Editor’s note: The following is a collection of news briefs that were published by Inman News from Monday, Sept. 15, to Friday, Sept. 19.

Friday, Sept. 19, 2008

S.F. Bay Area’s weak spot: home prices
Real estate brief

Although August home sales in the San Francisco Bay Area were only slightly lower than a year ago, the region’s median home price plunged to lows not seen since January 2004, real estate information service DataQuick reported Thursday.

Editor’s note: The following is a collection of news briefs that were published by Inman News from Monday, Sept. 15, to Friday, Sept. 19.

Friday, Sept. 19, 2008

Zillow, Trulia serve up targeted home ads
Real estate technology brief

Zillow.com today announced that Century 21 is the first national brokerage to participate in its newly launched advertising platform that features local for-sale listings right on the Zillow.com home page.
The Zillow home page features three graphical ad units at a time — two sponsored by national brands and one sponsored by a regional brokerage. Because the ads are targeted to a user’s most recent search (versus their geographic location), advertisers are able to target all buyers, including those who may be relocating or purchasing a second home. For a national or regional brokerage, this means exposure for their listings to the more than 8 million visits that come through the Zillow.com home page every month, the company said.
On a similar note, next month Century 21 will start running advanced online advertising on Trulia.com. The new campaign uses technology called Motif, which enables real-time streaming of home sales data to feed dynamically into the page as a display ad next to a consumers search results.


S.F. Bay Area’s weak spot: home prices
Real estate brief

Although August home sales in the San Francisco Bay Area were only slightly lower than a year ago, the region’s median home price plunged to lows not seen since January 2004, real estate information service DataQuick reported Thursday.

The nine-county region saw a total of 7,232 new and resale houses and condos sold last month, down 4.7 percent from 7,586 in July but just 0.9 percent lower than the 7,299 sales a year ago. An "average" August sees just over 10,000 sales.

In the last 12 months, the median price tumbled a record 31.8 percent, from $655,000 to $447,000. July’s median stood 4.9 percent higher at $470,000.

By county, the greatest declines in prices were seen in Contra Costa (down 42.1 percent to $330,000); Solano (down 35.7 percent to $270,000); and Sonoma (off 30.7 percent to $350,000). Prices fell the least (-11.8 percent) in San Francisco, down to $725,000 from $822,000.

The use of so-called jumbo mortgages, until recently defined as over $417,000, has plummeted since the credit crunch hit in August 2007, making jumbo loans more expensive and harder to obtain. Last month mortgages over $417,000 made up 32.3 percent of all home purchase loans, down from 58.6 percent in August 2007, DataQuick reported.

August home sales jumped in Contra Costa and Solano counties as bargain hunters scooped up distressed properties at prices not seen in more than five years. Across the Bay Area, foreclosure resales made up 36.1 percent of all resales last month, up from 33.3 percent in July and 4.4 percent a year ago. The figure represents the percentage of homes resold in August that had been foreclosed on at some point in the prior 12 months.

Thursday, Sept. 18, 2008

Dramatic drop in California home prices
Real estate brief

While Southern California home sales were 30 percent below average for the month of August, transactions were up 9.1 percent from a year ago, real estate information service DataQuick reported today. That’s the only good news, as the area’s median home price tumbled a record 34 percent year-over-year in August.

DataQuick reported that a total of 19,366 new and resale houses and condos closed escrow in Southern California last month, up from 17,755 a year ago but down 4.7 percent from 20,329 in July. In the last 12 months the median home price plunged from $500,000 to $330,000, roughly a five-year low.

Fueling the yearlong plunge in the Southland median sales price were "depreciation, a high concentration of sales made after or under the threat of foreclosure (mainly in inland markets), and a dramatic decline in homes financed with larger, so-called jumbo mortgages," according to DataQuick.

Before the credit crunch hit just last year, nearly 40 percent of Southland sales were financed with loans over $417,000, compared with 15.6 percent of sales last month, DataQuick reported.

Foreclosure resales, which made up 45.5 percent of all Southland resales last month, up from 43.7 in July and 10 percent a year ago, were highest in Riverside County, at 65.2 percent of resales, and lowest in Orange County, at 33.4 percent.


Policy causes more problems than it solves
Inman community brief

Editor’s note: The following is a member comment posted on the Sept. 10 Inman News story, "Housing policy at a crossroads":

"Government hurts affordability when it intervenes to make something ‘easier’ — just look at university education. The extension of grants and loan programs drove up the cost of education much faster than official inflation. The same can be said of medical care, another industry where the federal government is extremely involved.

"I’ve read the U.S. Constitution over and over and I am quite sure it doesn’t say anything about providing housing. The federal government has ZERO responsibility for ‘providing housing.’

"States have a great deal more flexibility. Some will do the wrong thing but others will likely find a winning formula. Local communities create problems for themselves when they take away the rights of property owners and fail to compensate them.

"We are suffering not from too much freedom but rather too little and a lack of respect for property rights. Socialism won; they just forgot to tell you.

"The giant socialist programs created by the federal government to facilitate home ownership over the recent decades provided enormous political payoffs and opportunities for corruption and fraud. The plan was always to cash out by leaning on and abusing the public credit. It is a Ponzi scheme on a scale too big to imagine. I can only wait for the next phase to see how they will keep it up.

"The most amazing part is that we have very cleverly figured out how to use fraudulent MBS and government debt to essentially tax the central banks and savings of other countries. Ever wonder why ‘deficits don’t matter?’ or how we can afford a worldwide empire? Deficits are essential. A deep and highly liquid government-sponsored mortgage finance market, in addition to one for government debt, is necessary for recycling the dollars sent abroad and levying our global tax.

"I do not sympathize with the policymakers. They are at best well-meaning fools."
Steven Smith


Roost enters Michigan
Real estate technology brief

Roost, a real estate search engine, on Wednesday announced the launch of its service in Southeastern Michigan, extending its coverage to the Detroit metro area (Oakland, Macomb and Wayne counties), as well as Ann Arbor and rural areas spanning from Washtenaw County to the Thumb.

Roost’s search engine covers single-family, new construction and for-sale-by-owner properties.

Roost also offers property listings information for homes in Atlanta, Austin, Baltimore, Boise, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Denver, Fort Worth, Houston, Las Vegas, Miami, Minneapolis, Nashville, Orange County (Calif.), Orlando, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Portland, Sacramento, San Diego, St. Paul, Tampa, California’s Silicon Valley, St. Louis and Washington, D.C., among other market areas.


Fed infusion reins in short-term rates
Real estate brief

In an attempt to encourage overnight loans between banks, the Federal Reserve today authorized a $180 billion expansion of swap lines with the European Central Bank and other overseas central banks.

Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR) overnight rate for loans in dollars fell to 3.84 percent, down from 5.03 percent Wednesday, the British Bankers Association said. LIBOR, which reflects the actual rate at which banks borrow money from each other in durations ranging from overnight to 12 months, is used to set rates on many adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) loans.

The Federal Reserve voted Tuesday to keep its target for the federal funds overnight rate at 2 percent, but the rate actually banks actually charged each other jumped to about three times that Monday after the investment bank Lehman Brothers filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy and the insurer AIG faced difficulties raising capital to stay in business. The Fed announced late Tuesday it would lend AIG up to $85 billion to stay afloat (see story).


Wednesday, Sept. 17, 2008

Partnership seeks to reduce REO inventories
Real estate technology brief

DepotPoint Inc., a service that offers tracking, recording and management of property-related data through its Web-based application, REO TrackPoint, is partnering with Alpha Closing Inc. to form a national network of real estate agents to assist asset managers, loan service providers and banks in selling off inventories of foreclosed properties.

Alpha Closing Inc. offers an online community of real estate agents and affiliates that provides resources for short sales and REO properties. The network formed by the partnership, dubbed the Alpha Agent Network, will serve as a gateway for agents to access the REO Trackpoint system and community with asset managers to list and sell REO properties.

DepotPoint provides the ForeclosurePoint service, an online marketplace for default properties.


The future of finance
Inman community brief

Editor’s note: The following is a member comment posted in the Inman Community group topic, "Another September to Remember — Not 911 but 908":

"One has to start thinking along the lines if so many financial institutions are being acquired by one or more larger financial institutions can these large financial institutions absorb the losses from this point forward?

Large corporations are supposed to have the resources to be efficient and create productivity; however, as we see from the real estate market (especially with potential short sales) are there any efficiencies or productivity enhancements? Some of the larger financial institutions are doing a miserable job in dealing with the current situation regarding a potential sale.

I suspect we are going to see more instability with the financial institutions — BofA does call for a watchful eye.

What drives the housing market is partially consumer confidence — what is today’s consumer confidence? The investments of consumers are at risk and they will look for a safe haven; watch federal securities and savings accounts (FDIC-insured) increase."
Glenn Ginsburg


New-home starts hit 17-year low
Real estate brief

The pace of total housing starts in August fell to the slowest pace since January 1991 and dropped about 33.1 percent compared to August 2007, the U.S. Census Bureau and U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development reported today.

Single-family housing starts hit a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 630,000 in August, down about 34.9 percent compared to August 2007 — this was also the lowest level since January 1991. This rate is a projection of a monthly total over a 12-month period, adjusted to account for seasonal fluctuations in construction activity.

The rate of building-permit authorizations was down 36.4 percent year-over-year in August, and housing completions were down 35.8 percent year-over-year.


Tuesday, Sept. 16, 2008

IPhone users can test beta home-search app
Real estate technology brief

DROdio Real Estate, which recently launched a beta version of its home-search application — The BestHomeSearch Ever Mobile — is looking for beta testers to provide feedback and any bug reports before an official launch in the Virginia-Maryland-Washington, D.C., region in November.

TheBestHomeSearchEver Mobile runs only on iPhones right now, but DROdio said it’ll be adding Blackberry support within the next 90 days. The tool searches the complete MRIS database of MLS listings when queried.

According to DROdio, the tool is "incredibly easy to use. We add a ‘TBHSE’ icon to your phone, and it launches our tool. Then, wherever you are, we bring up the homes for sale or for rent that match your search criteria. You can easily see the property on a map, and we even give you directions on how to get there based on where you’re currently standing."

Home shoppers can request a showing via e-mail, and get a copy of the property details e-mailed — or press a button to connect with an agent who can provide more property details.


Builder confidence improves
Real estate brief

A monthly builder confidence index produced by the National Association of Home Builders and Wells Fargo rose two points this month from a record low in August and July.

The Housing Market Index reached 18 — a score of 50 indicates a balance in "good" and "poor" ratings by builders, while scores below 50 indicate more builders view current conditions and the future outlook as "poor" than "good."

All three components of the index rose in September compared to August — the index component gauging current sales conditions rose one point to 17, and the index component gauging traffic of prospective buyers rose one point to 14. The index component that gauges builders’ sales expectations for the next six months rose six points to 30 compared to August 2008 and was up four points from September 2007.

Regionally, the overall index score rose six points in the Northeast and two points in the Midwest, South and West.


Monday, Sept. 15, 2008

Cyberhomes launches real estate blog
Real estate technology brief

Property-search and home-valuation site Cyberhomes.com on Friday launched the Cyberhomes blog, where consumers can get "the newest buzz on the housing market, explore the latest real estate data and get insight on what it means."

According to Cyberhomes blogger Lauren Baier Kim, the blog will also share "expert home-buying and selling tips, and invite you to add your comments on what you’re reading on the blog and what you’re seeing in the general housing marketplace."

Baier Kim previously blogged for The Wall Street Journal Online Network’s real estate blog, Developments, and was a senior editor with WSJ.com and RealEstateJournal.com.


California’s new-home sales dive 57 percent
Real estate brief

New-home sales in California dropped 57 percent in July compared to the same month last year, the California Building Industry Association trade group and research company Hanley Wood Market Intelligence reported today, falling from 5,437 sales in July 2007 to 2,348 sales in July 2008. Similarly, new-home sales in California dropped 58 percent year-over-year in June.

The median price of new homes in the state dropped 11.9 percent, falling from $419,990 in July 2007 to $369,991 in July 2008, according to the report. Single-family home sales dropped 54.4 percent year-over-year in July, while single-family home prices dropped 17.4 percent.

"Continued problems in the credit markets, including the recent federal bailout of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, indicate just how broad the problems facing the housing market are," stated Jonathan Dienhart, director of published researched for Hanley Wood. "While ensuring the survival of Fannie and Freddie was the best course of action in the short term, the long-term ramifications are not yet clear. For now, access to credit will remain challenging for many potential home buyers, and declining prices will mean difficult times for existing homeowners."


Fewer Canadians putting homes on market
Global real estate brief

New residential listings on the MLS in Canada’s major markets fell in August from record levels seen in the previous four months, according to statistics released by The Canadian Real Estate Association, which some suggest means the resale housing market is stabilizing.

New listings, which topped 50,000 in April, May, June and July, fell in August to a seasonally adjusted 47,657 homes — down 5.3 percent from July — and now stand at their lowest level this year, CREA reported.

This trend has been most evident in Calgary and Edmonton, where fewer new listings and rising sales activity have stabilized the resale housing market, CREA reported. New listings remain most elevated relative to sales activity in Saskatoon and Vancouver, making them the most balanced major markets in the country, according to CREA.


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