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.