Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Second-home purchase gets easier for veterans

But original VA loan must be paid off to qualify

The tremendous the growth of the housing market is being pushed along by the lower-than-expected long-term interest rates and the idea that real estate is a wise investment. In addition, consumers are more reluctant to plow their hard-earned cash into the inconsistent conventional financial markets and now are buying an additional piece of real estate sooner in their lives.

In fact, the second-home market is so huge and important to the United States' economy that the largest survey ever conducted by National Association of Realtors was dedicated to the second-home phenomenon that grew 40 percent in the number of homes sold from 1995-2000. NAR's definition of "second home" now includes single-family dwellings, including condominiums, other than a primary residence. Last year, the purchase of investment property and vacation homes accounted for more than one-third of residential transactions.

Some of these homes will eventually become retirement homes where seniors and aging baby boomers will spend most of their time. Why not purchase it with the help of a VA loan? While federal regulations require that all loans insured by the Department of Veterans' Affairs be used only to acquire a "primary residence," it is possible to purchase a second home using your VA loan guaranty. As in many cases involving the use of real estate, the definition of primary residence is the place you live "most of the year." So, if you use the home more than six months of the year, it can be defined as your primary residence.

"The law was not intended to help people enter the business of real estate and purchase lots of homes," said Chris Michel, a former naval reservist and founder and president of, an Internet site targeting present and former military personnel and their families. "The law was written to help people afford the home that they are going to occupy.

Read the entire Tom Kelly Inman News article at Citywide Services

Monday, August 29, 2005

Real estate rates ride energy-market roller coaster

Weak home sales, high gas prices cause distress

More than two weeks ago, in an apparently sustained and explosive rise, the 10-year T-note traded at 4.4 percent, and low-fee mortgages were 6 percent. Today, Treasurys reached 4.15 percent, and mortgages 5.75 percent.

There is no consensus explanation for the decline.

Yes, these are the quietest weeks of the year in the bond market (all the heavies are on Hampton beaches, kicking sand at lightweights), and weird stuff happens when nobody is home.
Nothing seems to have changed at the onward, upward Fed. Chicago Fed prez Moskow on Thursday delivered merciless remarks: "...Continue to reduce accommodation...core inflation higher..." and said 5 percent unemployment [where we are now] is "about as low as it can go on a sustained basis."

One predominant bond-market theory: high energy prices are more likely to slow the economy than produce inflation. So, new highs last week (oil $67/bbl, and all-time high natural gas at $9.50/mbtu) may be pressing down long-term rates. is it possible for these prices not to produce some inflation?

Trading on Tuesday and Wednesday gave a very clear picture of the markets' mind. First thing Tuesday, news of weakness in sales of existing homes took down the stock market and brought happiness to bonds, long-term rates down. Then on Wednesday, rapid-fire: news that orders for durable goods had crashed 4.9 percent in July brought a big bond rally; then strength in sales of new homes reversed the rally and got the stock market excited; then energy prices hit their new highs, collapsing stocks and re-igniting the bond rally.

Who is in charge? What is the predominant force?

Read the entire Lou Barnes Inman News article at Citywide Services

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Responsible Appraisals & Valuations Campaign

In his letter Jay Delich explains why he supports the National Community Reinvestment Coalition.

Throughout my career as a real estate appraiser I have devoted much of my energy in support of the objective of the American dream of home ownership. It is an act of faith that owning one's home is a worthy goal for everyone. Today, there are disturbing trends that compromise what is a literal foundation of our national prosperity and sense of well-being and compel me to share my thoughts.

Several assumptions supported the lending world of the past. Real estate will increase year by year over a long period of time. The lender held an asset to match a balance sheet liability. A good illustration of this is that lenders used to exact prepayment penalties to those who paid the loan off too soon -- an indirect assertion of confidence in ever-upward trends.

The property was usually local to the lender, and the banker knew the property or neighborhood, the customer and the local economic climate. It was all part of a simple process to help people buy a home that they were eager to pay off as soon as possible. The business model was based on loyalty and demanding an honest opinion of value to protect the consumer and the lender.

Today, of course, there is more mobility, and homes are bought and sold much more often. Rather than pay down a loan, borrowers rush to further encumber the property to extract cash for other purposes. Second mortgages are not new, but they were originally only given to improve the home -- a sort of self-securing increase in asset value.

Today borrowers are using creative lending products that they have no intention of paying off! ARM production accounts for over 50 percent of all the loans funded in the industry in the first quarter of 2005 and there are hundreds of lending options that range from the local mortgage broker to on-line lenders who garner several rate quotes for borrowers all waiting to sign people up for mortgages they might not really be able to afford.

More and more, unlawful pressure to inflate appraisals by lenders, brokers, and real estate firms, has compromised the housing and lending markets. While the impact of low rates, new lending products and demand for homes drove prices up for many years, the impact of this pressure has compromised the integrity of our housing market. The current pressure on appraisers to make value is unprecedented.

While there may be no national bursting of the bubble, local markets surely are already being affected. Where it hits, it will hurt, and the shock will be greatest on those borrowers that can least afford it.

I believe it is time for action by the private sector. We still support the American dream of home ownership, but voluntary action by appraisers, lenders and realtors to take action in serving the housing industry will have the most immediate positive impact.

I have read the report that the National Community Reinvestment Coalition released entitled, “Predatory Appraisals; Stealing the American Dream”, and I have had discussions with members of the NCRC. I applaud their desire to create a solution that is industry inclusive, allowing for all industry participants to adopt a Code of Conduct which, when followed and enforced, will interject a market solution.

Most importantly for appraisers, the NCRC solution provides a means of redress for unlawful retaliation against appraisers who have refused to submit to improper influence. It, as well, gives lenders similar redress against brokers or real estate firms who improperly influence valuations or retaliate against failure to give in to such influence.

Once established, the entire lending community should recognize those appraisers, lenders and management firms who agree to adhere to this code of conduct. We need positive solutions as proposed by NCRC to help prevent the overvaluation of homes that could compromise the American dream. I encourage all appraisers and industry participants to embrace the NCRC initiative and adhere to the NCRC Code of Conduct.


Jay K. Delich, SRA, SCRP, IFA

Friday, August 12, 2005

“The Housing Bubble Fact Sheet”

“The Housing Bubble Fact Sheet,” describes why the rise in housing prices constitutes a housing bubble and what can be expected when it inevitably collapses, the center says.

Over the last eight years, the United States has seen an unprecedented rise in housing prices that has created $5 trillion in bubble wealth. Like the late-1990s stock bubble, this run up in home prices cannot be explained by the fundamentals of supply and demand. It is a speculative bubble that will inevitably collapse and almost certainly throw the economy into a recession when it does, he says. The “Housing Bubble Fact Sheet” provides an overview of the housing market and its implications for the economy:

Check out the Housing Bubble Fact Sheet

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Federal Reserve Raises Target for the Federal Funds Rate

As expected, the Federal Reserve has raised the target for the Federal Funds Rate to 3.5 percent.

The increase represents a quarter of a percentage point. The Fed is likely to keep raising interest rates at its final three meetings of the year, in September, November and December, leaving the funds rate at 4.25 percent at year's end, key economists are predicting.