Friday, August 29, 2008

Sacramento Bee - "Homefront: Capital market near bottom, housing bear says" (8-29-08)

"Here's one of the more reassuring comments we've heard in a while. Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody's and a longtime housing market bear, says Sacramento should be back on its feet within a year."

The San Diego Union Tribune - "S.D. economy in recession, expert says" (8-29-08)

"The University of San Diego's monthly report on leading economic indicators fell again in July, led by plunging consumer confidence, a jump in job losses and worries about the national economy. The USD index has fallen for 27 of the last 28 months."

Realty Times - "Investor Report: Rare Tax Law and Opportunity for Profit" (8-29-08)

"The opportunity flows from tax provisions in the recently-signed Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008. One change is the $7,500 tax credit for purchasers who haven't owned a home as a principal residence for the past three years. The second change is for investors who HAVE OWNED a principal residence -- but who've also used the property as a rental investment. After next January 1st, investors will be limited in their ability to pull tax-free money out of sales proceeds on units they use for mixed purposes -- rentals and principal residence."

Realty Times - "Succeeding in Today's Market" (8-29-08)

"No matter what is reported in the media, I know one thing and it is that you are the only one who can decide if the market is good or bad. Let's take that approach to our business and set it into high gear for the months ahead. Whether you are happy with the results you achieved so far this year or not, the good news is it's not too late to make the changes needed. Take control decide it is time to do something different. No matter how bad it is for you, it is never too late. Here is my 15 step approach to improving your business"

Realty Times - "Legislation Aims to Protect Tenants in Foreclosed Properties" (8-29-08)

"Like many states, California has a variety of tenant-protection laws that govern landlord-tenant situations. Unfortunately, though, California laws do not always make clear that the same rules apply when a new owner, a "successor in interest," acquires a tenant-occupied property through foreclosure. Moreover, these are not isolated instances. The Western Center on Law & Poverty indicates that 20 - 25 percent of residential foreclosures in California involve rental units. In 2007 that translated to approximately 20,000 renters who were affected."

Orange County Register - "O.C. builders shy from new stores, cut plans 61%" (8-29-08)

"Future retail construction — as indicated by the value of building permits issued so far this year — fell 61% from the huge upswing that occurred in the first seven months of 2007, according to the board, which tracks California building permit data."

Orange County Register - "O.C. mortgage rates fall" (8-29-08)

"The average rate on 30-year fixed-rate loans up to the old conforming limit of $417,000 slid to 6.139 percent with a one-point fee, the second weekly drop from a peak of 6.205 percent earlier this month – that was the highest average of the year."

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Bloomberg - "FDIC Adds Office Space in Dallas, Ready for More Bank Failures" (8-28-08)

"The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. is preparing to sign a five-year lease to add five floors of space at its Dallas regional office as the agency prepares to increase scrutiny of failing and troubled U.S. banks."

Bloomberg - "Lehman Said to Be Eliminating as Many as 1,000 Jobs" (8-28-08)

"Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc., the investment bank that's trying to shed mortgage assets and raise capital, is poised to eliminate as many as 1,000 jobs, or about 4 percent of its workforce, in the fourth round of cuts at the firm this year, people familiar with the matter said."

Yahoo - "What the FDIC problem list isn't telling us" (8-28-08)

"On Tuesday, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. revealed that the number of institutions on its so-called 'problem bank' list jumped to 117 during the second quarter, up from 90 just three months earlier."

CNN - "Housing fix backfires" (8-28-08)

"So just how much help has this change been for homeowners? Not much. Six months ago, the rate on a $500,000 30-year fixed mortgage was 6.73%. Today the rate today is only slightly lower at 6.69%. No surprise then that the housing market is still stuck in reverse."

Bloomberg - "Fannie Rises for Sixth Day as Mudd Replaces Deputies" (8-28-08)

"Fannie Mae rose for a sixth day in New York trading, the longest streak since May 2007, after Chief Executive Officer Daniel Mudd replaced three top deputies in an effort to restore investor confidence."

Orange County Register - "California ranks 2nd in mortgage fraud" (8-28-08)

"The MARI maintains a database of reported incidents of fraud and misrepresentations, and the ranking is based on total number of properties involved in fraud (the totals were not given). Nationwide such reports were up 42 percent in the first quarter vs. a year ago. And here I thought fraud would decrease after the credit crunch began last summer."

Orange County Register - "O.C. house price slides under $500,000" (8-28-08)

"Latest home-selling stats from DataQuick show for the 22 business days ended Aug. 13 shows a median selling price for single-family houses at $499,500 — $234,500 or 32% below the peak of $734,000 hit in June 2007. It’s the first time under a half-million bucks since December 1993.Overall, the mid-August countywide median for all residences is down 29.1% in a year — that’s $195,000 (30%) below the peak of $645,000 hit in June 2007."

Orange County Register - "O.C. mortgage rates fall" (8-28-08)

"The average rate on 30-year fixed-rate loans up to the old conforming limit of $417,000 slid to 6.139 percent with a one-point fee, the second weekly drop from a peak of 6.205 percent earlier this month – that was the highest average of the year."

Realty Times - "Market Conditions" (8-28-08)

"Going green isn't just a fad anymore. It makes financial sense for apartment and condo builders as well. A recent survey conducted by the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) shows that 74 percent of respondents said that 'buyers and renters are willing to pay more for green amenities.' And multifamily builders and developers nationwide are responding. Eighty-nine percent of respondents reported that they are installing energy-efficient appliances and lighting in their multifamily communities."

Realty Times - "Sellers Get A Break On Commissions" (8-28-08)

"A recent Consumer Reports survey of more than 9,000 home owners, found that among 46 percent of those who, from 2004 to 2007 sold or attempted to sell their home and attempted to negotiate the commission, 71 percent succeeded, often netting a 3 to 4 per percent sales commission for the effort."

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Mortgage Bankers Association - "Mortgage Applications Increase Slightly In Latest MBA Weekly Survey" (8-27-08)

"The Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) today released its Weekly Mortgage Applications Survey for the week ending August 22, 2008. The Market Composite Index, a measure of mortgage loan application volume, was 421.6, an increase of 0.5 percent on a seasonally adjusted basis from 419.3 one week earlier. On an unadjusted basis, the Index decreased 0.9 percent compared with the previous week and was down 31.2 percent compared with the same week one year earlier."

Inman News - "Fannie, Freddie shun N.Y. subprime loans" (8-27-08)

"Housing advocates say mortgage financers Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are overreacting to a New York law the companies say creates new legal liabilities for investors who buy subprime loans. The mortgage giants say that beginning Sept. 1, they will no longer purchase or securitize loans defined as subprime by a New York law that creates new consumer protections."

The San Diego Union Tribune - "Housing downturn could be letting up" (8-27-08)

"A key housing-price index released yesterday offered a glimmer of hope that the downward spiral might be slowing in some places, but San Diego and other once-high-flying cities have yet to see any return to stability. The Standard & Poor's/Case-Shiller Home Price Index showed prices of single-family resale homes in 20 cities had dropped 0.5 percent from May to June, compared with a 0.9 percent decline from April to May. It was the smallest month-over-month decline in a year."

Reuters - "FDIC may borrow money from Treasury: report" (8-27-08)

"Federal Deposit Insurance Corp (FDIC) might have to borrow money from the Treasury Department to see it through an expected wave of bank failures, the Wall Street Journal reported. The borrowing could be needed to cover short-term cash-flow pressures caused by reimbursing depositors immediately after the failure of a bank, the paper said."

Bloomberg - "Fannie Rises as Merrill Calls Bailout Talk Premature" (8-27-08)

"Fannie sold $1 billion each of three-month and six-month notes today and Freddie raised $1 billion, offering buyers extra yields relative to benchmark rates that while wider than before, remained lower than a year ago. Investors have been watching the debt sales for any 'tell-tale' signs that Washington-based Fannie and McLean, Virginia-based Freddie can't fund themselves, UBS AG analysts in New York including William O'Donnell wrote in a report."

Bloomberg - "Moody's Reviewing All 2006, 2007 Jumbo Mortgage Bonds" (8-27-08)

"Moody's Investors Service is stepping up scrutiny of all prime-jumbo mortgage securities issued in 2006 and 2007 as the surge in U.S. foreclosures spreads beyond subprime loans. Moody's is studying its rankings on the securities after late payments started increasing more quickly in recent months, according to a statement today from the New York-based ratings company. The bonds aren't all under formal reviews for downgrades, said Thomas Lemmon, a spokesman."

Orange County Register - "Pimco to up bet on distressed debt" (8-27-08)

"Bloomberg reports Newport Beach-based Pacific Investment Management Co., the biggest manager of bond funds, is seeking as much as $5 billion to buy mortgage-backed debt that has plunged in value since the mortgage meltdown began last year."

Realty Times - "HOA Move-In & Out Policy" (8-27-08)

"Americans are a highly mobile society. Considering the amount of personal goods and furniture that many are blessed with, moving a household from one place to another efficiently takes both time and planning. When it comes to homeowner association moves, especially mid and high rise buildings, the logistics often involve coordinating with management, neighbors and others to minimize disruption. Here is a sample policy which can be adapted to your use"

The Wall Street Journal - "FHA Raises Its Premiums to Insure Repayment of Mortgages" (8-27-08)

"In a posting on its Web site Tuesday, the FHA said the upfront premiums charged to most borrowers will be 1.75% of the loan amount, effective Oct. 1. That is up from the 1.5% that was in effect until July 14, when the FHA adopted a "risk-based" pricing system that created a range of charges depending on borrowers' credit scores and the amount of the down payment or equity they owned in the homes. In late July, Congress approved a housing bill that included a provision requiring the FHA to revert to a standard premium at least until Oct. 1, 2009."

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

NAHB - "New-Home Sales Rise 2.4 Percent In July" (8-26-08)

"Sales of newly built single-family homes rose 2.4 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 515,000 units in July, the Commerce Department reported today. The report also indicated continuing contraction in the number of new-homes for sale as builders keep a tight rein on inventories to help restore better balance between market supply and demand."

NAHB - "Multifamily Builders Choose To Build Green" (8-26-08)

"While a majority of the survey respondents – 74 percent – said that buyers and renters are willing to pay more for green amenities, the median additional amount they are willing to pay is only about two percent. In the NAHB survey, which polled multifamily builders and developers nationwide on their green building practices, 89 percent of respondents reported that they are installing energy- efficient appliances and lighting in their multifamily communities."

Yahoo - "Consumer outlook up, worst may be over for housing" (8-26-08)

"The Conference Board, a private research group, said Tuesday that its consumer confidence index rose to 56.9, up from a revised 51.9 in July. That's the largest gain since August 2006, and is ahead of the 53 expected by economists surveyed by Thomson/IFR."

Inman News - "New-home sales rate sinks 35.3% in July" (8-26-08)

"The sales rate for new single-family homes fell about 35.3 percent year-over-year in July, the U.S. Census Bureau and Department of Housing and Urban Development reported today, with the median new-home price dropping 6.2 percent and the average price down 4.1 percent. The seasonally adjusted annual rate of new single-family home sales reached 515,000 in July, up 2.4 percent from 503,000 in June but down significantly from 796,000 in July 2007. This rate is a projection of a monthly rate over a 12-month period, adjusted to account for seasonal fluctuations in sales activity."

Yahoo - "Fed: Rates not too low; next move likely to be up" (8-26-08)

"Documents, released Tuesday, provided insight into the Fed's thinking at the Aug. 5 meeting, when central bank policymakers decided to hold its key rate steady at 2 percent for the second straight meeting. Confronted by problems at every turn -- rising unemployment, shaky growth, credit troubles and creeping inflation -- the Fed took a gamble that once again the best move was none at all."

Bloomberg - "Fannie, Freddie Can Absorb Losses, Citigroup Says" (8-26-08)

"Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac can withstand losses through the end of the year and still keep a cushion above their minimum capital requirements, according to Citigroup Inc. analysts. Freddie of McLean, Virginia, will have $12.7 billion of capital above the minimum requirement, according to Citigroup Inc. analysts. Washington-based Fannie will have $20.3 billion."

Bloomberg - "Merrill, Wachovia Hit With Record Refinancing Bill" (8-26-08)

"Banks, securities firms and lenders have a record $871 billion of bonds maturing through 2009, according to JPMorgan Chase & Co., just as yields are at their most punitive compared with Treasuries. The increase in yields may cost them as much as $23 billion more in annual interest versus a year ago based on Merrill Lynch index data."

CNN - "Mortgage fraud still soaring" (8-26-08)

"Mortgage fraud is still soaring, according to a new report from the Mortgage Asset Research Institute (MARI), a division of ChoicePoint. (CPS) The study found that the number of fraudulent loans issued during the first three months of 2008 skyrocketed 42% compared with the same period in 2007."

Yaho0 - "S&P: Home prices drop by record amount in 2Q" (8-26-08)

"The Standard & Poor's/Case-Shiller U.S. National Home Price Index tumbled a record 15.4 percent during the quarter from the same period a year ago. The monthly indices also clocked in record declines. The 20-city index fell by 15.9 percent in June compared with a year ago, the largest drop since its inception in 2000. The 10-city index plunged 17 percent, its biggest decline in its 21-year history."

Bloomberg - "Lehman May Form New Company to Buy Mortgage Assets" (8-26-08)

"Lehman, the largest underwriter of mortgage bonds last year, has been trying to reduce assets linked to that market as demand dried up and prices plummeted, generating more than $8 billion in writedowns and credit losses. BlackRock Inc., the largest publicly traded U.S. money manager, is considering a purchase of some of Lehman's commercial mortgages, people familiar with those discussions said last week."

Monday, August 25, 2008

NAR - "July Existing-Home Sales Show Gain" (8-25-08)

"Existing-home sales rose in July to the highest level in five months, although sales have hovered in a relatively narrow range over the past 11 months, according to the National Association of Realtors®. Existing-home sales – including single-family, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops – increased 3.1 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate¹ of 5.00 million units in July from a downwardly revised level of 4.85 million in June, but are 13.2 percent lower than the 5.76 million-unit pace in July 2007."

CAR - "C.A.R. July 2008 Sales and Price Report " (8-25-08)

"Home sales increased 43.4 percent in July in California compared with the same period a year ago, while the median price of an existing home fell 40.3 percent, the CALIFORNIA ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® (C.A.R.) reported today."

Bloomberg - "Los Angeles, San Diego Luxury-Home Prices Fall Most in Decade" (8-25-08)

"Luxury-home prices in the Los Angeles and San Diego areas fell the most in more than 10 years in the second quarter as stricter lending terms reduced the number of buyers, while the San Francisco Bay area was little changed. The average price of a luxury home in Los Angeles dropped 3.8 percent in the quarter from a year earlier, the most since 1996, according to a survey by First Republic Bank, a unit of Merrill Lynch & Co. Luxury homes were defined as those costing more than $1 million with up to 6,000 square feet (557 square meters), six bedrooms and six bathrooms. Prices fell 7.8 percent in San Diego, the most since 1997, while San Francisco prices rose 0.2 percent."

Bloomberg - "Housing Rebound Unlikely Before 2009, HUD Chief Says" (8-25-08)

"A slowdown in home sales and a drop in prices has contributed to record foreclosures as borrowers struggle to meet their monthly mortgage payments. Preston said a foreclosure- prevention law Congress passed last month also will be important in aiding mortgage-finance companies Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which are supporting most new mortgages. U.S. banks repossessed almost three times as many U.S. homes in July as a year earlier and the number of properties at risk of foreclosure jumped 55 percent, California-based RealtyTrac Inc. said in an Aug. 14 report."

Bloomberg - "Freddie, Fannie Drop Dims Prospects of New Investors" (8-25-08)

"The cost to Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae of raising capital is getting more prohibitive by the day, making it likely that the government will have to inject cash into the largest U.S. mortgage-finance companies. Declines in the common stocks of the government-chartered companies accelerated last week to more than 90 percent for the year and yields on their preferred shares more than doubled on speculation Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson may need to bail them out, reducing or wiping out the value of the securities."

Bloomberg - "O.C. demand to buy homes doubles" (8-25-08)

"Demand (homes put into new escrows) is up 103% in a year. Fresh pending sales from the past month rose 51 in two weeks to 2,991. One year ago, demand was 1,475 after dropping by 329 pending sales in just two weeks."

Thursday, August 21, 2008

USA Today - "Mortgage demand drops despite falling rates" (8-21-08)

"Mortgage applications fell last week despite a drop in interest rates, the Mortgage Bankers Association said Wednesday. The fall in application volume is the latest sign of a struggling housing market. On Tuesday, a Commerce Department report showed construction of homes and apartments fell in July to the lowest level in more than 17 years."

Inman News - "HUD won't withdraw proposed RESPA rule changes" (8-21-08)

"The Department of Housing and Urban Development says it's willing to modify, but not withdraw, a proposal to overhaul loan disclosure forms and revamp rules governing the provision of settlement services -- resisting calls by industry groups and a majority of members of the House of Representatives to scuttle the plan."

Yahoo - "Where Real-Estate Market May Be Headed, and How to Plan for It" (8-21-08)

"There are some signs that the relentless foreclosures and price erosion are easing. We may be hitting bottom."

Bloomberg - "Merrill Agrees to Redeem Auction-Rate Securities" (8-21-08)

"Merrill Lynch & Co. agreed to buy back all the auction-rate securities it sold to individuals in the U.S. to settle regulatory claims the bank misled investors about the debt's safety. "

Bloomberg - "Zell Opts for Debt Investing, Awaits Housing Rebound" (8-21-08)

"Billionaire Sam Zell, founder of the largest publicly traded apartment landlord in the U.S., is investing in distressed debt instead of real estate stocks or property and expects a housing recovery next year."

Bloomberg - "Banks Warn Credit Card Legislation May Hurt, Not Help Consumers" (8-21-08)

"Frank Chan said he had been a loyal Citibank cardholder for 20 years when he was told by a customer service agent that stopping a check payment would cost him $29. He said he was shocked to see on his next credit-card statement that as a result his interest rate had more than doubled, from 13.9 to 28.9 percent, and applied to his current balance."

Bloomberg - "Mortgage Delinquencies for Loans in Securities Soar, S&P Says" (8-21-08)

"Total delinquencies for subprime loans in 2006 bonds climbed to 41.7 percent, based on July reports from trustees, from 34.2 percent in February, S&P said today. Late payments on so-called Alt-A loans rose to 21.5 percent from 15.2 percent, while prime- jumbo delinquencies increased to 4.5 percent from 2.9 percent, the New York-based company said in separate reports."

Bloomberg - "Merrill, Financial Firms Said to Consider Urban Bids" (8-21-08)

"Merrill Lynch & Co. and other overseas financial firms may bid to acquire failed Japanese real-estate developer Urban Corp. to obtain its $4.4 billion of assets, two officials involved in the talks said. As many as 10 potential investors, including Merrill, U.S. and European funds and Japanese real-estate developers, have asked Urban to be included in the bidding process for the company, according to the officials, who declined to be identified as the information isn't public"

Orange County Register - "Riverside vs. O.C. home discount at 9-year high" (8-21-08)

"It’s a choice many a SoCal home shopper has faced: O.C. condo or Riverside County single-family house. You know, the shot at that lawn and backyard. And that decision is tougher today. Thanks to a sharp reversal of pricing in Riverside County — far worse than O.C.’s slide — the percentage-point savings for a typical buyer that chooses Riverside has reached a 9-year high, according to DataQuick. It’s a curious pressure that could challenge any O.C. housing recovery."

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

NAR - "Economic Softening Hits Leading Commercial Real Estate Index" (8-20-08)

"The Commercial Leading Indicator for Brokerage Activity¹ slowed 0.9 percent to an index of 117.9 in the second quarter from a reading of 119.0 in the first quarter, and is 2.1 percent lower than the record 120.5 in the second quarter of 2007; NAR’s track of the index dates back to 1990."

DQNews - "California July 2008 Home Sales" (8-20-08)

"A total of 39,507 new and resale houses and condos were sold statewide last month. That was up 12.2 percent from 35,202 in June and up 12.3 percent from 35,185 for July last year. While below the 47,756 average for the last 21 Julys, last month's sales count was off the record low sales level which the market went into last September."

Mortgage Bankers Association - "MBA: Commercial/Multifamily Mortgage Originations Fall in Q2" (8-20-08)

"The decrease in commercial/multifamily lending activity during the second quarter was driven by decreases in originations for most property types. When compared to the second quarter of 2007, the overall 63 percent decrease included an 87 percent decrease in loans for hotel properties, a 65 percent decrease in loans for office properties, a 63 percent decrease in loans for retail properties, a 57 percent decrease in loans for industrial properties, a 42 percent decrease in multifamily property loans, and a 66 percent increase in health care loans"

Mortgage Bankers Association - "Mortgage Applications Decrease Slightly In Latest MBA Weekly Survey" (8-20-08)

"The Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) today released its Weekly Mortgage Applications Survey for the week ending August 15, 2008. The Market Composite Index, a measure of mortgage loan application volume, was 419.3, a decrease of 1.5 percent on a seasonally adjusted basis from 425.9 one week earlier. On an unadjusted basis, the Index decreased 2.6 percent compared with the previous week and was down 34.2 percent compared with the same week one year earlier."

San Francisco Chronicle - "Twice as many in state can now afford a home" (8-20-08)

"The percentage of households able to buy an entry-level residence in the state reached 48 percent during the second quarter, double the level from a year ago, according to the California Association of Realtors. The trade group defines a starter home as one priced at 85 percent of an area's median, which works out to $329,120 for the state. The minimum income needed to purchase such a property is $62,870, down from $101,440 a year ago (assuming an adjustable-rate mortgage starting at 5.69 percent and a 10 percent down payment)."

New York Times - "F.D.I.C. to Let IndyMac Borrowers Modify Loans" (8-20-08)

"Troubled borrowers with mortgages from IndyMac Federal Bank will be able to seek lower-priced, fixed-rate loans as part of a plan unveiled Wednesday by the regulatory agency that took over the failed thrift about a month ago."

Yahoo - "Fannie, Freddie shares dive on bailout fears, bonds up" (8-20-08)

"Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac shares plunged to their lowest levels in almost 20 years on Wednesday, while the mortgage companies' bonds rallied on the belief that an increasingly likely government bailout would wipe out shareholders but secure their massive debt."

Bloomberg - "SEC's Cox Says Nobody Gets Pass in Auction-Rate Probe" (8-20-08)

"New York State Attorney General Andrew Cuomo said Aug. 15 that he will next target brokerages, including units of Fidelity Investments and Charles Schwab Corp. Cuomo and regulators including the SEC have won pledges from Citigroup Inc., UBS AG, Morgan Stanley, JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Wachovia Corp. to repurchase $34.8 billion of the securities. State regulators imposed $360 million in fines on the companies."

Bloomberg - "Banks' Subprime Market-Related Losses, Capital Raised: Table" (8-20-08)

"The following table shows the $503.8 billion in asset writedowns and credit losses at more than 100 of the world's biggest banks and securities firms as well as the $352.5 billion capital raised to cope with them."

Bloomberg - "Wachovia Sells Land, Construction Loans to LandCap" (8-20-08)

"Wachovia Corp. sold land and construction loans secured by 2,900 housing lots for $40 million to a joint venture headed by residential land company LandCap Partners, a person with knowledge of the transaction said."

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

DQNews - "Bay Area home sales climb above last year; median price falls hard" (8-19-08)

"A total of 7,586 new and resale houses and condos sold across the nine- county Bay Area in July. That was up 5.7 percent from 7,178 in June and up 2.2 percent from 7,423 in July 2007, according to San Diego-based MDA DataQuick."

CBIA - "Despite Improvement, California Housing Remains Mostly Unaffordable, CBIA Announces" (8-19-08)

"Fueled by waves of foreclosures resulting in sharp price reductions throughout California, housing affordability increased in most markets throughout the state during the second quarter of 2008, but affordability in California remains a serious long-term issue, the California Building Industry Association said today."

NAHB - "Builders Continue To Rein-In New Housing Production In July" (8-19-08)

"Single-family home builders continued to practice aggressive inventory management in July by slowing the pace of new production nearly 3 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 641,000 units, according to Commerce Department figures released today. This was the lowest rate of single-family housing starts since January 1991."

Bloomberg - "Large U.S. Banks May Fail Amid Recession, Rogoff Says" (8-19-08)

"Credit market turmoil has driven the U.S. into a recession and may topple some of the nation's biggest banks, said Kenneth Rogoff, former chief economist at the International Monetary Fund.
'The worst is yet to come in the U.S.,' Rogoff, a Harvard University professor of economics, said in an interview in Singapore today. 'The financial sector needs to shrink; I don't think simply having a couple of medium-sized banks and a couple of small banks going under is going to do the job.'"

Bloomberg - "Apollo Adds $309 Million for Property Loans as Banks Cut Back" (8-19-08)

"Apollo Real Estate Advisors LLC, the New York firm that has made $40 billion in property investments, raised an additional $309 million to allow its debt fund to do larger deals. Apollo's Real Estate Finance Corp. will now have $930 million in capital, the company said today in a statement. The unit lends money for mortgages, subordinate debt and higher- interest mezzanine loans designed to fill the gap between the senior loan and the down payment."

Orange County Register - "O.C. homes are 10th least affordable in U.S." (8-19-08)

"Economists at Wells Fargo Bank and the National Association of Home Builders say Orange County homes were the 10th least affordable to buy in the nation in the second quarter. The good news is that this ranking is an improvement over eighth worst in the previous quarter and O.C.’s nadir with a second-place finish in the first quarter of 2007 and quarters 1 and 2 of 2006. That’s what’s charted in graphic at right."

Realty Times - "What the Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008 Means for You" (8-19-08)

"It means a lot if you are in the market to be a first time homebuyer -- up to a $7,500 tax credit if you purchase before July 1, 2009. And there's more good news. First time homebuyers is defined as, 'a buyer who has not owned a principal residence during the three-year period prior to the purchase.' This means for all those markets that have started to stabilize, now could be a great time to buy."

Inman News - "AP: Monitoring of appraisers ineffective" (8-19-08)

"A nationwide system set up to monitor appraisers in the wake of the savings and loan crisis did little to prevent appraisers, real estate agents and mortgage brokers from colluding to inflate home prices during the housing boom, the Associated Press said in reporting the results of a six-month investigation."

Monday, August 18, 2008

CNN - "Beware the $7,500 'tax credit'" (8-18-08)

"Washington policy makers and housing industry insiders hope a new tax credit for first-time home buyers will get the moribund housing market moving again. But most analysts agree that the program is more of a band-aid than a cure-all for the battered real estate market. What's more, others are quick to point out that the credit must be repaid, which means it's actually an interest-free loan that could get some homeowners in trouble."

DQNews - "Southland home sales post annual gain -- prices drop again" (8-18-08)

"A total of 20,329 new and resale houses and condos sold in Los Angeles, Riverside, San Diego, Ventura, San Bernardino and Orange counties last month. That was up 16.7 percent from 17,424 the previous month and up 13.8 percent from 17,867 for July a year ago, according to San Diego-based MDA DataQuick."

Los Angeles Times - "Why buying at the peak was a brilliant move" (8-18-08)

"If you bought a house in L.A. in the summer of 2007, paid peak prices and have watched your home's value drop by 33%, you have to admit: You made a really bad financial move, right? Er, wrong, according to a contrarian opinion piece in today's L.A. Times that argues that buying L.A. real estate in 2007 -- even at peak prices -- was 'a smart investment.'"

NAHB - "Builder Confidence Holds Steady In August" (8-18-08)

"Anticipating positive impacts of newly enacted housing stimulus legislation, single-family home builders registered some improvement in their outlook for home sales in the next six months, according to the National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index (HMI) for August, released today. The overall confidence measure held even this month at 16, while the component gauging sales expectations rose two points to 25."

Bloomberg - "Cuomo Auction-Rate Accords May Exclude Some Holders" (8-18-08)

"In the last two weeks, Cuomo reached agreements with Citigroup Inc., UBS AG, Morgan Stanley, JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Wachovia Corp. to begin buying back $42 billion of the debt they sold directly to individuals. The accords don't extend to investors holding most of the remaining $160 billion bought through mutual fund firms or brokers that didn't underwrite the debt."

Bloomberg - "Bernanke Tries to Define What Institutions Fed Could Let Fail" (8-18-08)

"In the year since credit markets seized up, the 54-year- old Federal Reserve chairman has repeatedly expanded the central bank's protective role, turning its balance sheet into a parking lot for Wall Street's hard-to-finance bonds and offering loans through its discount window to investment banks and mortgage firms Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. The lack of clearly defined limits may put the Fed's independence at risk as Congress discovers that its $900 billion portfolio can be used for emergency bailouts that might otherwise require politically sensitive appropriations and taxes."

Bloomberg - "Fannie, Freddie Fall on Likely Need for a Bailout" (8-18-08)

"Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac tumbled to about 18-year lows in New York trading on concern the government will be forced to bail out the mortgage-finance companies, wiping out common stockholders. Fannie and Freddie each fell as much as 19 percent after Barron's said the Bush administration anticipates the government- chartered companies will fail to raise the equity capital they need, prompting the U.S. Treasury to step in. Fannie is down 84 percent this year. Freddie has fallen 86 percent."

Bloomberg - "Lowe's Profit Beats Estimates as Tax Rebates Spent" (8-18-08)

"Lowe's Cos., the world's second- largest home-improvement retailer, reported profit that fell less than some analysts estimated after consumers spent their tax-rebate checks. Second-quarter net income dropped 7.9 percent to $938 million, or 64 cents a share, beating analysts' projections by 8 cents. Full-year profit may reach $1.56 a share, Lowe's said today, a smaller decline than the retailer had thought"

Realty Times - "Selling your Home Vacant or Furnished?" (8-18-08)

"What is the cost of leaving house vacant? The 'cost' for making the decision to leave a home vacant can result in a lower selling price or a longer time on the market. It is proven that homes that show well are the ones that generate the most market interest from qualified buyers. You want your home to make an emotional connection to the buyer; vacant homes do not usually accomplish this goal."
Yahoo - "Breaking up big banks questioned as losses mount" (8-16-08)

"Break-up advocates, who for months have been clamoring for Citigroup Inc. to be dismantled, got some validation of their viewpoint this past week. Europe's UBS AG -- created through the combination of Swiss Bank Corp. and Union Bank of Switzerland in 1997 -- on Wednesday laid the groundwork to tear up its business model after another quarter of steep losses."

Business Week - "Bracing for Inflation" (8-16-08)

"Growing evidence suggests American consumers, businesspeople, and political leaders should all be bracing for double-digit inflation, probably as early as 2009."

Yahoo - "AP IMPACT: Weak rules cripple appraiser oversight" (8-17-08)

"Since 2005, at the height of the housing boom, more than two dozen states and U.S. territories have violated federal rules by failing to investigate and resolve complaints about appraisers within a year. Some complaints sat uninvestigated for as long as four years. As a result, hundreds of appraisers accused of wrongdoing remained in business."

Orange County Register - "Banks offer 28% discount to O.C. foreclosure shoppers" (8-17-08)

"ForeclosureRadar reports banks tried to lure investors with an average 28% discount in Orange County at foreclosure auctions, known as trustee’s sales, in July. That compares to 26% in June and a tiny 3% discount in July 2007."

Orange County Register - "O.C.’s Q2 home price drop 5th worst in U.S." (8-17-08)

"By NAR’s count, prices of homes in the Anaheim-Santa Ana metropolitan statistical area fell 23.9% over the same quarter in 2007."

Friday, August 15, 2008

CBIA - "California New Home Market Stays Cold in Summer Heat, CBIA Announces" (8-15-08)

"The monthly CBIA/Hanley Wood Market Intelligence (HWMI) New Home Sales and Pricing Report showed that new-home sales in June were 58 percent below June 2007. The drop represents a worsening in the trend of year-over-year decline, which had deteriorated to 51 percent last month after coming in at 44 percent in April. During June, 2,712 homes and condominiums were sold in the subdivisions tracked by Costa Mesa-based HWMI, compared to 6,436 in June 2007. During the month, sales of single-family homes dropped by 54 percent, while sales of townhomes and “plexes” – duplexes, triplexes, etc. – were down 38 percent and sales of condominiums were down by nearly 75 percent."

Mortgage Bankers Association - "SIFMA Designates Pools Containing Higher Balance Loans as TBA-Eligible" (8-15-08)

"The Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association (SIFMA) announced today that newly originated loans to borrowers in high cost areas as defined in the Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008 (H.R. 3221) will qualify for incorporation into To-Be-Announced (TBA) eligible mortgage-backed securities (MBS). To preserve the homogeneity and minimize liquidity disruption in this important market, SIFMA recommends that higher balance loans may comprise up to 10 percent of the total balance of a pool eligible for TBA delivery. SIFMA’s recommendation comes on the heels of the passage of H.R. 3221 which permanently increased the loan limits for high cost areas, up to a maximum of $625,550."

Daily News - "L.A. prepares to recycle foreclosed homes in city" (8-15-08)

"With Los Angeles' foreclosure rate surging by nearly 300 percent, city housing officials said Wednesday that they hope to help stabilize the market soon with millions of dollars in federal funds that would let them buy and resell homes already or likely to become abandoned. More than $1.2 billion in federal housing aid is expected to be available to California soon, possibly within a month. It is not yet clear how much L.A. would get; funding will be doled out based on need across the state."

Bloomberg - "MBIA, Ambac Jump After S&P Ends Credit Rating Review" (8-15-08)

"MBIA Inc. and Ambac Financial Group Inc., the bond insurers that have lost at least 79 percent of their market value this year, rose in New York trading after Standard & Poor's affirmed the company's credit ratings and called steps to shore up their businesses positive."

Bloomberg - "Merrill, Goldman Pressured on Auction-Rate as Wachovia Settles" (8-15-08)

"New York State Attorney General Andrew Cuomo stepped up pressure on Merrill Lynch & Co. and Goldman Sachs Group Inc. to settle claims they misled investors in auction-rate securities after Wachovia Corp. agreed to buy back $9 billion of the bonds."

The Washington Post - "Inflation Climbs to 17-Year High" (8-15-08)

"Americans paid more last month not only for gas and food but also for a variety of goods and services, including clothes, shoes, hotels and air travel, as inflation unexpectedly jumped to a 17-year high. The consumer price index climbed 0.8 percent in July, the Labor Department said yesterday, twice as much as Wall Street anticipated. It was the third straight month of high inflation, and the 5.6 percent year-over-year change was the highest since January 1991, when the economy was in recession."

Bloomberg - "OneBeacon Said to Hire Lehman to Sell Auto, Home Unit" (8-15-08)

"OneBeacon Insurance Group Ltd., the 177-year-old insurer that paid claims on the sinking of the Titanic, is seeking a buyer for its auto and home division in a sale that may raise about $500 million, according to three people briefed on the plans."

Bloomberg - "Families Spending Most on Necessities Since 1980: Chart of Day" (8-15-08)

"The CHART OF THE DAY shows families are spending a bigger share of their incomes on daily necessities than any time in the past quarter century. Housing, transportation, debt service, property taxes, food, energy and medical costs now consume almost 58 percent of family budgets, the most since at least 1980. Those costs have risen since February 1999, when they dropped to a low of 51 percent."

Orange County Register - "CA to get $105 million for housing" (8-15-08)

"U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Steve Preston and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger today said the Golden State will get more than $105 million to produce more affordable housing and support community development in the state."

Orange County Register - "Only 7 O.C. ZIPs with rising home prices in late July" (8-15-08)

"DataQuick said that home prices rose in just seven of the 82 ZIP codes it tracks in Orange County for the 22 business days ending July 28 vs. a year earlier. For the entire county, the median price over that period dropped 27 percent vs. a year ago to $467,000."

Thursday, August 14, 2008

NAR - "Survey Shows Home Buyers Responding to Lower Metro Prices" (8-14-08)

"Existing-home sales rose from the first quarter in 13 states, largely from buyers responding to discounted home prices, according to the latest quarterly survey by the National Association of Realtors®. Nearly one-quarter of metropolitan areas showed rising home prices in the second quarter from a year ago, with greatly mixed conditions continuing around the country."

Bloomberg - "Housing Recovery Act Depends on Banks to Refinance Mortgages" (8-14-08)

"First-time homebuyers, veterans, senior citizens and delinquent mortgage holders may benefit from the newly enacted housing bill. How well it will work may depend on regulators and your bank. The Housing and Economic Recovery Act, intended to stem home foreclosures and spark sales, offers first-time buyers a tax credit of up to $7,500. It also extends protection to veterans facing foreclosure. As many as 400,000 borrowers on the brink of losing their homes may be eligible for a more affordable loan backed by the Federal Housing Administration."

Reuters - "Greenspan sees house price bottom in 2009: report" (8-14-08)

"Former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan predicts U.S. house prices will begin to stabilize in the first half of next year, even as he faulted the government's rescue of mortgage market giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday."

Reuters - "Home foreclosure filings up 55 percent in July" (8-14-08)

"U.S. foreclosure activity in July rose 55 percent from a year earlier as a slump in once-sizzling housing markets forced yet more borrowers to default on their mortgages, according to a monthly report. Foreclosure filings -- default notices, auction sale notices and bank repossessions -- rose 8 percent from June and 55 percent from July 2007 to 272,171, according to RealtyTrac, which records property in various stages of foreclosure."

Bloomberg - "U.S. Consumer Prices Rose More Than Forecast in July" (8-14-08)

"U.S. consumer prices jumped to a 17- year high in July, reducing the ability of the Federal Reserve to lower interest rates should the economic slowdown deepen."

Bloomberg - "Morgan, JPMorgan Settle Auction-Rate Probe, Pay Fines" (8-14-08)

"Morgan Stanley and JPMorgan Chase & Co. agreed to buy back more than $7 billion in auction-rate securities and pay fines totaling $60 million, broadening Wall Street's settlement of claims the debt was fraudulently sold."

Bloomberg - "Larger Fannie, Freddie Mortgages Allowed in Main Bond Market" (8-14-08)

"The larger home loans that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac will be allowed to finance will be accepted into the main market for mortgage bonds in limited amounts, the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association said."

Bloomberg - "Housing Rebound in Cleveland Means Bad News for U.S." (8-14-08)

"A housing revival in this city of 438,000 on the shore of Lake Erie may portend deeper drops in U.S. markets. Prices for entry level homes in Cleveland had to tumble 37 percent from a September 2005 peak to an almost 11-year low in March before enticing first- time buyers. That may be a sign that U.S. markets with the biggest price increases during the 2000 to 2005 boom have much further to fall before stabilizing, said David Blitzer, chairman of Standard & Poor's Index Committee."

Bloomberg - "MGIC Sells Final Stake in Sherman for $209.5 Million" (8-14-08)

"MGIC received $124.5 million in cash and an $85 million unsecured promissory note, for the 24 percent holding, the Milwaukee-based insurer said today in a regulatory filing. In October, MGIC sold 16 percent of Sherman, which invests primarily in distressed consumer debt, to an entity owned by Sherman's management for $240.8 million."

Orange County Register - "SoCal rent hikes creeping up" (8-14-08)

"Rents in the SoCal region rose 4.7% in July over the previous 12 months, the lowest July-July increase in eight years, according to the latest government consumer prices released today. Rents O.C.-L.A.-Riverside area were rising at a 5.8% annual pace a year ago."

Orange County Register - "4,600 job cuts at First Am since ‘07" (8-14-08)

"The company, which built its name on title insurance before branching out into business information services, reported in an SEC filing last week that it has cut 4,600 jobs nationwide in its title insurance and services business since the end of the first quarter of 2007. Of those, 1,700 were axed in the first six months of this year."

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Bloomberg - "Insurers Steer Clear of the Subprime Sludge" (8-13-08)

"The one financial industry that seems to be dodging the subprime bullet is insurance. Only a handful of companies have had their safety ratings knocked down because of an excessive exposure to Wall Street's toxic waste. The vast majority has enough capital to withstand the known problems on their balance sheets, the rating companies all say."

Mortgage Bankers Association - "Mortgage Applications Decrease Slightly In Latest MBA Weekly Survey" (8-13-08)

"The Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) today released its Weekly Mortgage Applications Survey for the week ending August 8, 2008. The Market Composite Index, a measure of mortgage loan application volume, was 425.9, a decrease of 1.5 percent on a seasonally adjusted basis from 432.6 one week earlier. On an unadjusted basis, the Index decreased 2.2 percent compared with the previous week and was down 36.9 percent compared with the same week one year earlier."

Yahoo - "Fannie, Freddie shares fall after SEC order ends" (8-13-08)

"Fannie shares dipped 33 cents, or 4.1 percent, to $7.69. But Freddie shares rose 18 cents, or 3.4 percent, to $5.55."

The Washington Post - "Bank Failures Rise but Critics Say Not Fast Enough" (8-13-08)

"Federal and state regulators have closed eight banks this year, four since the start of July, as rising borrower defaults on residential and commercial real estate loans start to push some lenders into default, too. There were no bank failures in 2005 or 2006 and only three in 2007. Now, some analysts expect a few hundred banks to fail over the next several years -- the most since the savings-and-loan crisis two decades ago."

Market Watch - "Toll Brothers reports lower revenue, home orders" (8-13-08)

"Toll Brothers Inc. said Wednesday revenue and home orders continued to fall in the latest quarter, but the luxury-home builder also drew a buy rating from Citigroup, which kicked off coverage of the home-construction industry."

Bloomberg - "Lehman Negotiating With BlackRock About Asset Sale" (8-13-08)

"Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc., seeking to restore investor confidence after a $2.8 billion second-quarter loss, is negotiating to sell commercial real estate assets to a group including BlackRock Inc., said three people briefed on the discussions."

Bloomberg - "West Virginia Sues Countrywide Financial Over Loans" (8-13-08)

"Countrywide Financial Corp., the lender acquired by Bank of America Corp., was sued by West Virginia for using deceptive tactics when it sold loans to consumers including a blind woman who didn't finish high school."

Bloomberg - "AIG May Raise $20 Billion, Bernstein's Bault Says" (8-13-08)

"American International Group Inc., the biggest U.S. insurer by assets, may raise $20 billion in a worst-case scenario to cushion against writedowns tied to subprime loans, said Sanford Bernstein analyst Todd Bault."

Orange County Register - "Homebuilder sees no relief through ‘09" (8-13-08)

"Homebuilder California Coastal Communities Inc., developer of the Brightwater project in Bolsa Chica, slogged through another tough quarter, writing down $5 million on projects in the inland"

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

NAHB - "Remodeling Market Remained Sluggish In Second Quarter" (8-12-08)

"Residential Remodeling activity remained sluggish during the second quarter of 2008, according to the National Association of Home Builders’ (NAHB) Remodeling Market Index (RMI). The current market conditions indicator rested at 41.8, the same level as the first quarter, while the future expectations measure rose slightly to 38 from 37.9 in the previous quarter."

Yahoo - "House prices edge higher in June" (8-12-08)

"House prices edged higher in June in another sign the market is clawing back some ground from its worst downturn in decades, according to an early reading of single-family home sales during the month. Home prices rose 1.1 percent on a national level in June from May, though they dropped 11.5 percent over the past year, an index published by Integrated Asset Services said on Tuesday."

The Bakersfield Californian - "McAllister Ranch slated for the auction block" (8-12-08)

"The unfinished McAllister Ranch development is headed to the auction block Aug. 22, something that could make Lehman Commercial Paper Inc. landlord of three square miles of dust, curbs and an unkempt Greg Norman-designed golf course in southwest Bakersfield. The developer of the 6,000-home community defaulted on a $235 million loan from New Jersey-based Lehman in April."

Yahoo - "JPMorgan has $1.5 billion in Q3 mortgage asset losses" (8-12-08)

"Shares of the third-largest U.S. bank by assets fell as much as 7.9 percent, reflecting investors' disappointment with a bank that had largely sidestepped the worst of the credit crunch."

CNN - "The next wave of mortgage defaults" (8-12-08)

"Prime mortgages are starting to default at disturbingly high rates - a development that threatens to slow any potential housing recovery. The delinquency rate for prime mortgages worth less than $417,000 was 2.44% in May, compared with 1.38% a year earlier, according to LoanPerformance, a unit of First American CoreLogic that compiles and analyzes residential mortgage statistics."

Bloomberg - "One Third of New Owners Owe More Than House Is Worth" (8-12-08)

"Almost one-third of U.S. homeowners who bought in the last five years now owe more on their mortgages than their properties are worth, according to, an Internet provider of home valuations. Second-quarter home prices fell 9.9 percent from a year earlier, giving 29 percent of owners negative equity, said Zillow, the Seattle-based service that offers values for more than 80 million homes. For those who bought at the 2006 peak of the housing market, 45 percent are now underwater, Zillow said."

Bloomberg - "Banks' Subprime Losses Top $500 Billion on Writedowns" (8-12-08)

"Banks' losses from the U.S. subprime crisis and the ensuing credit crunch crossed the $500 billion mark as writedowns spread to more asset types. The writedowns and credit losses at more than 100 of the world's biggest banks and securities firms rose after UBS AG reported second-quarter earnings today, which included $6 billion of charges on subprime-related assets."

Bloomberg - "Commercial Property to Fall or Stay Flat, Survey Says" (8-12-08)

"U.S. commercial property values may drop or remain little changed in the next 12 months as the economy slows and banks constrain lending, according to a survey of executives by the Real Estate Roundtable."

Monday, August 11, 2008

Inman News - "California targeting real estate kickbacks" (8-11-08)

"California regulators plan to tighten rules governing affiliated businesses and step up enforcement of anti-kickback provisions in existing law -- changes they estimate could cost the state's title insurers and underwritten title companies up to $732 million a year in profits."

Yahoo - "Credit unions hit by mortgage-market problems: report" (8-11-08)

"Five of North America's largest credit unions are reporting big paper losses on mortgage-related securities, a sign that housing-market distress is spreading even to the most risk-averse financial sectors, the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) said on Monday."

Bloomberg - "FDIC Fund Strained by Bank Failures May Lift Premiums" (8-11-08)

"The failure of IndyMac Bancorp Inc. and seven other banks this year may erase as much as 17 percent of a government insurance fund and raise premiums for all banks, from Franklin National of Minneapolis to Bank of America Corp."

Bloomberg - "Auction-Rate Costs May Rival Spitzer Settlements" (8-11-08)

"UBS AG and Citigroup Inc. agreed last week to buy about $26 billion of auction-rate bonds from clients and pay $250 million in fines after regulators said the firms marketed the securities as safe alternatives to money-market investments. Merrill Lynch & Co. announced a plan to purchase $10 billion. JPMorgan Chase & Co., Morgan Stanley and Wachovia Corp. received letters today from New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo requesting they begin 'immediate' settlement talks related to auction-rate debt."

Bloomberg - "Bringing Down Bear Began as $1.7 Million of Options" (8-11-08)

"On March 11, the day the Federal Reserve attempted to shore up confidence in the credit markets with a $200 billion lending program that for the first time monetized Wall Street's devalued collateral, somebody else decided Bear Stearns Cos. was going to collapse."

Bloomberg - "Dollar Gain Signals Pain; Rally Prompts Exit" (8-11-08)

"Just because the dollar posted its biggest gain against the euro in almost eight years doesn't mean the U.S. currency won't continue to be plagued by the nation's slowing economy, widening budget and trade deficits and negative inflation-adjusted interest rates. The 4 percent surge against the single European currency this month was enough to prompt Bank of America Corp. to tell its customers to exit trades betting on more gains. Morgan Stanley still forecasts the greenback will approach a record low by October as the U.S. housing slump and credit-market losses keep the Federal Reserve from raising interest rates this year."

Bloomberg - "Radian Loses $393 Million, Will Tap Bond Guarantor" (8-11-08)

"Radian Group Inc., the third-largest U.S. mortgage insurer, lost $392.5 million as the company increased expectations for future claims. Radian will fold its bond insurance unit into the mortgage guarantor to increase capital in the primary business. The second-quarter net loss was $4.91 a share, compared with profit of $21.1 million, or 26 cents, a year earlier, the Philadelphia-based insurer said today in a statement."

The Wall Street Journal - "Despite the Weak Dollar, Foreign Buyers Aren't Rushing In" (8-11-08)

"A report released August 7th by the National Association of Realtors revealed the curious fact that for 2008, for the 12 months ending in May, only 26% of 4,000 American real estate agents surveyed had at least one foreign client. In 2007, when a similar number of agents were surveyed, the proportion was much higher--32%. In both years, about half of the clients eventually bought a home, typically as a vacation home or investment. Those that didn't, the agents said, were turned off by the cost of the property (54%), immigration laws that prevent foreign nationals from living in the United States year-round (27.4%) and property taxes (24.2%)."

Orange County Register - "O.C.’s homes for sale hit ‘08 low" (8-11-08)

"The latest report from Steve Thomas at Re/Max Real Estate Services in Aliso Viejo says the inventory of homes for sale in Orange County dropped to the lowest level of the year last week. For the two weeks ended Thursday, 398 homes came off the market, leading inventory to drop to 14,348."
The San Diego Union Tribune - "Most banks have cushion of capital" (8-9-08)

"Is your bank safe? For the first time in years, that question is being asked by depositors as the decaying housing market continues to take its toll on financial institutions. Lines of angry customers outside failed Pasadena thrift IndyMac Bancorp, as well as staggering second-quarter losses by big banks such as Washington Mutual and Wachovia, hark back to the savings-and-loan crisis of the late 1980s and early 1990s."

Bloomberg - "Paulson Says No Plans to Add Cash to Fannie, Freddie" (8-10-08)

"U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson said there are no plans to use his new authority to inject capital into mortgage companies Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which both posted worse-than-expected earnings last week."

The Observer - "How Arnie's California dreaming turned sour" (8-10-08)

"Stockton has become known as Foreclosure Town, USA. With one in 25 houses in foreclosure, there are more properties with mortgages in default here than anywhere else in the country. And it is not as if there isn't some stiff competition for Stockton's dubious accolade in other corners of California, and indeed the rest of America."

San Francisco Chronicle - "Real estate brokers settle Calif. kickbacks suit" (8-9-08)

"Hundreds of thousands of Californians would be eligible for a refund on their property hazard report fee under a class-action settlement awaiting final approval by a federal judge in Los Angeles. The lawsuit accuses some of the nation's largest real estate brokers of taking kickbacks from Property I.D. Corp., a Los Angeles-based company that provides hazard reports for properties in areas with high risks of fire, floods, earthquakes and landslides."

Friday, August 08, 2008

Yahoo - "$1 trillion in losses? Bank on more" (8-8-08)

"So how high could losses go? Sonders points to the $1.6 trillion forecast from hedge fund firm Bridgewater Associates or even the $2 trillion number from Nouriel Roubini, the highly-respected professor of economics at NYU's Stern School of Business."

Yahoo - "Fannie Mae loses $2.3B in quarter as defaults rise" (8-8-08)

"Fannie Mae swung to a second-quarter loss that was more than triple what Wall Street expected as conditions in the housing market continued to deteriorate, forcing the mortgage finance giant to make bold cutbacks that will send shock waves through the mortgage market."

Bloomberg - "Bank Failures Have Customers Seeking FDIC Protection" (8-8-08)

"As U.S. regulators brace for more bank failures, consumers are wondering for the first time since the savings-and-loan crisis of the 1980s about the safety of their money. Harry Newton, a former publisher who lives in New York City, moved $604,000 in cash to seven different banks last month after the seizure of IndyMac Bancorp Inc. to ensure that his funds were covered by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp."

Bloomberg - "UBS Agrees to Buy $19.4 Billion Auction-Rate Debt" (8-8-08)

"UBS AG, Switzerland's biggest bank, will buy back $19.4 billion of failed auction-rate securities and pay a $150 million fine, the largest settlement in a U.S. probe into whether banks stuck clients with hard-to-sell bonds"

Bloomberg - "Merrill Joins Citi in Buying Back Auction-Rate Bonds" (8-8-08)

"Merrill Lynch & Co. said it will offer to buy back about $10 billion in auction-rate securities from retail clients after Citigroup Inc. agreed to take similar steps under a settlement with U.S. and state regulators. Merrill will pay face value for the securities, according to a statement today from the New York-based firm. The buybacks will begin in January and continue for a year. The investments have been frozen in customer accounts since Wall Street firms backed away from the market in February, leading to claims by customers and investigations by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and regulators in New York and Massachusetts."

Yahoo - "How Homeowners Can Benefit from Falling House Prices" (8-8-08)

"With home values down sharply and projected to decline further this year, this may be the time to challenge your property tax assessment. In fact, a few tax authorities are beating homeowners to the punch."

Bloomberg - "LandAmerica Rating Cut by S&P as Results Deteriorate" (8-8-08)

"LandAmerica Financial Group Inc., the No. 3 U.S. title insurer, had its credit rating cut by Standard & Poor's to below investment grade."

Bloomberg - "Housing Faces `Rough Patch' as Inventory Lingers, Preston Says" (8-8-08)

"A glut of unsold homes will continue to weigh on the U.S. residential real estate market even as the pace of price declines slows, said Steven Preston, secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development."

Bloomberg - "Beazer Reports Seventh Straight Loss as Demand Slumps" (8-8-08)

"The third-quarter net loss narrowed to $109.8 million, or $2.85 a share, from $118.7 million, or $3.09, a year earlier, the Atlanta-based company said today in a statement. The shares rose as much as 5.4 percent after revenue exceeded analysts' estimates."

Thursday, August 07, 2008

NAR - "Pending Home Sales Rise, Wider Gains Anticipated as Buyers tap Housing Provisions" (8-7-08)

"Some improvement is projected for existing-home sales in the months ahead, with broader gains seen by the fourth quarter as buyers take advantage of new provisions provided through the recently passed housing stimulus bill, according to the latest forecast by the National Association of Realtors®. The Pending Home Sales Index,¹ a forward-looking indicator based on contracts signed in June, rose 5.3 percent to 89.0 from a downwardly revised reading of 84.5 in May, but remains 12.3 percent below June 2007 when it stood at 101.4."

NAR - "REALTORS® Report Foreigners Come to America to Buy Homes" (8-7-08)

"This new research indicates that international buying activity in the U.S. is widespread. NAR estimates that between 150,000 and 190,000 homes were sold to foreign nationals from May 2007 to May 2008. Recent foreign buyers purchased properties in every state and the District of Columbia. The most popular states where international buyers purchased homes are Florida, California and Texas. Arizona, New York, Washington and Nevada were also popular."

Yahoo - "June pending home sales up unexpectedly" (8-7-08)

"Home sales contracts signed in June unexpectedly rose, boosting an index of pending sales to the highest level since October, though it was well below the year-ago level, a real estate trade group said on Thursday. The National Association of Realtors said its Pending Home Sales Index, based on contracts signed in June, was up 5.3 percent to 89.0 from a downwardly revised 84.5 in May."

Inman News - "Study: Fewer Realtors work with foreign buyers" (8-7-08)

"The survey of 4,000 Realtors found that about 26 percent of participants worked with at least one foreign client from May 2007 to May 2008, down from 32 percent in the previous survey, conducted from April 2006 to April 2007."

Bloomberg - "Highest Home Supply Since '82 Seen Needing 50% Cut" (8-7-08)

"Hovnanian Enterprises Inc., New Jersey's largest homebuilder, cut the number of unsold houses by more than 50 percent over the past two years after lowering prices and still had 1,500 on its books as of April."

Bloomberg - "U.S. Economy: Pending Home Resales Climbed in June" (8-7-08)

"U.S. pending sales of previously owned homes unexpectedly rose in June as buyers swept up foreclosed and lower-priced properties. The index of pending home resales rose 5.3 percent after a revised 4.9 percent decline in May, the National Association of Realtors said today in Washington. Other reports showed claims for jobless benefits jumped last week to a six-year high and consumer borrowing surged in June."

Bloomberg - "IndyMac Seized, First Priority Closed: Bank Failure Scorecard" (8-7-08)

"The table below tracks some of the recent failures among U.S. banks, savings and loans and credit unions. More than a dozen lenders have been closed by state or national regulators since 2007 as U.S. mortgage markets collapsed and the world's largest financial companies wrote down more than $495 billion in losses."

Bloomberg - "PMI Has Record Drop After Loss on Mortgage Claims" (8-7-08)

"PMI fell 82 cents to $2.68 at 4:18 p.m. in New York Stock Exchange composite trading. The second-quarter net loss was $246.3 million, or $3.03 a share, compared with profit of $83.8 million, or 95 cents, a year earlier, the Walnut Creek, California-based company said today in a statement."

Orange County Register - "Foreclosure refugees skipping apartments" (8-7-08)

"NMHC says apartment industry data show only 2% to 6% of all apartment applicants were seeking to rent after running into trouble with their mortgage. In fact, only 23.5% of apartment applicants have ever even had a mortgage, according to First Advantage SafeRent, which does apartment applicant screening. Only 5.4% of those with previous mortgages had ever been 90 days behind or defaulted."

Orange County Register - "Wachovia sees O.C. home prices dropping 20%" (8-7-08)

"Wachovia, one of the largest financial firms in America, estimates some Orange County homes will drop 20% more in value, after already losing 12%. Wachovia didn’t give an exact time line. The company, during its July 22 earnings presentation, estimated losses on loans that allow borrowers to choose their monthly payment, including one that means owing more to the bank. Having been burned, it no longer makes that loan."

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Bloomberg - "Fed Wisely Chose to Avoid Making Risky Choice" (8-6-08)

"Cutting the Federal Open Market Committee's 2 percent overnight lending rate target might have stimulated weak economic growth, at the risk of making inflation worse. Increasing the target in an effort to bring down inflation might have made the credit conditions plaguing the economy even tighter, undermining what growth there is."

Bloomberg - "Ambac, Using an Accounting Change, Posts Net Income" (8-6-08)

"Ambac Financial Group Inc., the bond insurer that lost 92 percent of its stock market value in the past year, posted second-quarter net income after using an accounting change to record a $5.2 billion gain related to its debt securities."

Bloomberg - "Freddie Posts Loss, Cuts Dividend as Slump Deepens" (8-6-08)

"Freddie Mac, the U.S. mortgage-finance company hobbled by record foreclosures, slashed its dividend at least 80 percent after posting a quarterly loss that was three times wider than analysts' estimates."

Yahoo - "Morgan Stanley to freeze home-equity credit lines: report" (8-6-08)

"Morgan Stanley (NYSE:MS - News) told thousands of clients this week that they will not be allowed to withdraw money on their home-equity credit lines, Bloomberg News reported Wednesday, citing a person familiar with the situation. Most of the clients had properties that have lost value, the agency reported, citing a person who declined to be identified."

Bloomberg - "Lender Says Bill May Increase Reverse Mortgages" (8-6-08)

"David Peskin, chief executive officer of the Senior Lending Network, the Melville, New York-based lender that specializes in reverse mortgages, said he expects the new comprehensive housing bill to spark interest in the loans."

Bloomberg - "Investcorp Real Estate Unit Buys $210 Million Loans at Discount" (8-6-08)

"The U.S. unit of Bahrain's Investcorp Bank BSC said it bought six mezzanine loans with a face value of $210 million at a discount from banks trying to clear their books of assets tainted by the subprime mortgage crisis."

Bloomberg - "U.S. MBA's Mortgage Applications Index Climbed 2.8% Last Week" (8-6-08)

"Mortgage applications in the U.S. climbed last week from a seven-year low as more Americans sought to refinance out of adjustable-rate loans. The Mortgage Bankers Association's index of applications to buy a home or refinance a loan rose 2.8 percent to 432.6 in the week ended Aug. 1 from the prior week, when it reached the lowest level since December 2000. The group's refinancing gauge also improved from a seven-year low."

Orange County Register - "Sublet glut hits office rents" (8-6-08)

"As sublet office space pours onto the O.C. market, landlords are having a tougher time getting asking rents for direct space, says Studley Inc.’s latest report. The real estate services company, which represents office tenants, says the county had 2.4 million square feet of office space on the market in the second quarter. The overall asking rent countywide fell to $31.13 per square foot , 3.8% lower than the same period last year. It was the second quarter in a row rents were down"