second-quarter loss that was smaller than the market expected."

Bloomberg - "KeyCorp Swoons on Loan Losses Outside Its Market" (7-18-08)

"Three months ago, analysts were speculating KeyCorp would help rescue National City Corp. after its bigger Cleveland-based neighbor set aside $1.4 billion to cover bad loans and reported a $171 million first-quarter loss. Since then, KeyCorp has fallen more than 60 percent in New York trading and analysts now estimate Ohio's third-biggest bank by assets will post a record second-quarter loss of about $800 million because of unprofitable real estate projects in Florida and California."

Bloomberg - "Blackstone Risks Hedge Fund Returns as LBO Loans Fade" (7-18-08)

"Blackstone can't wait for banks, stuck with almost $100 billion of debt from earlier LBOs, to start lending again. Instead, it's pushing deeper into deal financing with GSO. The strategy may hurt the hedge-fund unit's returns -- some approaching 40 percent -- if slowing economies lead companies taken private by Blackstone to default on their debt."

Bloomberg - "Fannie, Freddie Cut Lobbying Budget, Rely on Allies in Congress" (7-18-08)

"Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, for years among the most formidable lobbying forces in corporate America, have seen their political influence decline along with their financial fortunes.
Four years ago, Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae spent a combined $26 million on lobbying. This year they likely will spend about half that. Fannie Mae also has eliminated its foundation, which made politically motivated donations. The two government- chartered mortgage companies rely more on allies, including home builders and realtors, to make their case in Washington."

Bloomberg - "Bank of America Faces High Bar After Citigroup Report" (7-18-08)

"Bank of America Corp., the biggest U.S. home lender after buying Countrywide Financial Corp., reports earnings next week amid concern the purchase will add to losses on credit-card and home-equity loans. Bank of America is likely to say on July 21 that second- quarter per-share profit fell 59 percent, according to estimates of 21 analysts compiled by Bloomberg. A year earlier, the Charlotte, North Carolina-based bank earned $5.76 billion, the best quarter in the company's history."

Thursday, July 17, 2008

NAHB - "Dynamic Programs Better Than Mandates, NAHB Says" (7-17-08)

"'significant increases in costs for efficiency upgrades and the additional increase in home price to accommodate them has the potential to harm the part of the market with the least flexibility to react to price constraints: the marginal first-time home buyer,' Belcher said. 'NAHB does not support the assertion that a broad public policy objective should be achieved on the backs of a relatively narrow segment of the market with limited resources.'"

NAHB - "Single-Family Housing Starts And Permits Decline In June" (7-17-08)

"Starts of new single-family homes declined 5.3 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 647,000 units in June. This was the slowest pace in 17 years, and marked a decline of 64.5 percent from the peak of the building boom in January of 2006. Meanwhile, issuance of building permits for single-family homes declined 3.5 percent to a rate of 613,000 units."

Los Angeles Times - "Bargain hunting picks up as Southern California home values fall further" (7-17-08)

"Southern California home values keep spiraling down, but sales volume is picking up in the Inland Empire and other areas where bargain hunters are snapping up foreclosed properties at steep discounts.Home prices plunged 29.3% last month from a year earlier, to a median of $355,000 in six Southern California counties, a real estate information service reported Wednesday. That's about where prices were in 2004."

Yahoo - "Bernanke: Fannie, Freddie in no danger of failing" (7-17-08)

"The Fed and the Treasury Department on Sunday came to the rescue of mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, offering to throw them a financial lifeline. The two companies hold or guarantee more than $5 trillion in mortgages — almost half of the nation's total_ and are major sources of financing for the mortgage market. The Bush administration is asking Congress to temporarily increase lines of credit to Fannie and Freddie and to let the government buy their stock. The Fed has offered to let the companies draw emergency loans."

DQNews - "Bay Area median price dives below $500K; sales near record low" (7-17-08)

"The median has fallen on a year-over-year basis for seven consecutive months, the result of both widespread depreciation, most pronounced inland, and a shift of sales towards lower-priced markets. The region's four most expensive counties -- Marin, San Francisco, San Mateo and Santa Clara -- accounted for a combined 42 percent of Bay Area sales last month, down from 49 percent in June 2007."

Orange County Register - "O.C. office construction plummets 91%" (7-17-08)

"Voit Commercial Brokerage reports that construction of O.C. office buildings plunged 90.8% in the second quarter to 325,276 square feet. Last year in the second quarter, 3.5 million square feet was under construction."

Orange County Register - "Jerry Brown says Countrywide used “shocking”deceptive lending practices" (7-17-08)

"Jerry Brown, California’s attorney general, has added new accusations to a law suit against Countrywide Financial, alleging the lender’s deceptive business practices included ignoring its internal underwriting guidelines and rewarding employees for selling risky home loans."

Bloomberg - "U.S. West Apartment Rents Increased 2.5% in the Second Quarter" (7-17-08)

"The average monthly rent in 15 U.S. states, most of which are in the West, climbed 0.6 percent from the first quarter to $999, Novato, California-based RealFacts said today in a statement. The average occupancy rate dropped from a year earlier in 22 metropolitan areas tracked by RealFacts, rose in seven and was unchanged in two."

Realty Times - "Real Estate Outlook: New Home Loan Applications Up" (7-17-08)

"With all the stock market jitters about Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and the U.S. mortgage system, you might have the impression that the real estate market is on the edge of some sort of cliff. But that's wrong: Would you believe that new home loan applications jumped by a seasonally-adjusted seven and a half percent last week, according to the Mortgage Bankers of America's national survey! Applications to purchase homes using FHA loans surged by nearly 20 percent."

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

NAHB - "Builder Confidence Declines Further In July" (7-16-08)

"Builder confidence in the market for newly built single-family homes fell for a third consecutive month in July, according to the National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index (HMI), released today. The HMI fell below its previous record low of 18 in June to a new record low of 16 in July, with each of its three component indexes also hitting record lows."

The Wall Street Journal - "IndyMac Reopens, Halts Foreclosures on Its Loans" (7-16-08)

"IndyMac Bancorp Inc., the failed thrift, reopened its doors under federal control Monday and promptly moved to toss ailing homeowners a lifeline by halting all foreclosures on the mortgages it owns."

DQNews - "Southland home sales drag along bottom" (7-16-08)

"A total of 17,424 new and resale houses and condos sold in Los Angeles, Riverside, San Diego, Ventura, San Bernardino and Orange counties last month. That was up 3.0 percent from 16,917 the previous month and down 13.6 percent from 20,166 for June a year ago, according to DataQuick Information Systems."

Mortgage Bankers Association - "Mortgage Applications Increase In Latest MBA Weekly Survey" (7-16-08)

"The Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) today released its Weekly Mortgage Applications Survey for the week ending July 11, 2008. The Market Composite Index, a measure of mortgage loan application volume, was 522.2, an increase of 1.7 percent on a seasonally adjusted basis from 513.4 one week earlier. On an unadjusted basis, the Index increased 27.0 percent compared with the previous Independence Day holiday shortened week and was down 17.4 percent compared with the same week one year earlier."

Yahoo - "Bernanke tries to settle nerves over economy,banks" (7-16-08)

"Trying to stem eroding investor confidence in the two companies, the Treasury Department and the Fed on Sunday offered to throw them a financial lifeline if they needed it to stay afloat. The two companies hold or guarantee more than $5 trillion in mortgages -- almost half of the nation's total -- and are major sources of financing for the mortgage market."

USA Today - "Economic pain: 'Payback' for debt-fueled growth?" (7-16-08)

"If it wasn't clear before Tuesday, it is now: This is no ordinary economic crisis, and it won't be over anytime soon. In fact, problems are multiplying. A year ago, the financial virus seemed confined to subprime mortgages, loans given to those with less-than-perfect credit. Now, much of the banking system appears rickety, and the U.S. economy has slowed to a crawl. But thanks to robust demand from still-growing countries such as China, the prices of commodities from oil to food have soared — hitting Americans from the gas pump to the grocery checkout."

The San Diego Union Tribune - "Lawmakers question Fannie/Freddie plan" (7-16-08)

"The criticism prompted House leaders to push back their timetable for approving emergency housing legislation, saying final action would take at least until early next week. A growing number of Republicans had voiced skepticism and, in some cases, opposition, to the administration's proposal to help the two companies, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac."

The San Diego Union Tribune - "Inflation, Bernanke's warning rub salt in economy's wounds" (7-16-08)

"The U.S. economic downturn gained steam yesterday, with a report of the highest inflation since the early 1980s and a suggestion by the Federal Reserve chief that worse days are ahead."

Bloomberg - "Record Mortgage Insurer Claims Haven't Reached Peak, Fitch Says" (7-16-08)

"MGIC Investment Corp., PMI Group Inc. and competing U.S. mortgage insurers reeling from record claims may have to absorb even higher loss rates from bad home loans, Fitch Ratings said. About 70 percent of the industry's policies cover loans issued from 2005 through 2007 when mortgage and insurance underwriting standards were lax, leading to progressively higher default rates, Fitch said. Mortgage insurers pay lenders when borrowers default and foreclosure fails to recoup costs."

Bloomberg - "U.S. Office, Retail Building to Drop Through 2009, Study Says" (7-16-08)

"Construction of U.S. office and retail buildings is poised to fall for the rest of this year and through 2009 on lower demand from tenants, stricter lending standards and rising building costs, the American Institute of Architects said. Office-building construction likely will drop 3.7 percent this year and 12.3 percent in 2009, the Washington-based group said today in its semi-annual Consensus Construction Forecast. Construction of shopping centers and other retail buildings is forecast to fall 8.3 percent this year and 9.9 percent next year."

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

New York Times - "Scramble Led to Rescue Plan on Mortgages" (7-15-08)

"Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson Jr. and other top officials were warned, after Fannie and Freddie lost nearly half their stock market value on Friday morning, that any more turmoil threatened to reduce the value of trillions of dollars of the companies’ debt and other obligations, which are held by thousands of domestic and foreign banks, pension funds, mutual funds and other investors, government officials said. The warnings of a potential systemic failure led to the resulting rescue package, and one of the most striking — though unspoken — regulatory shifts in modern times."

CBIA - "Declining New-Home Sales Emphasizes Need for Action, CBIA Declares" (7-15-08)

"The monthly CBIA/Hanley Wood Market Intelligence (HWMI) New Home Sales and Pricing Report showed that new home sales in May were 51 percent below May 2007. The drop represents a worsening in the trend of year-over-year decline, which had shrunk to 44 percent in April after coming in at 49 percent in March."

Bloomberg - "Insurer Writedowns Linked to Subprime Reach $77 Billion: Table" (7-15-08)

"The following table shows $77.6 billion of assets marked down by some of the largest insurers since the beginning of 2007 as values fell in U.S. mortgage and credit markets."

Bloomberg - "SEC Targets Lenders, Investment Banks in Subprime Investigation" (7-15-08)

"U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman Christopher Cox said the agency is pursuing more than four dozen cases into the subprime-mortgage crisis, focusing on whether lenders and investment banks misled investors."

Bloomberg - "Ackman Shorts Fannie, Freddie, Suggests Restructuring" (7-15-08)

"Hedge fund manager William Ackman, who is betting against shares of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, criticized any government plan to buy equity in the existing mortgage-finance companies and said shareholders should be wiped out. Ackman, 42, has his own plan that would see Fannie Mae raise about $86 billion in capital by giving investors in $750 billion of senior unsecured notes 90 cents on the dollar in debt of a new company, with the balance in equity. Investors in Fannie Mae's $11 billion of junior debt would get warrants, while common and preferred shareholders would get nothing, according to Ackman."

Bloomberg - "Fitch Ratings Lowers New Home Sales Forecast as Slump Persists" (7-15-08)

"Fitch Ratings Inc. lowered its forecast for new home sales this year as stricter mortgage lending standards reduce demand."

Bloomberg - "Safeco Gains Most Since April After Buyout Affirmed" (7-15-08)

"Safeco Corp., the property insurer that agreed in April to be acquired by Liberty Mutual Group Inc., rose the most since the deal was announced after Liberty Mutual reaffirmed its commitment to complete the $6.2 billion buyout."

Orange County Register - "Will the Fed’s new rules prevent another housing bubble?" (7-15-08)

"If these rules had been in place when we first knew that we needed them, the whole subprime crisis could have been averted. For a couple of years before the subprime market melted down, the widespread attitude in the subprime industry was that there was little reason to check whether borrowers could repay, because housing prices were always going to go up and everyone was going to make money even if the borrower had to sell the house. Prudent underwriting went out the window and there was a feeding frenzy by lenders and investors."

Orange County Register - "4 of O.C.’s 7 biggest cities lose population" (7-15-08)

"If population growth supposedly drives a healthy housing market, then recent stats from the Census Bureau — population growth for municipalities with 100,000-plus folks — shows another challenge for local real estate: Census says four of O.C.’s seven largest cities lost population in the year ended July, 1 2007. "
NAR - "REALTORS® Pledge Support to Finalize Housing Stimulus Bill" (7-14-08)

"The U.S. Senate has passed a bipartisan housing stimulus bill that 'is a big step toward helping people buy and keep their homes,' said National Association of Realtors® President Dick Gaylord. The Senate action moves a housing stimulus package closer to law, which would help bring stability to the housing market and stop the rising rate of foreclosures."

San Francisco Chronicle - "Fed adopts plan to curb shady mortgage practices" (7-14-08)

"For risky borrowers, the new rules will bar lenders from making loans without proof of a borrower's income. The rules will require lenders to make sure risky borrowers set aside money to pay for taxes and insurance."

Mortgage Bankers Association - "MBA's Quinn Reacts to Release of Final HOEPA Rule" (7-14-08)

"MBA applauds the Federal Reserve for stepping up to the plate and providing consumers with comprehensive rules to guide lenders and protect consumers in the mortgage process. These rules are a thoughtful effort to tackle difficult concerns and attempt to balance the need for new standards against the need for available, relatively low cost mortgage credit."

Bloomberg - "Citigroup's $1.1 Trillion of Mysterious Assets Shadows Earnings" (7-14-08)

"At an investor presentation in May, Citigroup Inc. Chief Executive Officer Vikram Pandit said shrinking the bank's $2.2 trillion balance sheet, the biggest in the U.S., was a cornerstone of his turnaround plan. Nowhere mentioned in the accompanying 66-page handout were the additional $1.1 trillion of assets that New York-based Citigroup keeps off its books: trusts to sell mortgage-backed securities, financing vehicles to issue short-term debt and collateralized debt obligations, or CDOs, to repackage bonds."

Orange County Register - "Irvine called 4th best place to live in U.S." (7-14-08)

"Long before developers embraced the idea of mixed-use communities, there was Irvine. It was born in the 1960s, when the University of California commissioned architect William Pereira to design a new campus and town. Today, its population hovers around 200,000, yet it feels much smaller thanks to its tight-knit neighborhoods and more than 16,000 acres of green space."

Orange County Register - "Demand for O.C. homes off 11% in 2 weeks" (7-14-08)

"Fresh math from Steve Thomas at Re/Max Real Estate Services in Aliso Viejo suggests that O.C.’s recent homebuying surge has taken, at least, an early summer vacation. His measure of demand — new escrows to buy local residences opened in the past 30 days — fell 11% just in the past two weeks."

Friday, July 11, 2008

The New York Times - "Fannie and Freddie Shares Slide, Dragging Down Markets" (7-11-08)

"Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac shares plummeted again on Friday — and the broader stock market followed suit — as concern mounted that the government will be forced to take over the beleaguered mortgage finance companies, which some investors fear are at risk of default. Even after a week of unprecedented losses, the companies’ declines on Friday were the sharpest yet: Freddie Mac shares were down 24 percent from Thursday’s closing price, to $6.08 a share, and Fannie Mae stock fell 28 percent to $9.51 a share, in midday trading after opening sharply lower."

The Herald - "Allstate must cut home rates" (7-11-08)

"Allstate Corp. has been ordered to cut its California homeowner insurance rate by more than 25 percent, a move that will save consumers an estimated $255 million a year, the state insurance commissioner announced Thursday. Commissioner Steve Poizner signed an order Tuesday rejecting Allstate's request for a 9.3 percent increase and instead mandated a 28.5-percent rollback in rates for about 850,000 customers."

NAHB - "Statement From Jerry Howard, Executive Vice President-CEO National Association Of Home Builders" (7-11-08)

"Now is the time we need to focus on passing meaningful housing legislation. Industry and government must work together to help get home buyers back into the marketplace, stabilize house prices, stem the rising tide of foreclosures and restore confidence in our housing finance system. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac play a central role in our housing system and will continue to do so."

The San Diego Union Tribune - "Wachovia hits 17-year low on CEO's first day" (7-11-08)

"On his first day as the new CEO of Wachovia Corp., Robert Steel saw the stock tumble to a 17-year low and faced questions about his ability to rescue the nation's fourth-largest bank from its own missteps and the roiling credit market."

Bloomberg - "Lehman Takes `Pounding' as Speculation Hurts Shares" (7-11-08)

"Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc., the securities firm that lost almost 75 percent of its market value this year, sank to the lowest since 2000 in New York trading as customers' votes of confidence failed to halt speculation that the stock may drop further. Lehman, once the biggest U.S. underwriter of mortgage bonds, fell 40 cents, or 5.2 percent, to $16.40 before the official open on the New York Stock Exchange. Shares of the New York-based investment bank have lost 24 percent this week."

Yahoo - "Paulson: Prime focus to support GSEs in 'current form'" (7-11-08)

"Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson said on Friday that his chief aim at present is to back government-sponsored mortgage finance companies Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac in their 'current form,' giving no sign a government bailout of them was imminent."

Orange County Register - "Santa Ana ZIPs top late-June’s home-price declines" (7-11-08)

"Five of the 11 O.C. ZIP codes with biggest price losses in late June were Santa Ana, according to the latest DataQuick homebuying report. Prices in these communities are likely being dragged down by a surge in sales by distressed sellers, both bankers who’s repossessed homes and owners trying to avoid foreclosure.Collectively, 153 homes were sold in this ZIP in this period, down 6% from a year ago. Not bad considering countywide sales are off 16.5%. "

On August 23rd, The Norris Group will be hosting a special fundraising event at the Nixon Library. The event is titled, "I Survived Real Estate 2008" ( The event will raise money for cancer research and proceeds will be donated to the Orange County Affiliate of the Susan G. Komen for the Cure. Tickets are now available.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Yahoo - "Paulson says US mortgage giants 'adequately capitalized'" (7-10-08)

"Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson said Thursday that US mortgage finance giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are 'adequately capitalized' in the face of a 'challenging period.'"

Bloomberg - "Fannie, Freddie `Insolvent' After Losses, Poole Says" (7-10-08)

Fannie Mae paid a record yield relative to Treasuries on the sale of $3 billion in two-year notes yesterday amid concern the biggest provider of financing for U.S. home loans won't have enough capital to weather the worst housing slump since the Great Depression. The company's credit-default swaps show traders are treating the AAA rated debt as if it were five steps lower. Fannie Mae shares tumbled 13 percent yesterday in New York to the lowest level in almost 14 years."

Yahoo - "US foreclosure filings surge 53 percent in June" (7-10-08)

Nationwide, 252,363 homes received at least one foreclosure-related notice in June, up 53 percent from the same month last year, but down 3 percent from May, RealtyTrac Inc. said. One in every 501 U.S. households received a foreclosure filing last month."

Reuters - "US housing bill clears Senate procedural hurdle" (7-10-08)

"A bill to save hundreds of thousands of homeowners from foreclosure cleared a procedural hurdle in the U.S. Senate on Thursday and moved a step closer to being sent to the House of Representatives for needed agreement. On a vote of 84-12, more than the required 60, the Senate agreed to proceed with the legislation, and could send it later in the day to the House, where it faced a number of potential amendments."

Bloomberg - "KB Home Adds Robert Johnson, Founder of BET, to Board" (7-10-08)

"KB Home, the Los Angeles-based homebuilder that's lost half its stock-market value in the past year, said Robert L. Johnson, founder of Black Entertainment Television and chairman of RLJ Cos., has become a director. KB Home's board now has 11 directors, 10 of whom are independent, following Johnson's unanimous election, the homebuilder said today in a statement. Johnson previously served with KB Home Chairman Stephen Bollenbach on the board of Hilton Hotels Corp., which Blackstone Group LP purchased last year."

Bloomberg - "Credit Scores Cost Consumers $28 Billion, Survey Says" (7-10-08)

U.S. consumers remain in the dark about how the credit-scoring system works in obtaining mortgages, insurance and credit cards, costing individuals as much as $28 billion each year, a survey concluded. Credit scores are a vital but often overlooked part of people's financial health. The number, also known as a FICO score, determines interest rates on credit cards, and is being used increasingly by insurance companies to set rates and prospective employers in hiring decisions."

Bloomberg - "MGIC Downgraded by Moody's After Mortgage Defaults" (7-10-08)

MGIC Investment Corp., the largest U.S. mortgage insurer, had its credit rating cut by Moody's Investors Service on record mortgage defaults. Moody's lowered its assessment of the Milwaukee-based insurer's claims-paying ability to A1 from Aa2 at its primary U.S. unit and to A2 from Aa2 at its Australian insurer. The downgrades were the result of a review begun in January and future rating cuts are more likely than improvements, Moody's said in a statement today."

Realty Times - "Market Conditions: California" (7-10-08)

"Market expert, Joanne Brown, is reporting that California home sales decreased in percentage wise -- with a year over year decline. However, per the index, eight of 20 cities experienced month-over-month increases in prices. That shows cities "are beginning to sort themselves into a better market condition. This also shows that the whole market is not collapsing. California cities included in the index continued to experience price declines are Los Angeles, San Diego and San Francisco."

Realty Times - "Realty Viewpoint: Energy Bills Are Yet Another Dealkiller/maker" (7-10-08)

"Thank goodness oil prices pulled back this week, falling as much as $9 a barrel over two days. Consumers needed a break, but that doesn't mean concern about energy prices is going away. Prices are still double what they were last year, and that means homebuyers are not only looking at their commute times, they're also looking closely at energy efficiency in the homes they buy."

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Mortgage Bankers Association - "Mortgage Applications Increase In Latest MBA Weekly Survey" (7-9-08)

"The Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) today released its Weekly Mortgage Applications Survey for the week ending July 4, 2008. The Market Composite Index, a measure of mortgage loan application volume, was 513.4, an increase of 7.5 percent on a seasonally adjusted basis from 477.7 one week earlier. This week’s results include an adjustment to account for the Independence Day holiday. On an unadjusted basis, the Index decreased 14.1 percent compared with the previous week and was down 18.1 percent compared with the same week one year earlier."

Bloomberg - "MGIC Claims, Expenses to Top Premiums by Two-to-One, S&P Says" (7-9-08)

"MGIC Investment Corp., the largest U.S. mortgage insurer, will pay out more than $2 dollars in claims and expenses for every premium dollar earned this year and may lose money through 2009, Standard & Poor's said. "

Mercury News - "Contractors at the ready for remodeling work amid slowdown" (7-9-08)

"Americans spent $178 billion on home improvement projects in 2006, but that fell to $166 billion in 2008, according to Harvard University's Joint Center for Housing Studies."

Orange County Register - "LA/OC home prices off 23%, by the square foot" (7-9-08)

"RadarLogic, a home-price tracker that concentrates on per-square-foot valuations, says LA/OC home values (for all types of residences sold — homes, condos and newly built) ran at $303 per square foot in April, down 23.4% in the year, according to their most recent pricing report. To some observors, the per-square-foot measure can be more accurate because it’s not as easily swayed by a changing mix of homes sold in a period."

Realty Times - "Market Conditions" (7-9-08)

"The Fed announced yesterday morning that it would tighten rules on lending to subprime and exotic loan borrowers. What does this mean for the real estate market?"

Realty Times - "Can You Rely On Your Home Equity Line of Credit?" (7-9-08)

"If you have a home equity line of credit -- what the industry calls a "HELOC" -- you probably think of it as a financial safety net, quick cash you can access in times of emergency or when you face a big expense that can't otherwise be paid all at once. Unfortunately, HELOCs have been drying up across the country as lenders have put the brakes on withdrawals and reduced credit limits."

Realty Times - "Realty Viewpoint: Location Has Never Been More Important" (7-9-08)

"The The National Association of Realtors expects job losses to be temporary, as companies clean house. The unemployment rate should average 5.4 percent this year and rise to 5.8 percent in 2009, but that's still well under the seven percent unemployment we had as recently as 2003."

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

NAR - "Home Sales to Vary in Narrow Range, Then Rise in Second Half" (7-8-08)

"Modest near-term movement is expected in existing-home sales, with a recovery in sales seen during the second half of the year, according to the latest forecast by the National Association of Realtors®. The Pending Home Sales Index,* a forward-looking indicator based on contracts signed in May, fell 4.7 percent to 84.7 from an upwardly revised reading of 88.9 in April, and remains 14.0 percent below May 2007 when it stood at 98.5."

Yahoo - "Fed plans new rules to protect future homebuyers" (7-8-08)

"The Federal Reserve will issue new rules next week aimed at protecting future homebuyers from dubious lending practices, its most sweeping response to a housing crisis that has propelled foreclosures to record highs."

Los Angeles Times - "IndyMac to exit most home lending, slash 3,800 jobs" (7-8-08)

"IndyMac Bancorp, once a leader in the nontraditional home loans that helped drive the housing boom, all but quit the mortgage business Monday and said it would lay off 3,800 people, more than half its staff, in the wake of growing defaults by borrowers."

The San Diego Union Tribune - "BofA chief stresses discipline in lending" (7-8-08)

"Now it's time for the lending industry to 'return to a more disciplined view of risk standards that will protect everyone from a repetition of what we are going through today,' Lewis said. Getting the nation through the housing downturn will require federal help, he said. Congress is considering a mortgage rescue measure that would give lenders incentive to modify distressed mortgages."

The San Diego Union Tribune - "Wall Street clobbers giant mortgage firms" (7-8-08)

"One of the strongest warning signs came yesterday, when shares of the nation's most important mortgage companies, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, plummeted. After falling almost continuously for a month, in just one day Freddie Mac tumbled 18 percent and Fannie Mae lost 16 percent amid concerns that the companies would need to raise billions in fresh capital."

The San Diego Union Tribune - "Foreclosures bringing cases of fraud to light" (7-8-08)

"Law enforcement officials say a host of real estate shenanigans sprouted during the housing boom. The most prevalent – and least likely to be prosecuted – involved fudging income on loan applications. Other buyers fibbed about whether they would occupy the home or rent it. Some schemes were more complicated and nefarious. They often involved inflated appraisals, zero-down financing and grossly false information on loan documents. In these scams, the idea was not to own the property long-term but instead to siphon off as much money as possible from commissions, rental income or undisclosed cash kickbacks before letting the home fall into foreclosure."

Bloomberg - "Bernanke Says Fed May Continue Lending Into Next Year" (7-8-08)

"The Fed chairman's comments come a day after Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac fell to their lowest level since 1992 and the Standard & Poor's 500 Banks Index dropped to a 12-year low. It's the first time Bernanke has indicated how long he'll extend the lending programs that were introduced in March in a provision of Fed credit to nonbanks unprecedented since the Great Depression."

MSN - "34 cities where it's still better to rent" (7-8-08)

"Using a rule of thumb that truly affordable homes cost no more than 15 times their annual market rent, the study found that prices in 34 of the largest 100 metro areas still have a lot of room to fall and would leave their owners with negative equity were they to sell in four years. Hit worst would be home buyers in San Jose, Calif., the nation's priciest market. By the study's calculations, anyone who bought a low-priced home there with a 6% loan could be $355,000 in the hole in 2012. (A low-priced home was defined as 75% of the area's current median price.)"

Bloomberg - "LandAmerica Chief Cut Jobs, Plans Office Closures" (7-8-08)

"LandAmerica cut 4,000 jobs, or nearly 30 percent of its workforce, in the 16 months through April amid the biggest housing slump since the Great Depression. The top three title insurers reported a 15 percent slide in first-quarter orders. According to No. 1 First American Corp.'s monthly data, that deficit didn't improve in April and May."

Bloomberg - "Bondholders See Blackstone Winning Tousa Assets From Citigroup" (7-8-08)

"Blackstone Group LP and Carlyle Group are fighting lenders led by Citigroup Inc. over more than $500 million in assets the banks received as collateral from Tousa Inc., the biggest U.S. homebuilder in bankruptcy."

Monday, July 07, 2008

New York Times - "Fannie and Freddie Shares Plunge" (7-7-08)

"Freddie Mac stock tumbled more than 18 percent in early afternoon trading, to $11.83, while Fannie Mae shares also dropped more than 18 percent, to $15.30."

CNBC - "Retail Property Has Worst Second Quarter in 30 Years" (7-7-08)

"U.S. store closings and cutbacks turned the second quarter into the worst for strip mall owners in 30 years, as budget-conscious consumers flocked to low-cost warehouse-style grocery centers, according to a report by real estate research firm Reis. Strip malls, which are usually anchored by grocery or drug stores, saw average vacancies spike 0.5 percentage points to 8.2 percent, a level unseen since 1995, according to the report released on Monday."

Yahoo - "Countrywide workers worried about severance" (7-7-08)

"Workers at Countrywide Financial Corp are worried that new owners Bank of America Corp will force them into a position that will cause them to lose their severance benefits, the New York Post reported."

Bloomberg - "Maguire Properties Gets $939.7 Million Takeover Offer" (7-7-08)

"The offer is worth $939.7 million and is 67 percent more than the July 3 closing price for Maguire. Loeb's Third Point LLC hedge fund, Maguire's fourth-biggest investor, made the disclosure in a regulatory filing and didn't name the bidder. Another fund, JMB Capital Partners LP, will say today in a filing it bought a 9.8 percent stake in Maguire and will seek control of the board, managing partner Jon Brooks said in an interview. "

Bloomberg - "Home Prices Fall in 23 of 25 U.S. Metropolitan Areas" (7-7-08)

"The Sacramento, California, region saw the biggest drop, with prices falling 31.7 percent from April 2007. Sacramento was followed by the Las Vegas area (29.9 percent), San Diego (28.1 percent), Phoenix (25.5 percent) and Los Angeles (23.4 percent), Radar Logic said. "

Bloomberg - "Profits in U.S. Probably Fell Again, Led by Citigroup" (7-7-08)

"Profits at U.S. companies probably shrank for the fourth consecutive quarter, the longest losing streak since 2002, as Citigroup Inc. and Merrill Lynch & Co. suffered more losses from the collapse of the mortgage market."

Orange County Register - "Fed official sees home-price dips ‘well into 2009′" (7-7-08)

"Changes in housing prices are inextricably linked to household wealth, which in turn affects consumer spending, as well as prospects for housing construction. Unfortunately, it appears to me that there are at least three reasons for thinking that housing prices have further to fall. First, the ratio of house prices to rents—a kind of price-dividend ratio for housing—still remains quite high by historical standards, despite having fallen from its historical peak reached in early 2006."

Realty Times - "Market Conditions: Yolo County, California" (7-7-08)

"Ken and Linda Pillard, market experts in Yolo County, California, say default notices have jumped from 197 to 488 since 2007. But despite those figures, they say this market is showing promising signs for buyers, who are in the perfect position to take advantage of low interest rates and extraordinary inventory."