Luxury real estate reaches new highs

Luxury Real EstateSome of the most significant real estate sales of the year occurred in the last two weeks. The first is the home known as Fleur de Lys; Realtor.com reported on April 4th that the Los Angeles mansion-estate that was described as “unsellable” – sold for LA record $102 Million. The home’s former owner was Suzanne Saperstein, socialite and philanthropist who’s seemingly public divorce from billionaire ex-husband David Saperstein appeared to capture the attention of the country when papers were filed in 2005.

Styled after Versailles, the 100 room mansion was originally listed in 2007 for a then record of $125 Million. However, the on and off again listing made some experts believe that the home would not fetch the asking price. But in the end, a bidding war ensued between several buyers, with the winner purchasing the home for the area record amount.

Although the sale of Fleur de Lys was news when it sold, it now takes a back seat to the highest priced publicly listed sale of a single family home in the country. Realtor.com reported on April 14th that the Connecticut estate, Copper Beech Farm, sold for a record $120 Million. The home was the former residence of one of the founders of what would become U.S. Steel, and originally listed for $190 Million. The 15,000sf waterfront property is situated on 50 acres; and boasts luxury features such as: hand carved fireplaces; soaring ceilings (with intricate artwork); the dining room features columns, oak paneling, and a tracery ceiling; the solarium is lined in detailed glass.

Although the high priced home is touted for its record sale price, a July 2013 NY Times article (Burdened Estate Bears Monumental Price Tag, and Many Mortgages) reported that the most expensive home ever publicly listed for sale was also “one of the most heavily mortgaged homes in American history;” however, the article stated that the amounts owed were not of public record, and additional properties were reportedly sold to repay the loans.

This significant listing isn’t a pyramid, nor is it a house of cards. You might not even know that the former owner of this “butter-colored stucco house with the slate roof and second-story balustrades” was the infamous man for whom the financial scheme was named. Yes, Charles Ponzi’s home is listed for sale. Maybe the sale would have been significant on a number of levels if the home were listed 4-5 years ago; however, the stately colonial’s listing is still significant nonetheless.

The Boston Globe reported on April 4th (Charles Ponzi’s former home up for Sale) that the Lexington MA home only changed owners three times since it was built in 1913; prior to the current listing, each sale was private. What makes this sale significant is that it is the first time the home’s sale is being listed publicly. Although the home was to be a symbol of Ponzi’s achievements and status; ironically, Ponzi’s ownership was only a six week stretch prior to his arrest in 1920. Maybe the new owner might be someone who is interested in the home’s history; however, the home is described as a “Colonial Revival mansion with 16 rooms and a charming 4 room carriage house…restored,” and of course hyped as the former residence of Charles Ponzi.

by Dan Krell ©
More news and articles on “the Blog”
Google+

Protected by Copyscape Web Plagiarism Detector
Disclaimer. This article is not intended to provide nor should it be relied upon for legal and financial advice. Readers should not rely solely on the information contained herein, as it does not purport to be comprehensive or render specific advice. Readers should consult with an attorney regarding local real estate laws and customs as they vary by state and jurisdiction. This article was originally published the week of April 14, 2014 (Montgomery County Sentinel). Using this article without permission is a violation of copyright laws. Copyright © Dan Krell.

Posted in Luxury Real Estate, real estate | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Housing recovery is cliché

real estateThe word “recovery” has been used a lot over the last five years.  So much so, it seems as if the term is automatically associated with anything written about real estate and housing.  But, maybe it’s time for a shift in our perception and expectations.

If you look up the definition of recovery, you might find: “re·cov·erynoun \ri-ˈkə-və-rē,\ : the act or process of returning to a normal state (after a period of difficulty).”  It might make sense to refer to the housing market as still recovering, and in the process of returning to normal; but then again, who’s to say that the home price and market activity peaks realized during 2005 – 2006 was normal?

A number of research papers (such as Reinhart & Rogoff’s The Aftermath of Financial Crises) were produced to discuss how the recovery from the Great Recession would take shape.  Although there is not a clear consensus, many concluded that a recovery after a financial crisis is much longer in duration than recoveries from non-crisis recessions.  However, some claim that may not be the case because the comparisons to other financial crises around the globe are not analogous the U.S. financial system.

Regardless, maybe the use of the term “recovery” is, after five years, cliché.  Niraj Chokshi seemed to allude to this in his November 2013 article on Washingtonpost.com, “What housing recovery? Home values and ownership are down post-recession.”  Chokshi pointed out that home ownership and home values have not even recovered to the levels of the three years during the recession (2007-2009).

But then again, it could be that there is a journalistic license to use “recovery” when referring to housing; because there is an expectation for the real estate market to return to the peaks it experienced in the last decade.  An April 7th National Association of Home Builders (nahb.org) press release of the NAHB/First American Leading Markets Index was titled, “Latest NAHB Index Reading Shows Recovery Continues to Spread;” highlighted that there are 59 of 350 metro areas that “returned to or exceeded” their normal market levels.  However, “market levels” are based on a metro area’s employment, home prices, and single family home permits (it is unclear if the labor participation rate, which is the labor force as a percent of the civilian noninstitutional population, is included in the employment data).

Talking about a recovery is no longer acceptable for home buyers and sellers planning their futures; rather it is more appropriate to again talk about relative market conditions.  Considering that references to a recovery that is extending into a fifth year seems distant and confusing; the dramatic changes that the industry underwent after the recession makes it almost inconceivable for the marketplace to return to the exact state that existed prior to 2007.  Relative market conditions are more meaningful to home buyers and sellers, specifically when they are deciding listing and offer prices.

Although the National Association of Reltors® Existing Home-Sales stats are due out April 22nd, and Pending Home Sales Index due April 28th; Wells Fargo Housing Chartbook: March 2014 (April 9, 2014) states, “Although we still see conditions improving in 2014 and 2015, the road back to normal will, in all likelihood, remain a long one…” and outlines a “Brave New Housing World.”

With that in mind, a look at local market conditions; March 2014 year-over-year Montgomery County MD home sale statistics for single family homes as reported by the Greater Capital Association of Realtors® (gcaar.com) indicated: total active listings increased 27.5%; contracts (e.g., pending sales) decreased 7.4%; and settlements (e.g., sales) decreased 12.6%.  Additionally, the March 2014 county average single family home sale price of $562,157 is less than the county average SFH price of $573,281 reported for March 2013.

by Dan Krell ©
More news and articles on “the Blog”
Google+

Protected by Copyscape Web Plagiarism Detector
Disclaimer. This article is not intended to provide nor should it be relied upon for legal and financial advice. Readers should not rely solely on the information contained herein, as it does not purport to be comprehensive or render specific advice. Readers should consult with an attorney regarding local real estate laws and customs as they vary by state and jurisdiction. This article was originally published the week of April 7, 2014 (Montgomery County Sentinel). Using this article without permission is a violation of copyright laws. Copyright © Dan Krell.

Posted in economy, housing market, housing recovery, real estate, Real Estate Market, real estate recovery, recovery | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

House shopping strategies without using MLS

shopping for housesThe low housing inventory is discouraging many home buyers.  Low inventory along with increasing home prices and buyer competition can make shopping for a home today a frustrating endeavor.  If you’re a serious home buyer, there may be other strategies to finding homes for sale other than those listed in the multiple list system (MLS).

The “For Sale by Owner” sign in the yard is a tell tale sign; however did you know that many FSBO’s can be found listed in the MLS?  These are listed through brokers who are paid a flat fee as an MLS listing placement service.  And although most are listed online, not all FSBO’s are found in the MLS.  You can also find FSBO’s on numerous “by-owner” sites, as well as Zillow, Trulia, or Craigslist.

Listservs and internet groups are another way to find non-MLS homes for sale; however, neighborhood groups often restrict membership to residents.  Leveraging your personal and social networks by announcing your search for the non-MLS home for sale will most likely prompt them to inform you about what they have heard through their networks and neighborhood listservs/groups.

The National Association of Realtors® 2013 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers (realtor.org) indicates that 92% of buyers search the internet.  Besides FSBO’s; online services such as Zillow, Trulia, Craigslist, also list foreclosures auctions, pre-foreclosures, and of course broker listings too.  The internet is also where scammers are lurking, waiting to prey on you.  Be wary about phone numbers that are out of the area; experts agree that you can avoid most scams if you deal with local individuals with whom you can meet in person.

Buying a foreclosure is often suggested as an avenue to buy a non-MLS home.  Although most bank-owned homes become listed in the MLS, you have the opportunity to purchase a home at the foreclosure auction.  If you’re an auction novice, seek out a real estate professional to assist you; homes are purchased “as-is” and you usually do not have the opportunity to inspect the interior.  Mistakes that are often made by inexperienced auction bidders include misunderstanding the terms of the auction, overestimating home values on those they bid, as well as getting carried away and over bidding.  Pre-foreclosures are often listed in the MLS as short sales; however, it is necessary to be aware of local laws (such as the Maryland Protection of Homeowners in Foreclosure Act) when approaching distressed home owners who have not listed their home for sale.

Searching through expired and withdrawn MLS listings is another way to find eager home sellers.  Your real estate agent can provide you with such a list; however, it is not easy and you may quickly discover the reasons why many of these homes did not sell.

Even though, many alternate strategies for finding a non-MLS home for sale can be achieved without a real estate agent you should consider hiring an agent; besides representing you and assisting in structuring and facilitating the transaction, it is also common for agents to use these strategies to search on behalf of their busy clients.

A down side of the search for the non-MLS home for sale is that instead of competing with other home buyers, you’re competing with many real estate agents; not just those agents representing home buyers, but also the many agents searching for their next MLS listing.

by Dan Krell ©
More news and articles on “the Blog”
Google+

Protected by Copyscape Web Plagiarism Detector
Disclaimer. This article is not intended to provide nor should it be relied upon for legal and financial advice. Readers should not rely solely on the information contained herein, as it does not purport to be comprehensive or render specific advice. Readers should consult with an attorney regarding local real estate laws and customs as they vary by state and jurisdiction. This article was originally published the week of March 31, 2014 (Montgomery County Sentinel). Using this article without permission is a violation of copyright laws. Copyright © Dan Krell.

Posted in buy a home, Home Buyer, home search, homebuyer, internet home search, real estate | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Real estate, climate change, and data-porn

winter home salesThe National Association of Realtors® (realtor.org) March 20th news release reported that February home sales remained subdued because of rising home prices and severe winter weather.  The decline in existing home sales was just 0.4% from January, but was 7.1% lower than last February’s figures.  NAR chief economist Lawrence Yun stated that home sales declines were due to “weather disruptions, limited inventory, increasingly restrictive mortgage underwriting, and decreasing housing affordability.”  And although it may sound bad, Yun actually has a rosy outlook saying, “…Some transactions are simply being delayed, so there should be some improvement in the months ahead. With an expected pickup in job creation, home sales should trend up modestly over the course of the year.”

So, if a snow filled and cold February is to blame for poor home sales, was Snowmagedden and Snowzilla the reason for increased home sales during February 2010?  Of course not.   And although home sales increased 5.1% year-over-year here in Montgomery County MD during February 2010, it was mostly due to increased home buyer demand that some speculate was due in part to the availability of first time home buyer tax credits.  Additionally, RealtorMag reported that Southern California December home sales dropped about 21% month-over-month, and were down about 9% in compared to the same period in 2012.

As home sales are trending lower, it’s reasonable to look for reasons why demand is soft; but can weather be the main reason to keep potential home buyers at home?  Probably not.  Consumer demand is a robust force that is multifaceted, and can even prevail over seemingly difficult circumstances.  Consumer demand can even trump weather, as was the case during the winter of 2010.

winter home salesConsumer demand can even be resilient in the face of the speculative effects of global warming.  A November 2013 RealtyToday article (The Looming Global Warming Catastrophe and its Effect on Real Estate; realtytoday.com) discusses how home buyer demand for coastal property has remained strong even as increased claims that climate change will make these areas uninhabitable.

Housing data cause and effect is only conjecture unless it is directly observed.  To make sense of the “data-porn” that is excessively presented in the media, often without proper or erroneous explanation; economic writer Ben Casselman offers three rules to figure out what the media is saying (Three Rules to Make Sure Economic Data Aren’t Bunk; fivethirtyeight.com): Question the data; Know what is measured; and Look outside the data.  Casselman states, “The first two rules have to do with questioning the numbers — what they’re measuring, how they’re measuring it, and how reliable those measurements are. But when a claim passes both those tests, it’s worth looking beyond the data for confirmation.”

Keeping these rules in mind, could the winter slowdown be the result of cold weather, or is it something else?  Sure, cold weather may have marginal effects on home buyer behavior and demand; however, weather does not typically affect extended periods of consumer behavior unless weather events are catastrophic.  The current data may be indicative of a housing market that is returning to the distinct seasonal activity that we have been used to for many years prior to the “go-go” market and subsequent recovery years.

However, other factors referenced by Dr. Yun, such as increased home prices and tougher mortgage standards, are more likely to be the reasons for subdued home sales.  And as the year progresses, these factors may emerge to be significant issues for home buyers.

by Dan Krell ©
More news and articles on “the Blog”
Google+

Protected by Copyscape Web Plagiarism Detector
Disclaimer. This article is not intended to provide nor should it be relied upon for legal and financial advice. Readers should not rely solely on the information contained herein, as it does not purport to be comprehensive or render specific advice. Readers should consult with an attorney regarding local real estate laws and customs as they vary by state and jurisdiction. This article was originally published the week of March 24, 2014 (Montgomery County Sentinel). Using this article without permission is a violation of copyright laws. Copyright © Dan Krell.

Posted in economy, housing, housing market, housing recovery, market conditions, Market report, real estate, Real Estate Market | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A new housing finance system is one step closer

Closing Fannie & FreddieThe end is near for Fannie and Freddie.  The next step to remaking the housing finance system.

Like FHA, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were also financially battered during the financial and housing crises.  While FHA became the mortgage to rescue many distressed home owners, the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) was created in 2008 as conservator for the hemorrhaging Fannie and Freddie.  Although the writing was on the wall about necessitating change in the conventional mortgage sector, there could only be speculation about what that change would entail.

Fast forward to June 2013, and the bipartisan bill S.1217 Housing Finance Reform and Taxpayer Protection Act of 2013 was introduced as the groundwork for replacing Fannie and Freddie with the (to be created) Federal Mortgage Insurance Corporation (FMIC).  Moving along to last week, Senate Banking Committee Chairman Tim Johnson (D-SD) and Ranking Member Mike Crapo (R-ID) released a draft for “A New Housing Financing System” (banking.senate.gov).

Building upon S.1217, the Bipartisan Housing Reform Draft’s intention is stated to “…protect taxpayers from bearing the cost of a housing downturn; promote stable, liquid, and efficient mortgage markets for single-family and multifamily housing; ensure that affordable, 30-year, fixed-rate mortgages continue to be available, and that affordability remains a key consideration; provide equal access for lenders of all sizes to the secondary market; and facilitate broad availability of mortgage credit for all eligible borrowers in all areas and for single-family and multifamily housing types.

In addition to supervision and enforcement authority, the purpose of the FMIC is to maintain a re-insurance fund that will insure mortgage backed securities meeting FMIC guidelines.  The re-insurance fund is to be modeled after the Deposit Insurance Fund (maintained by the FDIC), and to be funded by private companies.  Additionally, the new system is meant to protect taxpayers by requiring future mortgage backed security guarantors to be private and hold a minimum of 10% private capital as a first loss position; bailouts of these private institutions are to be prohibited.

The FMIC will also institute underwriting guidelines that are to “mirror” the Qualified Mortgage (QM).  The recent definition and rules for the QM announced by the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau (CFBP) were effective January 10th.  The QM is characterized to be a safer loan compared to some loans originated prior to the crises because the lender must assess and the borrower must demonstrate the ability to repay the loan; the ability to repay is based on typical factors that include the borrower’s income, assets, and debts.  Additionally, the borrower cannot exceed a total monthly debt-to-income ratio (all monthly obligations including mortgage payments) of 43%.

Conforming loan limits will be maintained, so as to provide the additional credit needed to purchase homes in “high-cost” areas.  If you’re a first time home buyer, you will need a minimum down payment of 3.5%; however if you’re not a first time home buyer you will need at least a 5% down payment for your home purchase.

The transition period is expected to be at least 5 years, however possible extensions may be required to prevent market disruptions and cost spikes to borrowers.  The plan is to simultaneously wind down Fannie and Freddie’s operations while increasing expansion of the new system.  The FMIC will take over the functions and duties of FHFA; and as of the FMIC’s certification date, Fannie and Freddie won’t be able to conduct new business.

by Dan Krell ©
More news and articles on “the Blog”
Google+

Protected by Copyscape Web Plagiarism Detector
Disclaimer. This article is not intended to provide nor should it be relied upon for legal and financial advice. Readers should not rely solely on the information contained herein, as it does not purport to be comprehensive or render specific advice. Readers should consult with an attorney regarding local real estate laws and customs as they vary by state and jurisdiction. This article was originally published the week of March 17, 2014 (Montgomery County Sentinel). Using this article without permission is a violation of copyright laws. Copyright © Dan Krell.

Posted in fannie mae, FHFA, FMIC, freddie mac, mortgage, real estate | Tagged , , , , , , , | Comments Off

The pros and cons of smart home tech

home techDecades of futurists have dreamt and designed their vision of a “smart home” intended to make living easier and more comfortable.  The 1933 World’s Fair envisioned that all homes would have helicopter pads; the 1962 World’s Fair highlights an electronic central brain in the home; the 1964 World’s Fair was about computerizing the home with time saving appliances.  And of course, who can forget Disney’s “House of Tomorrow?”

Retro-futurism seems almost cartoonish today, much like watching an episode of the Jetson’s.  However, like the retro-futuristic home, today’s smart home is meant to make life easier.  Filled with devices and appliances that are connected to the internet, remote access to your home’s systems and appliances is becoming increasingly commonplace.  There is an increasing ability for you to control your home, even when you are not there.  You can remotely monitor cameras in your home, change thermostat settings, and even program the DVR.

Realtor Magazine (Homes Are Getting Smarter, More Connected; January 09, 2014) reported that smart home tech is a growing sector showcased at the annual Consumer Electronics Show.  Besides the growing number of devices that can be remotely controlled, there is also a trend for appliances to send text messages and email.  Although smart home technology today is about producing individual gadgets that are programmable and controlled by smart phone apps, it appears that there is a trend toward integrating devices as well.  As smart home technology advances, home appliances and systems will be integrated with each other allowing them to communicate with each other; which expected to make the home function more efficiently.

All this technology is great, but there appears to be a downside as well.  Although there have been warnings about hacking smart home devices for a number of years, the recent report of hacked smart refrigerators that sent spam has attracted and focused attention on the hackers’ ability to take control of a smart home (phys.org/news/2014-01-cyberattack-hacked-refrigerator.html).  A Forbes article published July 2013 (When ‘Smart Homes’ Get Hacked: I Haunted A Complete Stranger’s House Via The Internet) discussed the ease of identifying and gaining access to smart home devices via the internet. Security specialist indicated that they were able to access and control smart devices (such as lighting, thermostats, garage doors, and security systems); more importantly, they were able to access personal data (including names) and device IP addresses from these devices as well.  The consensus among security specialists about protection from such intrusions is to basically stay “unplugged.”

While we wait for the perfect smart home, we can continue dreaming of the home of the future.  “1999 A.D.” (A 1967 Ford-Philco production; the video featuring Wink Martindale is posted above) is one of the best retro-future depictions of a home that incorporates technology considered to be state-of-the-art by today’s standards, as well as technology that we have yet to perfect.  Central to the home is a computer that collects and maintains information from all home devices, including biometric data that is sent to the medical center for analysis.  3D television, a “home post office” (email), push button meals, and shopping from a home computer is standard in this home.  As technology advances, there seems to be a post-modern sentiment exclaimed in the video that may ring true, “…if the computerized life extracts a pound of flesh, it has some interesting rewards…”

by Dan Krell ©
More news and articles on “the Blog”
Google+

Protected by Copyscape Web Plagiarism Detector
Disclaimer. This article is not intended to provide nor should it be relied upon for legal and financial advice. Readers should not rely solely on the information contained herein, as it does not purport to be comprehensive or render specific advice. Readers should consult with an attorney regarding local real estate laws and customs as they vary by state and jurisdiction. This article was originally published the week of March 10, 2014 (Montgomery County Sentinel). Using this article without permission is a violation of copyright laws. Copyright © Dan Krell.

Posted in home design, real estate, technology | Tagged , , , , | Comments Off

How many more years for housing recovery?

moving dayA recent study may indicate that housing market may not fully recover for most cities until 2018.

The “long slog” housing recovery prediction appears to be relevant as a recent study published by the Demand Institute (DI) now estimates that the recovery may take several more years.  DI, a non-profit that studies consumer demand, suggests that home values may not rebound until 2018.

The DI study was reported by Realtor Magazine (Uneven Recovery to Continue for 5 Years; March 03, 2014) to be comprehensive and include 2,200 cities across the country and 10,000 interviews.  Overall, the report concludes that the recent sharp increase in home prices was mostly due to real estate investors who purchased distressed properties.  Now that distressed home sales are declining, values are not expected to increase as precipitously; the continued housing recovery is expected to be driven by new household formation.

The study reported the appreciation rate of the 50 largest metro areas in the country through 2018; home prices are estimated to appreciate about 2.1% annually.  However, the top five appreciating cities will average an overall increase of 32% through the recovery; while the bottom five will only average about 11% (Washington DC is listed among the bottom five).  Cities that experienced the highest appreciation and subsequently sharpest depreciation in home prices will likely have the longest and protracted recovery, and yet may only recover a fraction of the peak home values by 2018.

Not highlighted, and not yet expected to be an impact on the housing recovery,  is the move-up home buyer.  The typical move-up home buyer is sometimes characterized as a home owner who decides they need more space, which results in the sale of their smaller home and the purchase of a larger home.  Similar to previous recessionary periods and real estate down markets, the move- up home buyer was the missing piece to a housing recovery; the move-up home buyer provides much of the housing inventory that first time home buyers seek.  However, it seems as if psychological barriers hold back many move-up buyers today as it did in past recoveries.  During the current housing recovery, many potential move-up buyers have remained in their homes.  And until the move-up home buyer presence is felt in the marketplace, we may yet to endure a few more years of “recovery.”

Much like the DI study, there has been a lot of discussion and debate about the effects (on housing) of the lack of housing formation during the recession and in the subsequent recovery.  Andrew Paciorek, an economist at the Federal Reserve Board of Governors, described household formation during a presentation given at the Atlanta Fed’s Perspectives on Real Estate speaker series (June 2013); “Think of the unemployed or underemployed college graduates living in their parents’ basements instead of renting or buying their own place. When a person establishes a residence, whether that’s an apartment or a house or another dwelling, that person is forming a household. Mainly because of a weak labor market that held down incomes, the rate of household formation cratered during the recession and subsequent recovery…

To give perspective to the issue, the rate of decrease of household formation during the great recession was significant (an 800,000 per year decrease compared to the previous seven years).  Additionally, household formation between 2007 and 2011 was at the lowest level since World War II, and was 59% below the 2000 to 2006 average.  Most significantly: during 2012, 45% of 18 to 30 year olds lived with older family members; compared to 39% during 1990, and 35% during 1980.  He described the household formation crash as an indirect contributor to declining home prices, which diminished household wealth linked to home values.

Although household formation continues to be a concern as the labor participation rate has decreased, Paciorek points to improvements in the job market as the spark to increasing household formation.  He forecasts that household formation should increase to 1.6 million over the next several years, and could possibly exceed the pre-recession average due to pent up demand of those who waited to form a household during the recession.  However, a disclaimer was provided saying his forecast is “based on assumptions that could prove overly optimistic;” and has “lots of caveats and lots of uncertainty” – much like the housing recovery.

by Dan Krell ©
More news and articles on “the Blog”
Google+

Protected by Copyscape Web Plagiarism Detector
Disclaimer. This article is not intended to provide nor should it be relied upon for legal and financial advice. Readers should not rely solely on the information contained herein, as it does not purport to be comprehensive or render specific advice. Readers should consult with an attorney regarding local real estate laws and customs as they vary by state and jurisdiction. This article was originally published the week of March 3, 2014 (Montgomery County Sentinel). Using this article without permission is a violation of copyright laws. Copyright © Dan Krell.

Posted in housing market, housing recovery, market conditions, real estate, Real Estate Market, Real Estate Market Trends | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off

RESPA empowers home buyers and consumers

HousingAlthough the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (RESPA) is one of those laws that you don’t hear much about, it’s a consumer protection statue that has been around for while.  Enacted in 1974, RESPA was intended to help home buyers be better shoppers by requiring the disclosures regarding the nature and costs related to the real estate settlement process.  Keeping RESPA relevant, there have been modifications and clarifications through the years, most notably the change of administration and enforcement in 2011 from HUD to the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau (CFPB).

RESPA is generally known for empowering consumers in the real estate process by allowing consumers (in most cases) to choose service providers, and prohibiting kickbacks (e.g., unearned fees) for referrals.  Section 8 of RESPA prohibits real estate service providers from giving or accepting a fee, kickback or anything of value in exchange for referrals of settlement service business involving a federally related mortgage. While Section 9 prohibits a home seller from requiring the home buyer to use a particular title insurance company, either directly or indirectly, as a condition of sale.

RESPA also requires the disclosure of affiliated business arrangements associated with a real estate closing.  An affiliated business relationship is considered to exist when there is a direct or indirect referral from a service provider to another provider of settlement services when there is an affiliate relationship or when there is a direct or beneficial ownership interest of more than one percent.  The disclosure of such a relationship must specify the following: the nature of the relationship (explaining the ownership and financial interest) between the provider and the loan originator; and the estimated charge or range of charges generally made by such provider. This disclosure must be provided on a separate form at the time of the referral (or at the time of loan application or with the Good Faith Estimate if referred from a mortgage lender).  In most cases, you’re not required to use the referred affiliated businesses.

RESPA violations are serious, and penalties can be severe.  For example, HUD (hud.gov) lists the penalties for violations of Section 8 “… anti-kickback, referral fees and unearned fees provisions of RESPA are subject to criminal and civil penalties. In a criminal case a person who violates Section 8 may be fined up to $10,000 and imprisoned up to one year. In a private law suit a person who violates Section 8 may be liable to the person charged for the settlement service an amount equal to three times the amount of the charge paid for the service.

The real estate industry takes RESPA very seriously; the industry educates service providers about empowering consumers, as well as regulation compliance.  And although modifications of RESPA are to keep up with the real estate industry; some still claim that there are sections of RESPA that remain vague, as demonstrated by the Supreme Court opinion of Freeman v. Quicken Loans, and further clarifications (such as the RESPA Home Warranty Clarification Act of 2011).

In the past, RESPA violations were pursued vigorously by HUD; resulting in settlements as well as criminal investigations.  Today, the CFPB (consumerfinance.gov) has taken over the reins, and continues the pursuit of RESPA violations with the same if not increased vigor.  More information and guidance about RESPA can be obtained from the CFBP (consumerfinance.gov).

by Dan Krell ©
Subscribe to Real Estate News and Commentary
More news and articles on “the Blog”
Google+

Protected by Copyscape Web Plagiarism Detector
Disclaimer. This article is not intended to provide nor should it be relied upon for legal and financial advice. Readers should not rely solely on the information contained herein, as it does not purport to be comprehensive or render specific advice. Readers should consult with an attorney regarding local real estate laws and customs as they vary by state and jurisdiction. This article was originally published the week of February 24, 2014 (Montgomery County Sentinel). Using this article without permission is a violation of copyright laws. Copyright © Dan Krell.

Posted in Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, first time home buyer, first time homebuyer, Home Buyer, homebuyer, mortgage lender, real estate, real estate agent, Realtor, RESPA, settlement, title agent | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off

Growing interest in the use of eminent domain to assist underwater homeowners

UnderwaterAs interest increases to use eminent domain to assist underwater homeowners, there is opposition in Maryland.

Eminent domain has not received as much attention since the controversial decision in the 2005 case Kelo v. City of New London.  However, the issue could become a hotly debated topic in the current session of the Maryland General Assembly, since the introduction of HB1365/SB850 Real Property – Prohibition on Acquiring Mortgages or Deeds of Trust by Condemnation on February 7th; the bills propose the prohibition of acquiring mortgages through eminent domain, stating, “The use of eminent domain to acquire mortgages undermines the sanctity of the contractual relationship between a borrower and a creditor.”

The issue of using eminent domain as a vehicle to restructure underwater mortgages became a national conversation in 2012, when a few municipalities began the discussion as a means to assist underwater homeowners.  The plan caught the attention of Baltimore officials, who began a discussion last year of doing something similar.

As the housing market slowly recovers, many homeowners are emerging from a negative equity position on their homes.  According to the Zillow Negative Equity Report (zillow.com), the national negative equity rate for homeowners with a mortgage dropped to 21% during Q3 2013 (from a peak of 31.4% during Q1 2012); while 14.7% of homeowners who own their home free and clear are underwater.  Regional statistics vary depending on the strength of the local markets compared to peak home values.

The Baltimore Sun reports that about 13% of mortgages in the Baltimore- Towson area are underwater; neighborhood percentages vary, and there some with significantly more underwater homeowners (Some call on city to explore eminent domain to combat blight; Program targets underwater mortgages, By Natalie Sherman; The Baltimore Sun; November 25, 2013).

A recent industry article looks at the back story and status such plans, as well as discussing some practical considerations.  The article asserts that the concept is “far from dead,” stating that “…Local government and community leaders have legitimate concerns about their constituents, many of whom are struggling with mortgage payments on inflated loans that have made their homes unaffordable, and nearly impossible for them to sell without sufficient equity to pay off the loans…”  However, the conclusion states that such a plan at present “…appears wrought with complications and does not appear likely to lead to any significant chance of furthering its stated “public” purpose-economic development…”   The result may be “lengthy and expensive legal battles; and possible disruptions or changes to the credit industry, which decrease access to mortgages and/or increase interest rates (Dellapelle & Kestner (2013). Underwater mortgages: Can eminent domain bail them out? Real Estate Issues, 38(2), 42-47).

In response to the effort to implement eminent domain in such a way, the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA.gov), the regulator and conservator of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac as well as the regulator of the Federal Home Loan Banks asked for public input; and subsequently issued a General Counsel Memorandum on August 7th 2013:

The General Counsel Memorandum was a summary and analysis of the public comments and input regarding the use of eminent domain to restructure mortgages.  The memo discussed a number of legal issues as well as issues that relate to the FHFA.  The memo stated the pros and cons of such a plan too: Proponents claimed “…if securities have lost value, then the proper and fair valuation of mortgages backing the securities through eminent domain results in no loss to a securities investor, but permits a restructuring of a loan that would benefit homeowners and stabilize housing values…” while opponents point to “…numerous legal problems with the proposed use of eminent domain; some centered on the proper use of eminent domain itself and others on attendant constitutional issues related to taking of property or sanctity of contract. Opponents noted strong reaction of financial markets that support home financing in terms of upsetting existing contracts but as well creating an unworkable situation for providing and pricing capital based on the uncertainty of such a use of eminent domain…”  However, the conclusion states, “…there is a rational basis to conclude that the use of eminent domain by localities to restructure loans for borrowers that are “underwater” on their mortgages presents a clear threat to the safe and sound operations of Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and the Federal Home Loan Banks as provided in federal law…”  

by Dan Krell ©
Subscribe to Real Estate News and Commentary
More news and articles on “the Blog”
Google+

Protected by Copyscape Web Plagiarism Detector
Disclaimer. This article is not intended to provide nor should it be relied upon for legal and financial advice. Readers should not rely solely on the information contained herein, as it does not purport to be comprehensive or render specific advice. Readers should consult with an attorney regarding local real estate laws and customs as they vary by state and jurisdiction. This article was originally published the week of February 17, 2014 (Montgomery County Sentinel). Using this article without permission is a violation of copyright laws. Copyright © Dan Krell.

Posted in eminent domain, Maryland General Assembly, negative equity, real estate, underwater | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off

The magic of 4 to sell a home

Preparing Home for SaleFor a successful home sale, you need to focus on four areas…

Spring is rapidly approaching – are you one of the many home owners listing your home for sale this year?  Sure, last year may have seemed like a breakthrough, but the still recovering housing market is just as quirky as The Doctor’s TARDIS.  And unless you consider condition, preparation, pricing, and marketing; your home sale could fall flat.

A home’s condition can affect a home’s sale price (sometimes significantly), and is often overlooked by home sellers and listing agents.  It is not uncommon for owners to put off home maintenance, especially after the financial crisis of 2008; housing experts estimate that home improvement spending decreased about 28% between 2007 and 2011. Deferred maintenance can deter some home buyers, while motivating others to make a low offer.  You can get an idea of potential cosmetic, mechanical, and structural issues by having a pre-listing home inspection.

Whether or not you choose to address deferred maintenance and repairs prior to listing, preparation is required to get ready for home buyer viewings.  One of the most important things to do to prepare your home is to declutter.  Decluttering is often overwhelming because sellers expect to make the home immaculate; but really, the purpose to decluttering is to give rooms a neat and spacious feel.  Decluttering will make you decide which items to keep, what to throw out, give away, or put in storage.

Home staging is a way to create a “vision” for home buyers.  Home staging can get pricey if you hire a staging professional and rent furniture.  But it doesn’t have to be expensive; “do it yourself stagers” can often transform a home with little or no money.  If your home is vacant, inexpensive rentals can be used as room “place holders,” to help convey a room’s size and use to buyers.

Pricing your home correctly can mean the difference between a successful sale and languishing on the market.  A common mistake that occurs in a recovering market is the eagerness to price high; but buyer push back can be an abrupt awakening to the realities of the housing market – making you wonder why your home is not selling.  Be careful of the listing agent who intentionally over-prices your home, this is an old technique to persuade you to sign a listing agreement; the flip side is listing with an agent who intentionally prices the home too low, promising a “quick” sale (which only makes the sale easy for the agent).

Marketing a home sale has changed significantly in the last five years.  Gone are the days of “set it and forget it.”  Creative agents are constantly seeking avenues to publicize and promote listings.  A sales strategy can determine the correct positioning for the home; while implantation of a marketing plan can include new and imaginative methods, such as placement in specialty magazines and websites, video, and even open house “parties.”

Many don’t realize that the internet is where a majority of home buyers now congregate, viewing your MLS listing across hundreds of websites.  To bolster online appeal, make certain your agent uses professional pictures, inspired home descriptions, and complete MLS information.  Be wary of new marketing technology, which often has mixed results; for example: “virtual staging” is a technology than can enhance online appeal by electronically staging a home, but can flop when buyers expect to see what is pictured.

by Dan Krell ©
Subscribe to Real Estate News and Commentary
More news and articles on “the Blog”
Google+

Protected by Copyscape Web Plagiarism Detector
Disclaimer. This article is not intended to provide nor should it be relied upon for legal and financial advice. Readers should not rely solely on the information contained herein, as it does not purport to be comprehensive or render specific advice. Readers should consult with an attorney regarding local real estate laws and customs as they vary by state and jurisdiction. This article was originally published the week of February 10, 2014 (Montgomery County Sentinel). Using this article without permission is a violation of copyright laws. Copyright © Dan Krell.

Posted in declutter, home condition, home pricing strategy, home repairs, home seller, Home Staging, marketing plan, property condition, real estate | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Comments Off