Saturday, April 30, 2005

Wright Plus 2005 Saturday May 21st

Michaels Guide to attending the housewalk.

The Wright Plus Housewalk is the main fundraising event for the Frank Lloyd Wright Preservation Trust. In the past 30 years some 60,000 people have attended the event.

Its a good idea to purchase your tickets in advance. Tickets cost $70.00 for a Preservation Trust member and $85.00 for non-members. You can purchase tickets on-line at or at the Ginkgo Tree Bookshop at 951 Chicago Avenue next to the FLW home and studio in Oak Park.

This will be a very busy day so start early. Parking is free in the Holley Court Parking Garage. You can walk from there or take the complimentary shuttle. The tour buildings will be open from 9am to 5pm. Wear comfortable shoes and be prepared for a lot of standing. The lines will be the longest at the FLW houses and I always plan at being at the most popular house waiting before 9am.

Three public buildings by Wright are part of the walk. These include the Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio, the Unity Temple and the Frederick C. Robie House in Chicago. With you Wright Plus ticket you can visit these any time during 2005 so its not a good idea to fight the lines and see them on Saturday.

There are four private residences by FLW that are open. These include the George W. Furbeck House, the Rollin Furbeck House, the Harry C. Goodrich House and the William G. Fricke House.Another four houses are included in the walk by architects Henry Fiddelke, Tallmadge & Watson, and George Maher.

Check out photographs of the tour homes at Citywide Services and enjoy the housewalk

Friday, April 29, 2005

HomeServices company launches flat-fee brokerage

EquiSave offers limited service for $3,295

If you can't beat 'em, join 'em. That seems to be the strategy behind a HomeServices company's move to open a new flat-fee real estate brokerage in Iowa late last week.

HomeServices of Iowa has opened EquiSave, which offers to help homeowners sell their houses for a flat fee of $3,295, sources confirmed. HomeServices of Iowa is a newly formed holding company under the HomeServices of America umbrella.

The move marks a significant departure from the usual HomeServices full-service brokerage company models, which typically charge homeowners a percentage of the home sale. HomeServices' operating companies offer brokerage services, mortgage originations, title and closing services, home warranties, property and casualty insurance, and other related services.

Read the entire Inman News story by Jessica Swesey.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Falling interest rates boost real estate purchases

Refi activity at highest level since March

Overall mortgage applications increased last week, going up 5.9 percent on a seasonally adjusted basis from the week before, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association's weekly survey.

The MBA seasonally adjusted purchase index increased by 3.3 percent to 482 from 466.7 percent the previous week. The seasonally adjusted refinance index increased by 9.8 percent to 2,052.5 from 1,870 one week earlier.

The refinance share of mortgage activity increased to 39.3 percent of total applications, from 38 percent the previous week. The adjustable-rate-mortgage share of activity decreased to 34.7 percent of total applications, from 35.4 percent the previous week.

"With a 9.8 percent increase in applications, refinance activity is at its highest level since March 11," said Michael Cevarr, director of member surveys at MBA, in a statement. "However, refinance applications volume is down 14.6 percent from one year ago."

The average contract interest rate for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages decreased to 5.75 percent from 5.83 percent one week earlier. Points including the origination fee remained at 1.28 for 80 percent loan-to-value loans.

The average contract interest rate for 15-year fixed-rate mortgages decreased to 5.33 percent from 5.4 percent one week earlier. Points including the origination fee increased to 1.26 from 1.2 for 80 percent loan-to-value loans.

The average contract interest rate for one-year adjustable-rate mortgages decreased to 4.15 percent from 4.22 percent one week earlier. Points including the origination fee decreased to 0.97 from 1.01 for 80 percent loan-to-value loans.

Read more Inman News at Citywide Services

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Midwest real estate markets post mixed results

Home prices continue to climb

Housing markets in Illinois and Ohio posted mixed results in March, but maintained near-record sales levels, according to the Realtor associations in both states.

In Ohio, home sales reached 11,929 in March, a 5.9 percent increase from the 11,261 sales recorded during the month last year, according to the Ohio Association of Realtors. The month's average sales price of $148,517 is a 3.6 percent increase over the March 2004 average sales price of $143,411.

Ohio's first-quarter sales of new and existing homes totaled 27,488, a 6 percent increase from the prior record of 25,940 sales posted during the period in 2004.

The state's average sale price (January-March) of $147,172 marks a 4.5 percent increase from the $140,830 average posted during the period a year ago.

In Illinois, March single-family home sales totaled 9,657, down 1.6 percent from 9,817 sales in March 2004 (a historic high for March Illinois home sales). The median price of a single-family home in March 2005 was $184,500, up 10.5 percent from $167,000 in 2004, the Illinois Association of Realtors reported. The median is a typical market price where half the homes sold for more, half sold for less.

Year-to-date, Illinois home sales are off a scant 0.4 percent, from 22,696 homes sold in the first three months of 2004 to 22,602 sales for the same period in 2005.

"Illinois Realtors typically see signs of the spring housing market early in March but the nudge up in mortgage interest rates and higher oil and gas prices factored in to this late start," said John Veneris, president of the Illinois Association of Realtors. "Housing inventories are improving, however, which also will ease prices and help rebalance the market. Buyers should have more choices in the coming months."

A total of 4,502 condominium sales were sold in Illinois in March, up 8.3 percent from 4,156 sales in the same month last year. The statewide condominium median price for March was $200,700, up 8.5 percent from $185,000 one year ago.

In the Chicagoland Primary Metropolitan Statistical Area (PMSA), single-family home sales totaled 5,874, down 2.1 percent from 5,998 home sales in March 2004. The median single-family home price for the Chicagoland PMSA was $249,000, up 9 percent from $228,500 in March 2004.

Condominium sales in the Chicagoland PMSA rose 8.2 percent in March to 4,373 units sold, while the condominium median sales price increased 9.6 percent to $205,000. In March 2004 condo sales for the Chicagoland PMSA totaled 4,040 and the median price was $187,000.

Read more Inman News at Citywide Services

Monday, April 25, 2005

Real estate rates escape forecasts, head south

Fed struggles with 'real recession' possibility

Mortgage rates fell again this week, now the lowest since February. The 10-year T-note has held a 4.2 percent-4.3 percent range, taking even the lowest-fee 30-year mortgages to 5.75 percent, but I can hardly over-emphasize the instability in the markets. The prevailing theory causing stocks to sink and bonds to do well is unproven, unprecedented, improbable – and might be correct anyway.

One lesser theory died quickly this week, the notion that the huge, two-week bond rally taking rates down almost a half-percent was a mechanical mirror of a straight-down stock market. Last week was stocks-straight-down, Wall Streeters offering clients the traditional euphemism, "unexpected volatility," bonds improving at each stock slide. This week stocks entered true volatility, down 100-Dow points Wednesday, up 200 on Thursday, sinking again today, but bonds held steady.

The real bond trade has not been tied just to stocks, but to energy prices, inflation, and expectations of the Fed and the economy. For anyone who lived through the 1970s, or studied them – let alone worked in financial markets then – the theory behind this vigorous return to very low long-term rates is wishful.

Read more Lou Barnes Imnan News at Citywide Services

Sunday, April 24, 2005

Real estate: The week ahead

Urban planners head to Texas; 'Living Green' kicks off in Minnesota

The Urban Land Institute's 2005 Spring Council Forum is slated for April 27-29, in San Antonio, Texas. Council members of ULI will gather for two days of workshops, meetings and tours. Author and New York Times columnist David Brooks will be the featured speaker.

The Seaside Institute, Looney Ricks Kiss Architects will host "Uptown, Downtown and Around Town: Building Value in a Community," April 27-29, in Memphis, Tenn. The program is designed to be a candid discussion of the pitfalls and successes of Memphis' revitalization through a series of case studies and tours.

The Living Green Expo, hosted by the Minnesota Office of Environmental Assistance, will take place April 30-May 1, in St. Paul, Minn. The expo features 72 concurrent workshops on a variety of sustainability and "living green" topics throughout both days. Topics include transportation, energy, home building and remodeling, recreation and leisure, and household practices and products.

The 2005 Western Regional Mutual Self-Help Housing Conference is slated for April 26-28, in Salt Lake City. The event, hosted by the Rural Community Assistance Corp. and USDA-Rural Development, includes sessions for board members, construction supervisors, group coordinators, program directors, bookkeepers, grant managers, housing counseling staff, and USDA-Rural Development staff. There will be job-related and regional networking sessions. The workshop tracks are management, real estate development, design and construction, marketing and recruitment, fiscal management, loan underwriting, and Self-Help 101

Read more Inman News at Citywide Services

Friday, April 22, 2005

Chicago Bungalow's Posted by Hello

2005 Chicago Bungalow Expo

Chicago is home to more bungalows than any other single building type. Estimates hover at around 80,000 bungalows just within city limits, representing nearly one-third of the single-family homes

To help preserve these significant homes, Mayor Daley announced the beginning of the Historic Chicago Bungalow Initiative in September of 2000. The initiative offered incentives to buy and rehab bungalows and for present owners to improve them. The grants do not depend on income, but solely on the purchase or ownership of a Chicago bungalow.

The Historic Chicago Bungalow Expo' 05 will be held April 30, 2005 from 10am to 4pm at the Illinois Institute of Technology, Herman Union Building -3241 S. Federal Street.

About 9,000 are expected to attend the expo, where bungalow owners can find over 100 exhibitors that provide goods and services to preserve and modernize their Chicago bungalow.

There will be approximately 50 workshops covering everything from the building permit process, financing and kitchen design. You can apply to certify your bungalow at the Expo. Staff will be on hand for same day certification.

For more information go to

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Reverse mortgage ignorance a growing trend

Many seniors unaware of home's long-term-care-financing potential

The National Council on the Aging (NCOA) has published a report showing that reverse mortgages can help an estimated 13.2 million elderly homeowners pay for long-term care, allowing many to remain independent in their homes longer.

Of the 13.2 million eligible households, an estimated 9.8 million currently have an impairment that can make it hard to live at home, according to the study, "Use Your Home to Stay at Home: Expanding the Use of Reverse Mortgages to Pay for Long-Term Care."

A reverse mortgage is a loan that enables homeowners 62 years or older to borrow against the equity in their home, without having to sell their home, give up title, or take on a new monthly mortgage payment. The loan proceeds, which can be used for any purpose, may be taken out as a lump sum payment, fixed monthly payment, line of credit, or a combination. The loan amount depends on the borrower's age, current interest rates, and the value and location of the home.

Read the entire articla at Inman News

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Real estate rates on a tight leash

Falling bond yields hint at possible recession

Three events last week took mortgage rates back down into the fives: release of the minutes of the Fed's March meeting, news that March retail sales caved-in to energy prices, and a painful and continuing slide in the stock market.

Many loud voices in the bond market had insisted that inflation was in the process of running out of control, and the Fed would begin to jack rates up a half-percent at a time, going to 4.5 percent or more by year-end. Whether this insistence was honest forecasting or phony herd-driving no longer matters: it was mistaken. The Fed's minutes contained this sentence: "Although the required amount of cumulative tightening may have increased, members noted that an accelerated pace of policy tightening did not appear necessary at this time...." Rates fell an instant later.

Read more Inman News at Citywide Services

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Home Sales to Soften with Firm Price Appreciation

Home sales are expected to soften to a better balance this year, with price gains slowing but remaining above historic norms, according to the National Association of Realtors.

Sales of existing-homes, including single-family and condo, should ease 2.4 percent to a total of 6.62 million this year, second only to 6.78 million in 2004. New-home sales are forecast at 1.14 million in 2005, also the second highest, 5.0 percent less than the record of 1.20 million last year. Housing starts are expected to rise 1.4 percent to 1.98 million units in 2005, the highest level of housing construction since 1978.

David Lereah, NAR’s chief economist, said the supply of homes remains tight. “The simple fact is we still have more buyers than sellers in most of the country,” he said. “This supply-demand imbalance is continuing to put pressure on home prices, but we should get closer to equilibrium by the end of the year.”

Read the entire article at RISMEDIA

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Treasury Secretary urges limits on Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac growth

Snow advocates curbs on GSE portfolio expansion

U.S. Treasury Secretary John Snow advocated curbs on growth for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac in testimony before Congress today.
Snow said the mortgage giants and other government-sponsored enterprises could destabilize financial markets if allowed to grow unchecked. He was testifying before the U.S. House Financial Services Committee in a hearing on housing GSE reform.

Snow pointed out that Fannie Mae's mortgage investments grew from $114 billion to $902 billion between 1990 and 2003, while Freddie Mac's grew from $22 billion to $660 billion. Such rapid growth creates risks for the U.S. housing market, he said.

The government official's comments were in line with sentiments expressed by Alan Greenspan, chairman of the Federal Reserve, in numerous instances including Congressional testimony last week.

"The sheer size of the mortgage-based investment portfolios of the GSEs (government-sponsored enterprises) has grown well beyond anything needed in carrying out their housing mission," Snow said in comments prepared for delivery to the House Financial Services Committee panel.

For some time, U.S. lawmakers have been calling for tougher regulation for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

Read the entire INMAN News article.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Residential real estate sales expected to reach near-record highs in 2005

Sales, price increases forecast to slow from 2004 pace

The median price of existing homes is expected to grow 6.3 percent this year, reaching $196,900, according to the latest forecast by the National Association of Realtors. The median price for new homes, meanwhile, is projected to rise 5.6 percent this year, reaching $232,800.

Sales of existing-homes, including single-family and condo, should ease 2.4 percent to a total of 6.62 million this year, second to the record 6.78 million sales in 2004, the association announced. New-home sales are forecast at 1.14 million sales in 2005, or 5 percent less than the record of 1.2 million last year. Housing starts are expected to rise 1.4 percent to 1.98 million units in 2005, the highest level of housing construction since 1978.

Read more Inman News.

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Real estate foreclosures surge 50%

Rising interest rates to blame

The number of new foreclosed residential properties soared 50 percent nationwide in March from the previous month, according to, which tracks residential foreclosures and for-sale-by-owner properties.

According to data released today, 28,190 new foreclosed residential properties were listed for sale in the U.S. during March 2005, up from 18,824 in February 2005. The total number of U.S. residential foreclosure properties available for sale in the U.S. during the month of March was 80,757, an increase of 10 percent from February.

"New foreclosure inventory rose in 47 states in March. This signifies a national trend in foreclosure inventory and can likely be attributed to the rise in interest rates during the latter half of 2004, and a slowdown in the trend of rising home values in the fourth quarter of 2004," said Brad Geisen, president and CEO, "Foreclosures are most prevalent in areas of the country where home values are not rising, such as Ohio, Texas, South Carolina and Michigan. However, if the combination of rising interest rates and dropping home values continues, foreclosure inventory will likely continue to rise across the country."

Read more Inman News at Citywide Services

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

$17.9 million FSBO listing on eBay

Online services capturing do it yourself crowd

For-sale-by-owner listings are not new on the Internet, but more and more online services are giving consumers access to Web exposure. Even luxury home sellers are trying their luck at the FSBO strategy. A $17.9 home listing is usually handled by a high-end, luxury Realtor who has contacts around the world and access to unique marketing like the Sotheby's network. Now with a few keystrokes, the home can be listed on well-trafficked sites like eBay.

Of course, there isn't any evidence that these self-service options work. Historically, FSBOs have been a small part of the market and there isn't any proof that the Web has spawned a new generation of for-sale-by-owner closed sales.

Read more Inman News

Friday, April 01, 2005

Sam Zell turns away from Real Estate

Billionaire investor Sam Zell is turning away from real estate reports Crain's Chicago Business.

Blaming the cycle for the poor showing of his REIT's, Zell is turning back to acquisitions and consolidations.

Read the story in Crain's

Existing Homes Sales Slip, But Remain Strong

The robust housing market still favors home sellers: home prices rose at double-digit rates in February. According to the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS(R), existing-home sales slipped, but remained above year-ago levels.

Read the entire story at NAR

FBI Sees Increase in Mortgage Fraud

Consider's "Safe Harbor" Form for Appraisers

According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, problems with fraud related to home mortgages has grown more prevalent in recent years as low interest rates have spurred a surge in home sales.

In October 2004 testimony before the House Financial Services Housing and Community Opportunity subcommittee, Chris Swecker, the assistant director of the FBI's criminal investigation division, said the FBI is now working more closely with the mortgage industry to develop a better system for reporting fraud.

For companies or individuals not required to report suspicious activity under current law, the FBI and Mortgage Bankers Association are considering developing a Suspicious Mortgage Activity Report or "SMARt form" that would provide a "safe harbor" for lenders, appraisers, brokers, and others involved in the mortgage process, similar to other safe harbor provisions given to those in other financial institutions.