Monday, December 20, 2004

In 2005, interest rates have nowhere to go but up.

Economists, lenders, mortgage brokers and others involved in the housing industry can at least agree on that. But they expect the rise to be gradual and don't believe it will drastically impact the nation's housing market.

By the end of 2005, most expect mortgage rates to be in the range of 6.5 percent to 7 percent.

"They're not going to be as good as they had been in the past, but not disastrous," said James Barth, senior fellow at the Milken Institute and finance professor at Auburn University.

Looming over mortgage rate movement is the Federal Reserve's stance on monetary policy and the state of the bond market.

Since June, the Federal Reserve's Open Market Committee has raised its target for the federal funds rate by 25 basis points five times, bringing it to 2.25 percent. The federal funds target rate is what banks charge each other overnight. It has no direct impact on mortgage rates or the bond market, but it can alter them indirectly. A change in the federal funds rate, for example, is likely to change the prime rate, the rate banks charge their best corporate customers. That's generally about three percentage points above the federal funds rate.

From there, any lines of credit tied to the prime rate rise as well. The yields on short-term Treasury bills generally move with changes in the federal funds rate.

Since rates on 30-year fixed-rate mortgages tend to move closely with the 10-year Treasury bonds, any potential increase in the rate of that benchmark bond is likely to drive up mortgage rates as well. And with the overall continuing decline of the dollar against other currencies, it's likely the 10-year Treasury bond will increase regardless of what the Fed does, said Christopher Cagan, director of research and analytics for First American Real Estate Solutions.


Friday, December 17, 2004

Suite Vollard building Curitiba, Brazil
 Posted by Hello

Want to go for a spin? Just stay home

Each floor of the brand new 11 story Suite Vollard building can revolve independently 360 degrees to the left or to the right.

“This is the only building in the world in which each apartment can spin individually,” said Joao Carlos Peters, marketing director at the Moro construction company. “This is really a work of art because this was based on an entirely new concept of living,” Peters said.

Spinning in the high-tech building is activated by voice commands. It takes an hour for each 3,000-square-foot apartment to complete one rotation. “You can’t have it spin any faster because you need the turning to be subtle,” Peters said.

The project took 10 years to complete and the suites, which each occupy an entire floor of the circular building, went on sale Thursday for $300,000.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Does Your Home Have "Curb Appeal"?

First impressions do make a difference when selling your home. Oftentimes, before making the phone call to schedule an appointment, a homebuyer will drive by your home to determine if they may be further interested. If the house presents a good impression, then you receive the phone call for an appointment.

Many homes are eliminated from a potential homebuyer’s list because they do not give a good first impression. The work you put into sprucing up the inside will be in vain if the exterior of your home does not draw people in. In the real estate world this is known as "curb appeal", that is, your home should be appealing to potential buyers from their initial curbside or drive-by viewing.

Achieving curb appeal is not very difficult, nor does it have to be very costly. Assuming your roof, gutters, etc… are not in obvious need of repair, most of your efforts will be focused on cosmetics. Step back from your home or better yet, go to the curb and take a long objective look at your home. You may want to take a look from different angles. Compare your home to others on your block. You will be focusing on two main areas; the house itself and the landscaping surrounding your house.

When observing your home, start at the top of the roof and work your way down. Write down areas that need attention. You are striving for a look that makes observers feel that your home is neat, clean and well cared for. The following areas of your exterior deserve special attention:

Roof and chimney - Shingles should be intact with none missing and mortar between the bricks should be secure. Although expensive to replace, a roof or chimney in disrepair often discourages potential homebuyers.

Exterior siding - If your siding needs to be painted, it is well worth the expense and time. Choose a color that is fairly neutral and that coordinates with homes in your immediate vicinity. Power washing dirty siding can make a house look almost new again.

Gutters – You should repair and clean gutters. Weeds growing from your gutters are a good example of a negative first impression. Nothing says "poor maintenance" like weeds in a gutter.

Windows and Trim - If the paint on the trim or windows is peeling, scrape and paint. Replace any broken glass and finally clean the windows inside and out.

Front Entry Door - If your front door has not been painted in 3-4 years, consider a fresh coat of paint. Depending on the style of your home, a contrasting color from your siding may add visual interest. The front door should welcome buyers into your home. A nice looking wreath in tune with the season gives a warm homey touch.


Friday, December 10, 2004

Real estate scam hits Texas

150 homeowners allegedly defrauded of mortgage payments

The Texas Attorney General's Office is seeking a restraining order and asset freeze against a company that has allegedly defrauded more than 150 homeowners by keeping their mortgage payments.

Consumers in the Dallas-Fort Worth and Houston areas reported to the Office of the Attorney General that City Mortgage Services Inc. (which has no affiliation to CitiBank or CitiMortgage) and its principals, Gustavo Duarte and Alfredo Mendez, pocketed thousands of dollars that should have been forwarded to the mortgage companies financing the consumers' homes.

The company, which had offices in Dallas, Houston and Austin, shut down abruptly earlier this year, leaving consumers owing their mortgage companies substantial amounts of money in missed payments and late fees, the office announced.

"Brazen schemes like these will not be tolerated in Texas," said Attorney General Abbott. "City Mortgage systematically victimized these Hispanic families by exploiting their dreams of home ownership. I am committed to ensuring this scam doesn't hurt any more Texas consumers."

According to the lawsuit, City Mortgage dispatched teams of door-to-door salespersons throughout Hispanic neighborhoods, touting the company's "debt-reduction service." Sales pitches and promotional materials promised consumers City Mortgage would save them thousands of dollars by withdrawing and forwarding to their mortgage company a larger monthly amount than their regular mortgage payment, thus reducing the number of years it took to pay off the loan, the office announced. City Mortgage charged families between $700 and $1,000 for the service.

The lawsuit alleges, "The home solicitation presentation of defendants included a promise to lower the consumers' mortgage payments and shorten the term of their mortgage loan by making bi-weekly payments instead of monthly and making increased payment amounts. In many cases, the defendants represented to consumers that the mortgage repayment plan defendants were proposing was a city of Dallas plan and/or approved/sanctioned by the city of Dallas."


Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Housing Wealth Has Greater Effect Than Stocks, New Study Shows

Housing wealth has a more immediate impact on consumer spending than stock wealth and has sustained the U.S. economy since the beginning of this decade, shows a new study produced by the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University and Macroeconomic Advisers, LCC, and commissioned by the National Association of Realtors®.


Monday, December 06, 2004

New futures market to protect against housing bubble

CME plans derivatives that would guard home's value

The nation's largest futures exchange today announced that it plans to build a sophisticated derivates market to protect homeowners from a bursting housing bubble.

Chicago Mercantile Exchange has completed a Letter of Intent with MACRO Securities Research LLC to explore developing derivatives based on the Fiserv, CSW family of Housing Price Indexes. These derivatives would create a market that ultimately will provide homeowners with tools to help them protect the value of their largest asset.

MACRO Securities Research, or MSR for short, is a financial innovations firm dedicated to the creation of instruments designed to unlock liquidity in new asset classes

The CSW Home Price indexes track home price trends and are used by some of the country's largest lenders for loan originations as well as various types of mortgage analysis. MSR owns the exclusive rights to develop financial products based on the CSW Indexes.

As the largest domestic asset class, U.S. single-family homes represent a $22.3 trillion market, according to the U.S. Census Bureau and the Mortgage Bankers Association's Mortgage Finance Forecast. Given all of the participants in the U.S. housing sector, including insurance companies, pension funds, hedge funds, home buyers, mortgage banks and insurers as well as developers, construction suppliers and homeowners, this type of product could appeal to a large number of potential market users.


Friday, December 03, 2004

Real estate: The week ahead

Workforce housing summit in D.C.; New York Realtors meet in Atlantic City

The National Association of Home Builders is sponsoring, "Close to Home: A Symposium on Workforce Housing," Dec. 8, in Washington, D.C. Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Alphonso Jackson, Freddie Mac CEO Richard Syron, NAHB President Bobby Rayburn, and Nicolas Retsinas, director of the Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies, are among the event speakers.

The latest installment of Inman News' audio conference series will take place Dec. 9, at 11 a.m. PST. The topic is "The progressive Realtor association," featuring Bill Malkasian, president of the Wisconsin Realtor Association; Joel Singer, EVP of the California Association of Realtors; and Bob Hale, president and CEO of the Houston Association of Realtors. See the conference Web site for dial-in information. To become a member of Inman News, logon to the membership Web page.

The sixth annual Mortgage EC Conference is slated for Dec. 6-7, in Las Vegas. The event will focus on eCommerce and Internet issues facing the mortgage industry.

The New York Association of Realtors will host its 2004 Realtor Convention and Trade Expo, "Triple Play," Dec. 7-9 in Atlantic City.


Thursday, December 02, 2004

Third-quarter real estate prices jump 13%

Nevada records highest statewide increase

Average U.S. home prices increased nearly 13 percent from the third quarter of 2003 to the third quarter of this year, according to the Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight's house price index.

Appreciation for the most recent quarter was 4.62 percent, or an annualized rate of 18.5 percent.

"The appreciation reflected in this quarter's report shows further acceleration from already rapid increases," said Armando Falcon Jr., director of OFHEO. "The growth in house prices over the past year surpasses any increase in 25 years."


Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Consumers gain access to free credit reports

Up to 3 requests may be staggered throughout 12-month period

he Federal Trade Commission today announced the three nationwide consumer reporting companies – Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion – will begin processing consumers' requests today for free annual credit reports at

A credit report contains consumers' identification information; payment history with different creditors; a list of inquiries made by various financial institutions; and information on the public record, such as foreclosures or bankruptcies. Consumer reporting companies collect and sell this information to lenders and other businesses that have a permissible purpose to obtain it.

The Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act of 2003 amends the Fair Credit Reporting Act and requires the nationwide credit bureaus to provide consumers, upon request, a free copy of their credit report once every 12 months. Consumers in 13 Western states may request a free annual credit report beginning today.


Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Chicago MLS elects new board of directors

Board president to hold position for another year

The Multiple Listing Service of Northern Illinois (MLSNI), the largest real estate listing service in the Chicagoland area, recently announced the election results for its board of directors.

The MLS has been at the center of controversy this year, undergoing an expensive forensic audit, terminating its CEO and losing certain listings from some top brokers in the area. It is one of the largest Realtor-owned and operated MLSs in the country.


Saturday, November 27, 2004

Consumer confidence grows

Americans expected to spend more, save more in '05

Consumer confidence posted modest gains in November despite high energy prices, rising interest rates and persistent concerns about job growth, according to the latest University of Michigan Survey of Consumers.

"Consumers are both confident enough to spend more as well as cautious enough to save more in 2005," according to Richard Curtin, the director of the survey.

Overall, the data indicate that real consumption spending will grow by 3.25 percent in 2005; the rate of saving out of disposable personal income will increase to 1.25 percent by the end of 2005, up from its all-time low of 0.4 percent in the third quarter of 2004. Consumers expected a slower overall pace of economic growth during 2005, and as a result anticipated only small additional declines in the national unemployment rate.

Read more Inman News

Thursday, November 25, 2004

Real estate rates fall further

Freddie Mac predicts modest climb in '05

Mortgage rates dropped for the second consecutive week, according to Freddie Mac's weekly mortgage survey.

Freddie Mac reported that the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged 5.72 percent for the week ended today, down slightly from last week when it averaged 5.74 percent. The average for the 15-year fixed-rate mortgage this week is 5.15 percent, unchanged from last week.Points on both the 30- and 15-year averaged 0.6.

One-year Treasury-indexed adjustable-rate mortgages averaged 4.27 percent this week, with an average 0.7 point, up from last week when they averaged 4.17 percent

Read more Inman News

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

325 E. Eight Street, Hinsdale, IL. Posted by Hello

Today's Historical House

R. Harold Zook, noted architect of the 1920's, 30's and 40's. He is most famous for his Cotswold Style homes. Zook also designed buildings in the Tudor and Georgian style.

Zook's designs can be found throughout the western suburbs of Chicago, as well as Iowa, Wisconsin, and as far as Tennessee. Eighty-one buildings have been authenticated as Zook designs, many are in suburban Hinsdale. It was once said that R. Harold Zook is to Hinsdale as Frank Lloyd Wright is to Oak Park.

I came across a recent sale of a Zook mansion last saturday. This 6,134 square foot, 16 room, Hinsdale home sits on a 192 X 381 lot and sold for $4,100.000.00 in July.

Real estate sales, prices stagnate in October

West, Northeast regions see highest price gains since October 2003

Existing, single-family homes edged down from September to October, while the national median price increased only slightly, the National Association of Realtors reported today.

Existing-home sales slid 0.1 percent in October, reaching a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 6.75 million units, but was up 5.6 percent from a 6.39-million-unit pace in October 2003. The seasonally adjusted annual rate projects a monthly total over a 12-month period.

Meanwhile, the median existing-home price was $187,000 in October, up 0.2 percent from $186,600 in September and up 8.8 percent from $171,800 in October 2003.

David Lereah, chief economist for the association, said home sales continue to exceed expectations. "The ongoing stimulus of lower-than-expected mortgage interest rates was the primary driver of strong home sales in October," he said. "Of course all of the other market fundamentals remain sound, so we should only see a modest decline from record home sales this year if mortgage interest rates gradually rise."

According to Freddie Mac, the national average commitment rate for a 30-year, conventional, fixed-rate mortgage was 5.72 percent in October, down from 5.75 percent in September; the rate was 5.95 percent in October 2003.

Read More

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

HUD settles fair-housing charges against real estate developers

Entities accused of family discrimination

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Friday said it has settled a Secretary-initiated investigation into the City of Falls Church, Va., Waterford Development LLC, Waterford Development-Falls Church LLC, and Nova-Habitat Inc., for alleged discrimination against families with children, a violation of the Fair Housing Act.

Based on information received in January 2004, HUD began an investigation into the development of The Broadway, a high-rise building with 80 luxury condominiums in Falls Church. To have the property rezoned for the construction of condominiums, the developers proposed a term sheet that calculated school-impact contributions based on the number of children who would move into the property instead of on to the number units developed. The City of Falls Church initially approved of this arrangement.

Because of concerns regarding the arrangement, HUD commenced a Secretary-initiated investigation against the developers of the property and Falls Church. The Virginia Fair Housing Office, which receives funding from HUD, also reviewed the matter.

The city determined that should the escrow account be funded, it would possibly create the appearance that the City condoned discrimination against families with school-age children. In January 2004, the Falls Church City Council amended the term sheet to remove the school impact fee arrangement and reaffirmed its commitment to fair housing.

On May 17, 2004, the Equal Rights Center, a non-profit fair housing group based in Washington, D.C., filed a complaint against Waterford Development, Waterford Development Falls Church, Nova-Habitat, McWilliams/Ballard, and the City of Falls Church. ERC's complaint alleged that the respondents had violated the Fair Housing Act by discriminating against families with children.

HUD worked to conciliate both the ERC complaint and resolve the issues raised in the investigation. All the parties agreed to enter into a conciliation agreement to resolve the investigation and the ERC complaint.

Read more Inman News

Sunday, November 21, 2004

Real estate rates defy economic expansion

30-year fixed holds near 5.75%

Mortgage rates are still holding against pretty good October economic data, and against the Fed's obvious intention to raise its interest rate at least another percentage point as quickly as it can.

October industrial production doubled its forecast increase, up .7 percent, as did industrial capacity in use, up to 77.7 percent. October CPI and PPI core rates were just under control, up .2 percent and .3 percent respectively, but the energy-distorted nominals soared .6 percent and 1.7 percent.


Thursday, November 18, 2004

Overnight real estate rates nudge higher

30-year up at 5.36%; 10-year Treasury up at 4.21%

Long-term mortgage interest rates were higher Tuesday, and the benchmark 10-year Treasury bond yield rose to 4.21 percent.

The 30-year fixed-rate average inched up to 5.36 percent, and the 15-year fixed-rate climbed to 4.78 percent. The 1-year adjustable was up at 3.38 percent. The 30-year Treasury bond yield inched up 4.9 percent.

Rates are current as of 7:15 p.m. Eastern Standard Time.

Read More

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Home builders' confidence holds steady

Fewer prospective buyers visit model homes in November

Continuing low mortgage rates and improving economic conditions are helping maintain a solid level of builder confidence in the market for new single-family homes, according to the latest National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index (HMI), released today.

The November HMI registered no discernible change in builder attitudes following an impressive four-point jump that brought the index in line with its highest level of the year, at 71, in October.

The component index gauging current single-family sales rose two points to 79 – its highest level of the year – in November. Meanwhile, the component index gauging sales expectations for the next six months and the component gauging traffic of prospective buyers each edged down two points, to 80 and 50, respectively

Read more Inman News

Monday, November 08, 2004

Hot real estate market will carry into '05

Trade group credits continued low mortgage rates

Home sales momentum will continue through the remainder of 2004 and into next year, the National Association of Realtors forecast today at its annual conference and expo in Orlando, Fla.

Existing-home sales are projected to rise 7.3 percent this year to 6.55 million compared with the previous record of 6.1 million in 2003, according to NAR. The group also expects 6.3 million existing-home sales in 2005, which would be the second highest on record. New-home sales this year will surpass the previous record of 1.09 million in 2003 with sales rising 7.7 percent to 1.17 million. A total of 1.07 million new-home sales are predicted for 2005.

NAR forecasts housing starts in 2004 to total 1.93 million, up from 1.85 million last year. Housing construction in 2005 should come in at about 1.84 million units.

The strong forecast comes from a steady decline in mortgage interest rates since June, when Freddie Mac reported the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged 6.29 percent.

Read more Inman News

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

New-home sales climb, prices drop

Sales strongest in Midwest

Sales of new single-family homes in September were up from August sales, while the median price dropped 5.7 percent, the U.S. Census Bureau and U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development announced today.

New-home sales in September were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.21 million, which is 3.5 percent (plus or minus 9 percent) above the revised August rate of 1.17 million and 7 percent (plus or minus 11.8 percent) above the September 2003 estimate of 1.13 million. The seasonally adjusted annual rate projects the monthly sales total over a 12-month period.

The median sales price of new homes sold in September was $197,700 and the average sales price was $255,100. The median sales price of new homes sold in August was $208,900 and the average sales price was $267,000. In July, the median sales price of new single-family houses sold was $207,400 and the average price was $274,200. The seasonally adjusted estimate of new houses for sale at the end of September was 404,000, which represents a supply of 4.1 months at the current sales rate.

Read more Inman News

Sunday, October 31, 2004

There is No bubble in High End real estate

Mr. Real Estate specializes in High End waterfront property on Florida's west coast. He tells us his views on the bubble myth.

It,s not really a bubble, but prices will level off eventually, and may even lower in some markets. Next year the National Association of Realtors expects housing to slow somewhat, and rates here in the U.S. should go up to around 6.8 percent by year's end, says Fannie Mae.

As rates go up, as I've said all along, housing will begin to level off, but as builders continue to build we should be fine. When builders slow in building new construction, that's the first sign of a housing slowdown. Housing will be back to normal when rates get back to 8 percent, I predict, but the bubble is a myth created by the media.

Prices are high because more people are buying and paying the prices, but it would only be a bubble if the same people buying now wouldn't be able to buy at 8-9 percent interest rates. In my specialization area, luxury waterfront, this is simply not the case.

Thursday, October 28, 2004

When will the Bubble Burst?

The Global Bubble

We hear a lot about the real estate bubble in the Chicago market, but how about these prices .

A headline in the Beijing China Daily: "Bubbles in real estate sector remains." A headline published in India's Financial Express: "Is the ongoing boom in real estate a bubble?"

According to the China Daily article, prices for residential housing in Beijing can range from $843.40 to $963.90 per square meter in U.S. dollars, or $78.35 to $89.55 per square foot, while the average annual income of residents is about $1,204.80.

Prices for residential housing rose 13 percent during the first nine months of this year compared with last year, the China Daily also reported. Meanwhile, the Financial Express reported that an apartment in Delhi that sold for $61,403.51 in U.S. dollars earlier this year now fetches about $87,719.30 -- a gain of 43 percent.

"The growth rates are steeper in the suburbs. And it's not just Delhi that's seeing this boom," the Express reported.

It seems that everyone is worrying about the real estate bubble.

New-home sales climb, prices drop

Sales strongest in Midwest

Sales of new single-family homes in September were up from August sales, while the median price dropped 5.7 percent, the U.S. Census Bureau and U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development announced today.

New-home sales in September were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.21 million, which is 3.5 percent (plus or minus 9 percent) above the revised August rate of 1.17 million and 7 percent (plus or minus 11.8 percent) above the September 2003 estimate of 1.13 million. The seasonally adjusted annual rate projects the monthly sales total over a 12-month period.

The median sales price of new homes sold in September was $197,700 and the average sales price was $255,100. The median sales price of new homes sold in August was $208,900 and the average sales price was $267,000. In July, the median sales price of new single-family houses sold was $207,400 and the average price was $274,200. The seasonally adjusted estimate of new houses for sale at the end of September was 404,000, which represents a supply of 4.1 months at the current sales rate.

From September 2003 to September 2004, the seasonally adjusted rate of home sales was down 19.3 percent in the Northeast (plus or minus 44.8 percent), up 22.7 percent in the Midwest (plus or minus 27.2 percent), up 9.1 percent in the West (plus or minus 25 percent), and up 4.3 percent in the South.

From August 2004 to September 2004, the seasonally adjusted rate of homes sales was down 0.8 percent in the West (plus or minus 16.6 percent), up 12.3 percent in the Midwest, up 6 percent in the Northeast, and up 2.7 percent in the South.


Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Real estate prices rise, sales slow in Illinois

Sales of existing single-family homes in Illinois were down 3.3 percent in September from the same month a year ago, while prices continued to increase, according to the Illinois Association of Realtors latest survey.

Realtors reported 11,082 home sales last month compared to 11,460 sales in September 2003.

The median price of an existing single-family home increased 5.3 percent over the same period a year ago, to $187,500 in September 2004, from $178,100 in 2003. The median is a typical market price where half the homes sold for more, half sold for less.

Year-to-date sales (January through September) show an overall increase of 4 percent to 97,060 homes sold compared to 93,046 sales in the first nine months of last year. The statewide average home price was up 4.9 percent to $214,400 in September 2004 compared to $204,400 during the same month in 2003.


Sunday, October 24, 2004

Mortgage rates slip to 6-month lows

Spurs rise in home loan applications

Long-term mortgage rates eased this week, according to surveys released by Freddie Mac and Bankrate.

The 30-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged 5.69 percent, with an average 0.7 points, for the week ended today, down from last week when it averaged 5.74 percent. The average for the 15-year fixed-rate mortgage this week fell to 5.07 percent, with an average 0.6 points, down from 5.14 percent. Rates on one-year adjustable-rate mortgages averaged 4.02 percent this week, with an average 0.7 point, up slightly from last week when it averaged 4.01 percent.

"Treasury bond yields eased somewhat this week, causing long-term mortgage rates to drift a little lower from last week," said Frank Nothaft, Freddie Mac chief economist. "Mortgage rates for 1-year adjustable-rate mortgages, however, were almost unchanged, rising only one basis point in the same time frame.


Thursday, October 21, 2004

Home builders' confidence booms in October

Wave of optimism pushes up index

National Association of Home Builders and Wells Fargo today reported a surge in builder confidence in the real estate market in October.

The builders' group, in a monthly survey of home builders, asks builders to rate current sales of single-family homes, prospects for sales activity in the next six months, and traffic of prospective buyers. Scores from the survey are used to calculate a seasonally adjusted index, the Housing Market Index. In this index, any number above 50 indicates that more builders view sales conditions as good while fewer builders view sales conditions as poor.

Builder confidence in current sales activity reached 78 in October, a five-point gain over the September index. Builder confidence in expected sales over the next six months reached 84, up nine points since September. And the traffic of prospective buyers rose to 54, or two points higher than the September index. The index for builder confidence in current single-family home sales and future single-family home sales over the next six months were at a record high for the year, while the index measuring traffic of prospective buyers was down from a high of 56 in August. And the overall index of 72 for October 2004 equaled its October 2003 level.


Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Transaction systems peel paper from real estate

Adoption of technology picks up among MLS's

Stewart Title offices that implemented the company's SureClose transaction management system as a way to better manage the settlement process have discovered at least one other benefit: They no longer need piles of paper files.

Employees can search documents online, move documents internally and place them online for lenders and consumers to view, said Mark Cira, VP for product development with Stewart Realty Solution, during the Real Estate Settlement Providers Council's fall seminar last week.

After a decade of flops and technology disasters, transaction management systems today are finally starting to reach a broader segment of the real estate industrybeyond settlement service providers. Real estate agents, brokers, lenders and even multiple listing services are examining the potential gains the technology could bring to their businesses.

First introduced in the late 1990s, transaction management systems are technology platforms that manage every piece of a real estate transaction from listing to closing. Web-based transaction systems enable all parties in a transaction to communicate 24/7 and receive real-time updates and track changes to the transaction. Transaction systems aim to shave time and costs from realty transactions.


Monday, October 18, 2004

Fannie, Freddie meet housing goals

New objectives set for 2008

The Department of Housing and Urban Development today announced that both Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac met their housing goals in 2003.

As mandated by The Federal Housing Enterprises Financial Safety and Soundness Act of 1992 (FHEFSSA), HUD is required to ensure that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac operate in compliance with their charter purposes, which include targeting a percentage of their business toward low- and moderate-income families, and residents of communities underserved by mortgage credit. Families are considered as having low or moderate incomes if they make no more than the median income in their local area.

"While the GSEs (government-sponsored entities) met the affordable housing goals in 2003, they must do more to genuinely lead the mortgage finance industry as Congress intended," said HUD Secretary Alphonso Jackson. "HUD is now finalizing new housing goals, which over the next four years, will push the GSEs to do what is expected of them helping low- and moderate-income families at least at the same percentage levels as primary market lenders."


Saturday, October 16, 2004

Today's Historical Home

The Allan Miller House by John Van Bergen architect

John Van Bergen was an Oak Park native who worked as a draftsman in Frank Lloyd Wright's studio. When Van Bergen received his architect license he designed homes in the Prairie Style. His work is often thought to be that of Wright.

The Allen Miller House is located in Chicago's South Shore neighborhood and was built in 1915. It is the only surviving building in Chicago by Van Bergen.

Allan Miller House 7121 S. Paxton, Chicago Posted by Hello

Real estate market headed for decline

Industry expert predicts exodus of agents next year, business consolidation

A nationally recognized expert on the real estate industry told the Real Estate Services Providers Council Inc. (RESPRO) audience Wednesday that there will be a "sharp contraction in the real estate market next year and into 2006, when mortgage rates rise above 7 percent."

Weston Edwards, PhD., a consultant to some of the largest real estate brokerage firms, title companies and mortgage lenders in the nation, pointed out that the "contraction in home sales" will occur as interest rates rise and current "homeowners won't want to give up their low-rate, non-assumable mortgages."

"Major realty firms and homebuilders will use this period to dramatically improve market share, taking advantage of failed competitors and making acquisitions," Edwards said. "Realty firms will push for improved mortgage lending services, title and homeowners insurance to offset their realty brokerage losses. And, many marginal agents will leave the business, which may result in a slowing of the current commission erosion."

Presenting at the opening general session of RESPRO's Annual Fall Seminar, Edwards discussed his yearlong, landmark study on the consolidation of the real estate industry in which 220 of the nation's top real estate brokerage firms, 51 of the nation's top 150 builders and 3,000 recent home buyers were interviewed on the concept of "one-stop real estate shopping."


Thursday, October 14, 2004 expands with foreclosure sales

Launches is launching a service to help financial institutions and brokers sell real estate-owned (REO) homes inventory. The new company,, will enable banks and real estate agents to sell foreclosed properties without paying fees. will be "open to everyone, but in tune to the needs of financial institutions and brokers, which sell the majority of foreclosed homes in the U.S.," said Colby Sambrotto, COO of The service aims to save on marketing costs for banks and real estate agents.

Banks and real estate agents will be able to upload their listings for free at The Web site currently has about 300,000 listings, according to Sambrotto, and nearly financial institutions are selling 65 percent of the listings.

Consumers can search the company's database of foreclosed properties for $24.95, and they can access service directories, home inspectors, title companies, real estate lawyers and discount mortgage companies through


Thursday, October 07, 2004

Ten arrested in $15 million mortgage fraud scheme

Case involves about 200 properties, false documents

Ten people were arrested Thursday on federal charges in connection with a mortgage fraud land-flipping scheme that involved about 200 properties and $15 million in fraudulently obtained loan proceeds.

U.S. Attorney Michael J. Sullivan announced that a federal grand jury returned an indictment against the 10, charging them with 62 counts of wire fraud and one count of conspiracy to launder money. According to the indictment, several of the defendants allegedly purchased distressed properties within low-income neighborhoods and then resold them rapidly at artificially inflated values between 1998 and 2002.

Individuals known as "runners" allegedly were used to recruit prospective buyers and were paid finders' fees for the successful sale of a property. The defendants allegedly told prospective buyers they would not have to make any down payments and also promised them they would receive money back at closing.

The prospective buyers were then referred to mortgage brokers who also were allegedly involved. Since many of the prospective buyers could not financially qualify for loans, the defendants allegedly generated and then processed fraudulent loan applications and other documentation to obtain loans for the buyers. The false documentation included bogus down-payment information, fraudulent income information and false documentation to show improvements to the properties that were never made.

The defendants also allegedly used appraisers to generate false appraisals for the artificially inflated property values. In exchange for participating, the mortgage brokers and appraisers apparently received incentive payments such as cash or hidden interest in real estate deals, as well as continued business.


Wednesday, October 06, 2004

31th Annual Historic Pullman House Tour

October 9 & 10, 2004 Homes open 11:00am - 5:00pm

One weekend each year, Pullman residents open their homes to the public for the annual Historic Pullman House Tour. These 120-year-old landmark homes range from executive mansions to14-foot wide worker's cottages to multi-unit apartments, all with a charm and uniqueness that is part of the Pullman experience.

Tour homes are chosen to present a cross-section of the different types of housing in Pullman and the many ways that homeowners blend the past and present in their historic homes. Come visit Pullman and see behind the beautiful facades into the interiors of these landmark homes.

Proceeds from the Historic Pullman House Tour will help fund restoration and preservation projects in the Historic Pullman District.


Tuesday, October 05, 2004

Florida real estate market survives hurricanes

Existing-home sales, prices rise despite storms

Florida home sales weathered the impact and threat of hurricanes in August, and single-family existing-home sales gained 3 percent while median sales prices rose 15 percent from July to August, the Florida Association of Realtors reported today.

The strike of Hurricane Charley and menace of Hurricane Frances led to delayed closings because home buyers were unable to obtain homeowners' insurance policies.

Statewide, a total of 20,294 homes changed hands in August 2004, compared to 19,748 homes in August 2003. The statewide median sales price rose 15 percent to $189,500 a year ago it was $164,100. In 1999, the statewide median sales price for single-family existing homes was $106,200 which represents a 78.4 percent increase over a five-year period, the association also reported


Monday, October 04, 2004

Real estate discounter expands again

Help-U-Sell franchises now in nearly all 50 states

Help-U-Sell Real Estate announced Thursday that it has broken the 600-franchise mark, expanding its reach to more than 46 states nationwide.

Opening a new office, on average, every 48 hours, Help-U-Sell has boasted a 30 percent growth rate over the past five years, according to a company statement.

Help-U-Sell Real Estate's fee-for-service model allows sellers to select and pay for only the services they want, making it the middle ground between the "For Sale By Owner Model" where sellers do all of the work and pay nothing and traditional brokers that do everything and charge upwards of 6 percent of the sale of the home.

"Sellers want flexibility and affordability when it comes to the real estate process and they're gravitating toward alternative real estate models to get these things," said Help-U-Sell President Rick O'Neil. "Our success stems from our ability to give consumers choices something they've never had before. And our numbers are clearly reflecting this."

The company also attributes its growth to the recent appointment of several new regional directors that were hired to bring individual support and training to offices in their territories. The organization currently has more pending and expects to add at least a dozen more by the end of the year.

Thursday, September 30, 2004

Real estate prices to slow, not collapse

Weakening economy not indicative of housing bubble

The Fed tightened (again) and long-term interest rates fell (again) in a disconnection between the Fed and the bond market as great as any in memory.

Since spring, the Fed has tightened .75 percent, and bond yields have fallen .90 percent. By all traditional measures, such a counter-move is a bond-market forecast of a too-tight Fed, and a recession soon to follow. None seems near, though economic data do not support the Fed's insistence that all is well with the economy.

If the Fed is nevertheless intent on raising its rate (its August meeting minutes: "Significant cumulative policy tightening likely"), what would motivate a bond rally? Two answers are floating around: first, oil prices are hurting the economy, stocks are swooning (again) and inflation has receded. All true, but just another version of the pre-recession concept. Second theory: bond yields are falling because China and Japan are buying bonds in order to keep their currencies cheap, and they don't care that bond yields are below fair value. Could be, but I don't think they have enough money to move the global swap/derivative curve along with the cash bond.


Wednesday, September 29, 2004

HUD proposes broker flipping rule

In a proposal for a rule that would operate in much the same way appraisers are removed from the Department of Housing and Urban Development's (HUD) FHA Appraiser Roster, HUD has published in the Federal Register a means for sanctioning real estate brokers currently authorized to sell FHA repossessed properties. Under the proposal, fraudulent activities, the use of false and misleading statements, the loss of a state license, or acting in concert with an appraiser to arrive at an artificially appraised value would result in removal of the broker's authorization to sell FHA REOs.

Like HUD's means for expunging appraisers, once HUD decides there is cause to remove a broker, it will provide the broker with written notice and the removal takes effect 30 days later. However, brokers will have 20 days after the notice is issued to submit a written response to HUD opposing the proposed removal and to request a conference. The conference will take place within 15 days after HUD receives the request. Within 20 days after the conference, HUD will advise the real estate broker in writing of HUD's decision.

Comments are requested on the proposed rule by November 16. You can see the proposal online HERE

How would a truly flexible mortgage work?

Reducing, skipping monthly payments comes into fruition

Lat week I had little good to say about Fannie Mae's new Payment Power Program (PPP), which allows a borrower to skip up to two mortgage payments in any 12-month period, and up to 10 over the life of a loan. A skipped payment results in an additional loan, equal to the payment plus a healthy access fee, tacked on to the balance. As an emergency source of funds, it is much more costly than accessing a home-equity line of credit (HELOC).

My view is that borrowers don't need a high-cost way to borrow for emergencies. What they need is a no-cost way to accumulate a reserve within their existing mortgage that would allow them to skip or reduce payments when necessary. A truly flexible mortgage would provide this. Here is how it would work.

The flexible mortgage would base the borrower's payment obligation on the loan balance. A schedule of required balances, declining month by month over the life of the loan, would be part of the contract. If the borrower made all the scheduled payments, his balances month by month would correspond exactly to the required balances. But if he paid more in some months, his actual balance would fall below the required balance, the difference constituting a "reserve account," which he could draw on by paying less later on.

For example, the loan is for $160,000 at 5.5 percent for 15 years, with a monthly payment of $1,307. The borrower receives a bonus every Christmas from which he pays an extra $1,000 on his mortgage. With each extra payment, the gap between his actual balance and the required balance widens. If he does this five years running and then loses his job, he can skip his payment entirely in months 72, 73, 74, and 75, and in month 76 he can pay only $575. At that point, the actual balance and required balance are equal, so his "reserve" is exhausted.


Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Florida real estate market survives hurricanes

Existing-home sales, prices rise despite storms

Florida home sales weathered the impact and threat of hurricanes in August, and single-family existing-home sales gained 3 percent while median sales prices rose 15 percent from July to August, the Florida Association of Realtors reported today.

The strike of Hurricane Charley and menace of Hurricane Frances led to delayed closings because home buyers were unable to obtain homeowners' insurance policies.

Statewide, a total of 20,294 homes changed hands in August 2004, compared to 19,748 homes in August 2003. The statewide median sales price rose 15 percent to $189,500 a year ago it was $164,100. In 1999, the statewide median sales price for single-family existing homes was $106,200 which represents a 78.4 percent increase over a five-year period, the association also reported.

In markets across the state, the aftermath of Hurricane Charley also created other problems for resale activity, as many lenders delayed closings for property re-inspections or repairs. In addition, local Realtor boards and associations, real estate firms and Multiple Listing Services in many areas across Florida were directly affected by the hurricane, which in turn impacted the collection of data for the month.


Monday, September 27, 2004

Prairie Avenue & Neighborhood Life Cycles

On its way back to the top!

It is said that all neighborhoods go through a life cycle. First comes growth, then stability, then decline and then rebirth or gentrification. And Prairie Avenue has gone through them all.

In the 1870's living on Prairie Avenue was extremely fashionable. This street was the home to Chicago's leaders of commerce and industry. Residents included Marshall Field, George Pullman and the Armour family.

As early as the 1880's the area started to fall out of fashion as the leaders of commerce and industry moved to the Gold Coast. Decline had started, by 1905 the area was turning industrial leading to a further decline in the residential area. By the 1960's Prairie Avenue had bottomed out.

Architectural organizations and preservation groups helped establish the Prairie Avenue Historic District. The district was designated a Chicago Landmark in December 27, 1979. A few homes were preserved, however; the area continued to languish for another 20 years.

By the 1990's things started to happen in the south loop. Mayor Daley moved from Bridgeport to the new Central Station development. Many of Chicago's residents followed his example and the area boomed. Land prices were cheap and all those old factories could now be made into fashionable "Lofts". There is now rapid development of new townhouse projects, and wedged in between the old historic homes are the new construction of upper bracket single family homes.

Once again Prairie Avenue is the home to the leaders of Chicago's commerce and industry.

William W. Kimball House Posted by Hello

Joseph G. Coleman House Posted by Hello

John Jacob Glessner House Posted by Hello

Friday, September 24, 2004

Fannie, Freddie need revised affordable housing goals

Group outlines points for national housing policy

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac need to have their affordable housing missions redefined, including being required to set aside a percentage of their annual net profits as a source of capital for sponsors of affordable housing.

That suggestion was just one of 12 reached by a bipartisan group that came together to outline proposals for a national housing policy. The group consisted of Democrats Henry Cisneros, former secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and Nicholas Retsinas, director of the Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard University as well as Republicans Jack Kemp, former HUD secretary, and Kent Colton, former CEO and EVP of the National Association of Home Builders.

Fannie and Freddie, two housing government-sponsored entities, currently must have a certain percentage of their mortgage purchases be for financing housing for low and moderate income borowers, and borrowers in underserved areas.


Thursday, September 23, 2004

Real estate purchases increase slightly

Refi applications pick up

Overall mortgage purchases increased 1.8 percent on a seasonally adjusted basis, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association's weekly survey.

The MBA seasonally adjusted purchase index increased by 0.2 percent to 456.6 from 455.7 the previous week. The seasonally adjusted refinance index increased by 4.1 percent to 2,052.5 from 1,972.5 one week earlier.

The refinance share of mortgage activity increased to 44.5 percent of total applications from 43.2 percent the previous week. The adjustable-rate-mortgage share of activity increased to 33.1 percent of total applications from 33 percent the previous week


Wednesday, September 22, 2004

FBI tightens cuffs on real estate fraud

Undercover investigations lead to arrests

Six individuals in North Carolina were charged last week for their roles in a mortgage fraud ring that cost lenders up to $130 million in potential losses, according to the FBI. The Bureau in 2002 began sending undercover agents into seven organizations involved in the fraud ring, which led to the identification of the fraudulent loans.

The investigation was one of several the FBI highlighted to show progress made by its ongoing initiative to crack down on financial institution fraud. FBI investigators target a variety of financial fraud schemes, including mortgage and loan fraud, insider fraud, financial institution failure investigations, identity theft, check fraud and check kiting.

Read More

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

Today's Historical Building

The Cornell Store and Flats, Walter Burley Griffin architect

Few architects have a Landmark District named after them, as does Walter Burley Griffin (1876-1937). A native of Oak Park, Griffin studied architecture at the University of Illinois. After working on his own for a few years, in 1901 Griffin joined the studio of famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright, where he was the office manager and construction supervisor for many of Wright's early designs. Another of Wright's employees at the time was Marion Mahoney, whom Griffin married in 1911.

In 1906, Griffin opened his own architectural office. Most of his commissions were for private residences, which permitted him to develop his own unique approach to the Prairie School style.

Among his notable local designs are three sets of twin houses (1400-block of Church Street in Evanston, and the 5900-block of North Magnolia and 2300-block of West Montana in Chicago), the Cornell Store and Flats at 1220 E. 75th St., the Tolles House in the Longwood Drive District, , and the seven houses in the Walter Burley Griffin Place District, which comprises the city's greatest concentration of Prairie-style architecture.

Cornell Store and Flats Posted by Hello

Monday, September 20, 2004

Today's Historical Building

The Abraham Lincoln Center 700 E. Oakwood Boulevard, Chicago

Frank Lloyd Wright designed this building for his uncle the Reverend Jenkin Lloyd Jones. The building was to contain an auditorium, meeting rooms, offices, a kitchen, living quarters and street level shops. Wright produced designs and models for his uncle. The uncle and Wright quarreled over the design. In 1902 Wright turned the project over to Dwight Perkins and wrote on the blueprints "bldg. completed over protest of architect" The center was opened in 1905.

John Lloyd Wright claims that the original design for this building should be dated 1888, and was his fathers first architectural work.

The Abraham Lincoln Center Posted by Hello

Sunday, September 19, 2004

Real estate: The week ahead

Inman News

Inman News' fall audio conference series begins Sept. 23, at 11 a.m. PST with "Alternative Real Estate Business Models." The event includes an interactive discussion on current commission levels, the traditional brokerage model and industry newcomers, among other topics.

The Federal Reserve Board will meet on Sept. 21, to discuss monetary policy and decide whether or not to raise, lower or leave the overnight federal funds rate unchanged.

The annual Identity Risk Conference, hosted by ID Analytics, is slated for Sept. 21-23, in Carlsbad, Calif. The event features representatives from financial services, wireless, government and technology sectors, and will provide a broad perspective on identity fraud and related issues.

The National Reverse Mortgage Lenders Association will meet in Chicago, Sept. 19-21, for its annual meeting. Some of the topics to be discussed include the new "science" of wealth span planning, assessing the decision-making capacity of older adults, and measuring the impact rising interest rates on the reverse mortgage business.

The New England Mortgage Banking Conference is slated for Sept. 22-24, in Providence, R.I.

The Texas Association of Mortgage Brokers will meet Sept. 23-25, in Houston for its annual convention.

Brownfields 2004: Gateway to revitalization, hosted by the Environmental Protection Agency, is slated for Sept. 20-22, in St. Louis.

Saturday, September 18, 2004

Appraisers: Not Going Away

What a difference a year makes!

The message at the Predictive Methods Conference (PMC) changed markedly from previous years, where appraisers may have left wondering if they were going the way of the buggy whip. The mantra this year – from virtually everyone presenting, is that appraisers are not going away. AVMs are great tools – for review and quality control, but are not reliable enough to replace appraisers except in certain circumstances- where the data and the credit score of the borrower - are strong. (PMC brings together the leading providers and users of mortgage technology. And increasingly, interested parties from the appraisal industry.)

Statistics regarding AVM use are hard to pin down and can be misleading. While the percentage of loans involving AVMs is high – upwards of 60 percent, they mostly are used post funding for review and quality control, experts say. The percentage of new loans where AVMs actually replace appraisers remains fairly low - in the five-eight percent range. And that number is not expected to increase much.

Lenders are beginning to echo what appraisers have been saying all along: that rising housing prices over the past several years have covered most underwriting sins. But with rising interest rates and a cooling market, they predict lenders will put the brakes on AVMs while portfolio assets come under closer scrutiny

Friday, September 17, 2004

16th annual Edgewater housewalk

Edgewater Historical Society

Twin homes on the tour designed by the noted architect Walter Burley Griffin will be among the nine vintage residences open for touring on Sunday during a housewalk in the Edgewater neighborhood. The homes are in an area developed in the 1890s called Magnolia Glen.

Griffin was the construction supervisor for many of Frank Lloyd Wright's early designs, notes the Landmarks Division of the Chicago Department of Planning and Development.Hours are noon to 4 p.m. Tours begin at Bethany Evangelical Lutheran Church, 1244 W. Thorndale. Tickets are $20

Playboy Mansion Chicago

Today's Historical Home

Hugh Hefner bought 1340 N. State Parkway in 1959 and turned it into the Playboy Mansion. Hefner left in 1971 and moved to California. The mansion was donated to the school of the Chicago Art Institute and was used for student housing. Later it was converted into condominiums. If only these walls could talk!

Playboy Mansion 1340 N. State Street, Chicago, IL. Posted by Hello

Thursday, September 16, 2004

The Top 5 U.S. cities for retirees

Hurricanes and sweltering summer heat aside, Florida is still a great place to retire. Yet it's not necessarily the top spot in the country.

Based on David Savageau's research, those honors go to a coastal community 3,000 miles away that's not even in the Sunbelt.

The half-million U.S. seniors who move between states each year should think about retiring to Florence, Ore., says the author of the just-published 2004 edition of "Retirement Places Rated."

Based in part on his nationwide travels in an Airstream RV, Savageau chose 203 retirement spots to rate after factoring in safety, affordability, age-based demographic trends, population size and natural resources.

He then ranked them on the basis of ambiance, cost-of-living, climate, personal safety, services such as health care and education and local economy. That last factor, Savageau says, is especially important to seniors who plan to work during their retirement

1. Florence, Ore.
Florence, based on Oregon's central coast with a full-time population of 7,000, fulfills most if not all of the criteria that retirees and baby boomers seek. It get high marks for ambiance: There are massive dunes to hike, sea lions to watch, lighthouses to photograph, golf courses to blaze and mushrooms to hunt. Plus, there's Historic Old Town, which features art galleries and antique stores.

2. Scottsdale, Ariz.
Just northeast of Phoenix, this 185-square-mile city with a population of 250,000 is far from an undiscovered gem. But it is a perennial favorite, especially when it comes to climate (the number of sunny days per year is 314 and average precipitation is just 7.66 inches) and ambiance (there are 180 art galleries and as many golf courses, including six of the top 100 in the country, according to Golf magazine.)

3. Charleston, S.C.
Nestled on the coast, South Carolina's second largest city boasts unique architecture (it's one of the oldest cities in the country), warm Southern hospitality (it's been designated "America's Most Mannerly City" for nine years running) and warm weather (the average January low is 38 and the average August high is 89).

4. Melbourne-Palm Bay, Fla.
Hurricanes notwithstanding, this part of Florida's Space Coast is home to 33 miles of mostly unspoiled beaches, the Cracker Fest, greyhound race tracks and weather that's almost always warm -- January's average low is 51 and July's average high is 90. Despite its climate, Melbourne-Palm Bay is not necessarily known as a retirement community, says Chuck Galy of Melbourne's Chamber of Commerce.

5. North County San Diego
Over on the other coast, 30 miles north of San Diego, is this popular retirement area, which includes the cities of La Jolla and Del Mar. And what's not to like?

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

What kind of home marketing should sellers expect?

A look at full-service brokerage offerings

Home sellers have a full array of options available to them when they list their home for sale. They can pay a minimal fee to have their home listed on the Multiple Listing Service, and do the rest themselves. Or they can pay 5 percent to 6 percent of the sale price to a full service broker who handles all aspects of the marketing and sale of the home. In other words, you get what you pay for, or you should. Here's what you should expect if you opt for full service brokerage.

Before you even list your home for sale, your agent should provide you with a marketing proposal and comparative market analysis. The marketing proposal should explain in detail what your agent would do to bring about the successful sale of your property.

Ask to see samples of advertisements. What sort of the brochure or flyer is the agent going to provide? How often will your home be held open?

More and more buyers are using the Internet to help them find a home to buy. For example, in the tech-savvy San Francisco Bay Area, approximately 75 percent of home buyers start their home search on the Internet. So make sure that your agent, or realty company, has made a commitment to advertising their listings on the Internet. In addition, make sure that photos of your home will be included.


Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Anti-predatory law causes decline in real estate lending

Study finds minority, low-income borrowers hit hardest

North Carolina's 1999 anti-predatory lending law has caused lending to decline among minority and low-income borrowers, according to the findings of a study released today by the Mortgage Bankers Association.

The study, conducted by Abt Associates, analyzed the changes in lending in North Carolina and neighboring states of Tennessee and South Carolina before and after passage of the North Carolina law. Abt Associates examined lending volumes on a neighborhood-by-neighborhood basis for prime and subprime lenders.

"The study reveals, vis-?-vis the anti-predatory lending bill, the North Carolina state legislature has imposed a modern-day form of redlining on its citizens by choking off mortgage credit to minority and low-income neighborhoods," said Robert M. Couch, MBA's chairman. He also is president and CEO of Birmingham, Ala.-based New South Federal Savings Bank.


MLSNI denies fraud, mismanagement

President speaks out on forensic audit findings

In a letter sent Thursday to members of the Multiple Listing Service of Northern Illinois, MLSNI President Loretta Alonzo said a recent forensic audit of the company found no evidence of fraud.

"The audit findings included no evidence of fraud, financial mismanagement, misappropriation of funds, or any inappropriate activity whatsoever by MLSNI staff, officers or Board members," Alonzo wrote.

MLSNI and its CEO Jay Huffman were the subject of a forensic audit performed by PricewaterhouseCoopers, who presented the results to the MLSNI Shareholder Boards and Associations of Realtors on Aug. 3.

The MLSNI board of directors met on Aug. 25 to review the audit findings and discuss appropriate response. Board members took no action on shareholder recommendations to resolve all issues related to Huffman's performance as CEO, according to sources present at the meeting. They also voted to keep Robert T. Cichocki as corporate legal counsel, rather than terminate as shareholders recommended

Read More

Monday, September 13, 2004

Today's Historical House

Isabel Roberts House 603 Edgewood, River Forest, Il.

Frank Lloyd Wright designed this house for his secretary in 1908. Originally built in stucco, it was covered in brick veneer in 1927. Wright supervised the remodeling of this house in 1955. The unique feature of this house is the 100 year old English elm tree growing through the roof.

For more Frank Lloyd Wright homes go HERE

Isabel Roberts House 603 Edgewood Place, River Forest, Il Posted by Hello

Sunday, September 12, 2004

Change coming for overnight interest rates

Fed reports economic 'expansion' in August

Rates fell this week, not a lot, but back to the post-spring lows: low-fee mortgages shading under 5.75 percent, taken there by the 10-year T-note trading persistently in the 4-teens.

Last week's news of modest job creation in August has been overtaken by the reality of negligible inflation (wholesale "producer" prices fell .1 percent last month), and Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan's formal acknowledgement of that fact in testimony to Congress on Wednesday: "...Inflation and inflation expectations have eased in recent months."
However, Greenspan also said, "The most recent data suggest that, on the whole, the expansion has regained some traction." Traders gave that comment a collective "Huh?" along with sideways glances and "What data? Our expansion, or one in some other country?" The Fed's own "beige book" was thin reading. The chairman's optimism looks more like cover for continuing hikes in the Fed funds rate toward neutral than any prospect of economic growth on the order of last spring's.


Saturday, September 11, 2004

Is the Housing Boom Over?

Home Prices Have Gone Up For So Long That People Think They'll Never Drop

For years the debate has been raging: Is it a bubble or isn't it? Two years ago FORTUNE looked at the housing market and saw reasons to be concerned. While home prices nationally were only 5% to 10% overvalued, we said, some frothy markets, mainly on the coasts, were more than 20% above historical norms. Our conclusion: While the trends were worrisome, "for the nation as a whole, no housing bubble exists ... we're not there yet."

Two years later it looks like "there" is finally here. The housing market is rapidly losing touch with reality. Fueled by interest rates that have remained near record lows, prices have continued to soar, and the gap between home values and the underlying fundamentals such as personal income and job growth is greater than ever. The most alarming development, though, is the change in psychology. "The market isn't acting rationally," says Christopher Thornberg, an economist at UCLA. "It's now an emotion-driven market where people are buying on the expectation of future appreciation." Increasingly Americans view houses not primarily as places to live but as foolproof, can't-lose investments. The passionate faith that money poured into real estate will magically multiply is creating a self-fulfilling speculative frenzy that's bound to end badly.


Friday, September 10, 2004

Neighborhoods seek spot on historic registry

With community pride and potential tax breaks at stake, four city neighborhoods are trying to get their bungalow-filled blocks placed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The North and Northwest side areas are vying to create federally recognized historic districts, making bungalows within them eligible for tax relief if owners tackle renovation projects that cost at least 25 percent of the home's value.

That's a large undertaking though, so much of the historic register effort is about pride.
"I just figured it's kind of nice to say you are living in a historic bungalow," said Louis Krueger, 75, who is pushing the designation effort in his North Mayfair neighborhood.

He and his wife raised four kids in their bungalow in the 4900 block of North Kenneth, a home built in 1924 for $6,500. There are about 750 similar homes in his neighborhood bounded by Foster, Lawrence, Kedvale and Kilbourn.

He and other volunteers are collecting old building permits and historical data to submit first to the city, then state and finally the federal government. Official listing on the U.S. register could come in 2005.

Being in a historic district doesn't get you a fancy plaque -- but it doesn't bring the tight construction restrictions assigned to landmark buildings either. The most tangible benefit is getting property tax bills frozen for eight years if you sink 25 percent of the home's value into rehab work. The tax bill gradually increases to the home's true, post-rehab assessment between the ninth and 12th years.

In addition to North Mayfair, residents in two separate districts roughly bounded by Western, California, Lunt and Devon are also planning historic district applications. And the Wrightwood Boulevard Community, which includes 55 bungalows in the 4600 and 4700 blocks of West Wrightwood, already has its paperwork in and could be designated this month.

It would be the third bungalow district in the city designated by the feds. The Schorsch Irving Park Garden and the South Park Manor districts were approved in March.

Annual Oak Park "Painted Lady" Housewalk

"Painted Lady" Housewalk by the 19th Century Club

Seven elaborately painted Victorian residences will be open for viewing on Saturday during the annual Painted Lady housewalk in Oak Park and River Forest.

Hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tickets are $40, or $35 in advance. Tickets are available at the 19th Century Club, 178 Forest Avenue, Oak Park (708) 386-2729

Wednesday, September 08, 2004

Alta Vista Terrace, Chicago, IL. Posted by Hello

Real estate sales should eclipse last year's records

Forecast projects higher home prices

Existing-home sales should reach a record 6.5 million this year, a 5.7 percent increase over last year's record 6.1 million sales, the National Association of Realtors reported today in its latest monthly forecast for the year. Meanwhile, new-home sales are expected to rise to a record 1.16 million, or 7.1 percent higher than last year's numbers. And housing starts are forecast to increase 4.8 percent to 1.94 million in 2004, the strongest pace since 1978.

This existing-home sales forecast represents a slight improvement over last month's forecast, which called for 6.45 million existing-home sales this year. This month's new-home sales forecast for the year is down slightly from last month's forecast, which estimated that new-home sales would reach 1.2 million this year.

Read More

Today's Historical Home

Alta Vista Terrace District, 3800 block of North Alta Vista Terrace

Built 1900-04 J.C. Brompton, architect, designated a Chicago Landmark September 15, 1971. This street represents one of the last real estate developments of Samuel Eberly Gross, a highly colorful realtor responsible for the construction of thousands of houses in the Chicago area.

Sometimes called "A Street of Forty Doors," Alta Vista Terrace displays a lively variety of architectural styles and detail, yet every townhouse on one side is duplicated with only minor variations at the diagonally opposite end of the block.

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

Mortgage tech firm closes fully paperless loan

All-electronic mortgage ready to be sold on secondary market

Document Processing Systems announced this week that it had closed what it calls the nation's first successful implementation of a fully paperless, all-electronic mortgage.

The mortgage was closed using DPS eMortgage Studio, which was used by all parties, including lender, document provider, title company, settlement agent, notary and borrower to electronically create, execute, register and store all documents for the settlement.

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Sunday, September 05, 2004

Today's Historical House

Clarence and Grace Hall Hemingway House

Built in 1906 by architect Henry Fiddelke this was the home of Ernest Hemingway from 1906 until he graduated from Oak Park high school in 1917. The house is located at 600 N. Kenilworth, Oak Park, IL.

Clarence and Grace Hall Hemingway House Posted by Hello

Saturday, September 04, 2004

Why Preserve?

What Does "Historic" Mean, Anyway?

Let's face it: The label "historic" gets applied to so many different kinds of places -- from ancient ruins and Gothic cathedrals to World War II battlefields and Art Deco skyscrapers -- that it's sometimes hard to figure out exactly what it means.

What is it that makes a place "historic"? And who decides what's "historic" and what isn't?

Clearly, it's a complicated issue -- but there's a fairly simple way to approach it: Instead of asking, "Is this building historic?", it may make more sense to ask, "Is this building worth saving?"

When you strip away all the jargon and rhetoric, historic preservation is simply having the good sense to hang on to something -- an older building or neighborhood or a piece of landscape, for instance -- because it's important to us as individuals and/or as a nation. This importance may derive from any of several factors.

Some older buildings are important simply because they're good to look at. As one author put it, they are "a gift to the street" whose style, textures, materials and charm (and maybe even eccentricity) enrich and enliven their surroundings. These buildings are worth saving because our communities would be less interesting, less attractive, without them.

Others are worth saving because they have plenty of good use left in them. Innovative examples of what's called "adaptive use" can be found everywhere. Factories have been turned into convention centers, train stations reborn as restaurants, mills converted into shopping centers, office buildings transformed into apartments, and on and on.

This process is good for the environment: Think of it as the Ultimate Recycling. It can be good for the pocketbook too, since reusing an old building means avoiding the expense of demolition and saving materials and craftsmanship that are costly (or even impossible) to replace today.

Finally, some places are worth saving because they link us with our past and help us understand who we are. Places like Gettysburg, the Alamo and Independence Hall tell America's story, and we'd never allow them to be destroyed.

But places that tell your story are worth saving too: the house where your grandparents lived, the school you attended, the movie theatre where you had your first date, the church where you were married.

That's what historic preservation is really all about. It's about hanging on to what's important.

Today's Historical House

The William Drummond House 559 Edgewood Place, River Forest, IL.

William Drummond worked with Frank Lloyd Wright from 1899 to 1909. His personal house built in 1910, owes much to Wright's "Fireproof House" published in the Ladies Home Journal in 1907. Edgewood Place contains two other Wright homes and two other Drummond homes.

For more information on River Forest homes go to Citywide Services

William Drummond House Posted by Hello

Real estate: The week ahead

Inman News

The XLII Interamerican Conference for Housing Development is slated for Sept. 6-8, in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. This event is focused on "Consolidating Urban and Housing Systems: Challenges and Opportunities for the American Continent."

"America's Town Meeting" will take place Sept. 8-10, in Washington, D.C. The annual conference is held by the National Association of Towns and Townships, and will explore new technologies altering the face of small-town America, as well as regulations and emerging issues.

The GOING conference, held by WestStart/CALSTART, will take place Sept. 10, in Boulder, Colo. The conference agenda includes sessions on alternatives to car dependency, connecting existing technologies to viable community transportation services, and assembling these technologies to work together for local communities.

The Fall Regional Default Servicing Seminar is slated for Sept. 8-10, in Orlando, Fla. The event is held by America's Mortgage Banking Attorneys.

The Neighborhood Reinvestment Corp. will hold the NeighborWorks Community Leadership Institute Sept. 9-12, in Los Angeles. The theme of the Institute is "Community Building: Each One, Reach One, Teach One."

Downturn strikes economy

Mortgage rates to remain below 6.5% into '05

Financial Frances made landfall in New York at 8:30 this morning.

Right, wrong, or subsequently to be revised, high winds from the Labor Department brought word of new jobs added to payrolls. Not a lot of them 144,000 in August, and another 59,000 found washed up on the beach from June and July but enough to lift interest rates.

Mortgages are rising toward 6 percent; the 10-year T-note is trading at 4.29 percent, decisively out of its 4.08 percent-4.18 percent gloomy-pleasure range; and the more dramatic 3.3 percent-to-3.5 percent move in the 5-year indicates unanimous expectation of another .25 percent from the Fed at its meeting in three weeks. That move, from 1.5 percent in the overnight cost of money to 1.75 percent, had been considered hostage to today's job data.

The damage from the payroll news would have been worse had all other indicators not been weak weak here in the United States, and among trading partners.

In early summer Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan insisted that a sudden economic slowing after a sparkling spring was merely a "soft patch," a gathering of breath before resumed vigorous expansion; he observed further that all long-running expansions include intermissions. Four months later, there isn't anyone left in the financial markets who believes in his benign description of a more persistent slowdown (aside from the always hopeful pushers of stocks).

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Friday, September 03, 2004

Today's Historical House

The Charles E. Roberts Stable

Roberts was a benefactor of the young Frank Lloyd Wright and commissioned him to remodel the stable next to his house into a residence for his son. The stable was built in 1886 and remodeled by FLW in 1896 is located at 317 N. Euclid Avenue, Oak Park, Illinois.

The Charles E. Roberts stable 317 N. Euclid Avenue, Oak Park, Illinois Posted by Hello

Job-market woes push mortgage rates lower

30-year fixed holds below 6% for fifth consecutive week

Mortgage rates sank this week in response to a sharp drop in consumer confidence for August, according to surveys conducted by mortgage buyer Freddie Mac and Bankrate.

In Freddie Mac's weekly survey, the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged 5.77 percent, with an average 0.8 points, for the week ended today, down from last week when it averaged 5.82 percent.

The average for the 15-year fixed-rate mortgage this week is 5.15 percent, with an average 0.7 points, also down from last week when it averaged 5.21 percent.

One-year Treasury-indexed adjustable-rate mortgages averaged 3.97 percent this week, with an average 0.8 point, down more from last week when it averaged 4.05 percent.

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Thursday, September 02, 2004

U.S. real estate prices post record appreciation

Annual rise of 9.36% highest in 25 years

Average U.S. home prices increased 9.36 percent from the second quarter of 2003 through the second quarter of 2004, according to figures released today from the Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight's House Price Index.

Appreciation for the most recent quarter was 2.21 percent, or an annualized rate of 8.83 percent, according to OFHEO's index, a quarterly report that analyzes housing-price appreciation trends.

"The appreciation over the past year is the largest four-quarter increase since 1979," said Patrick Lawler, chief economist at OFHEO. "These data show no signs of the long-anticipated, and ultimately inevitable, slowing of house-price inflation." The quarterly appreciation is more than 50 percent faster than the upward revised 1.45 percent increase in the first quarter of 2004. Over the past four quarters, house price rises far exceeded gains in the prices of non-housing goods and services incorporated into the Consumer Price Index. House prices rose 9.36 percent, while the price of other goods and services rose 3.03 percent

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Mortgage rates fall

30-year down at 5.4%; 10-year Treasury down at 4.12%

Long-term mortgage interest rates were lower Tuesday, and the benchmark 10-year Treasury bond yield fell to 4.12 percent. The 30-year fixed-rate average dropped to 5.4 percent, and the 15-year fixed-rate sank to 4.8 percent. The 1-year adjustable was down at 3.21 percent. The 30-year Treasury bond yield decreased to 4.93 percent.

Rates are current as of 7:15 p.m. Eastern Standard Time.

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Wednesday, September 01, 2004

Frank Lloyd Wright's Lincoln on display

2004 Pebble Beach Concours

The Continental, built from Lincoln's Zephyr platform, was the first automobile to be honored for design excellence and placed on display by New York's Museum of Modern Art.

To promote its stunning new car, Lincoln offered free cars to prominent Americans like Frank Lloyd Wright, who had called it the most beautiful car in the world. But Wright demanded two cars, one for each of his homes. They agreed, and gave him a coupe and a convertible, each one painted in his signature color--Cherokee red.

In 1947, the convertible was rolled in an accident and instead of simply repairing it, Wright decided to redesign the car, penning a town car roof with half-moon shaped opera windows, piano hinged at the bottom, and no rear window. His wife referred to it as his "love wagon."

Now owned by motion picture producer Joel Silver. The cars reside at Silver's plantation in South Carolina, which was built by Wright and restored by Wright's son, Lloyd.

Frank Lloyd Wright's 1941 Lincoln Continental Posted by Hello

Frank Lloyd Wright's custom Lincoln Continental Posted by Hello

31th Annual Historic Pullman House Tour

October 9 & 10, 2004 Homes open 11:00am - 5:00pm

Make plans to visit Pullman for the 31st annual house tour. One weekend each year, Pullman residents open their homes to the public for the annual Historic Pullman House Tour. These 120-year-old landmark homes range from executive mansions to14-foot wide worker's cottages to multi-unit apartments, all with a charm and uniqueness that is part of the Pullman experience.

For advance tickets and other information go HERE

Mortgage rates steady

30-year holds at 5.44%; 10-year Treasury down at 4.18%

Long-term mortgage interest rates were flat Monday, and the benchmark 10-year Treasury bond yield fell to 4.18 percent.

The 30-year fixed-rate average remained at 5.44 percent, and the 15-year fixed-rate stayed at 4.84 percent. The 1-year adjustable was down at 3.23 percent.
The 30-year Treasury bond yield decreased to 4.98 percent.

Rates are current as of 7:15 p.m. Eastern Standard Time.

Read more at Citywide Services

Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Today's Historical House

The William E. Martin House

Driving in Oak Park last Sunday I took this shot of the William E. Martin House by Frank Lloyd Wright. This stucco house was built in 1903 and shows powerful horizontal and vertical lines.

For more on the Martin House go to Citywide Services

The William E. Martin House, Frank Lloyd Wright architect Posted by Hello

Proposed bank program challenges Freddie Mac, Fannie Mae

Seattle bank seeks broader loan options for home buyers

The Federal Home Loan Bank of Seattle has filed an application with the Federal Housing Finance Board to purchase mortgage securities from cooperative bank members and resell them to bank system members, other federal home loan banks and investors outside the system.

This proposed MortgageChoice program, an extension of the bank's existing Mortgage Purchase Program, would give the bank a greater role in offering a secondary market alternative for mortgages, which would extend more options to home buyers seeking home loans through the bank's member financial institutions, according to an announcement today by the Federal Home Loan Bank of Seattle. The new offering could also enable the Seattle Bank to better manage its financial risk, bank officials announced.

Under its Mortgage Purchase Program, the Seattle Bank can purchase mortgage loans not securities and hold them in portfolio. With approval from the finance board, the bank could purchase mortgage securities from its members and resell them to a broad base of financial institutions and investors.

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Monday, August 30, 2004

40-year fixed-rate mortgages appear

Pilot program targets first-time home buyers

A young woman in Minnesota was looking for the lowest possible monthly payment she could get with a fixed-rate mortgage. Instead of opting for the standard 30-year fixed-rate mortgage, she chose to stretch the loan an additional 10 years.

Now thanks to a 40-year fixed-rate mortgage, the woman can afford slightly more house than the first-time home buyer would've been able to purchase without it, said Brad Crandall, president of CU Mortgage Services. Owned by 54 Minnesota credit union organizations, CU Mortgage Services is one of about a dozen credit unions across the country to begin offering 40-year fixed-rate mortgages as part of a pilot program through Fannie Mae.

Interest in the loan has been slow so far, Crandall and others have said, but they expect it to pick up as interest rates increase and price out some first-time home buyers from the ever-appreciating housing market. Fannie Mae rolled out the pilot earlier this year to gauge how popular such a loan would be. The idea behind the extra 10 years is simple: Make houses more affordable to more consumers by extending the loan terms.

Still, the concept has been slow to catch on. Fannie Mae spokeswoman Sandy Cutts believes that's because interest rates are still so low.

"It's not quite the right time, ideal time, for it yet," Cutts said. "It's still building some momentum."

By the end of the year, Fannie Mae hopes to know how popular the 40-year mortgage is within the pilot programs, Cutts said. There is no timeline yet on whether Fannie will expand the pilot program to other lenders or make it a permanent offering.

Read more at Inman News