Category Archives: Real estate info

Why Hiring a Licensed Contractor is a Smart Move

Hiring a Licensed Contractor

Hiring a Licensed Contractor

 

Hiring a Licensed Contractor

 

You’ve decided to remodel your kitchen, move walls, update bathrooms and take advantage of the equity you could be building in your home. If you’ve never done these types of renovations you will probably want to hire a contractor to do the work for you. Keeping the costs down is always important, but the one place you don’t want to cut corners on is hiring a licensed contractor.

 

 

It can actually save you money

 

 

While paying significantly less for the seemingly same work may seem like a steal, hiring a licensed contractor can actually save you money. Unlicensed and uninsured contractors are able to offer lower prices because they often don’t carry worker’s compensation insurance required by the state. This means that if an employee is hurt on the job in your home you could be liable for missed work and bills due to injury if you go with the less expensive unlicensed contractor.

 

 

Have questions about how much your home is worth after renovations? Contact us today!

 

 

Licensing also ensures that they are knowledgeable their field. This can save you money by not only having the work done correctly the first time, but for legal fees in going after an unlicensed person who did shoddy work or did not complete the work paid for. What you’re paying for is more than work, it’s peace of mind.

 

 

 

Finding reputable contractors

 

 

The state of Florida has recently cracked down on unlicensed contractors. According to the Tampa Bay Times, 11 people face felony charges of doing work that requires a license without worker’s compensation. There are resources to help you find the best, licensed company or individual to do the work you need. Visit the Better Business Bureau here to find accredited, trustworthy businesses. You can also visit the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation here. They have a list of work that requires and does not require a license. You can report unlicensed activity here.

 

 

Federal Flood Insurance Changes: New proposal may affect Florida homes

Federal Flood Insurance Changes

 

 

Federal Flood Insurance Changes

 

The 2017 hurricane season has put a lot of strain onto the National Flood Insurance Program which is currently $25 million dollars in debt. President Trump’s administration is calling for an overhaul of the program to help alleviate the pressure of growing flood related spending. If put into action, these changes could stifle the housing market yet jump-start the private insurance market.

 

The proposal will end insurance for newly built homes in flood prone areas after 2020. It would also allow FEMA to end insurance for home that are continuously affected by flooding. The idea is praised by some for helping to curtail people from building in areas where they are at high risk, but The National Association of Home Builders claims that the proposal will curb economic growth: “It would simply prevent home builders from being able to provide safe and affordable housing to consumers. By creating uncertainty in the housing market, this proposal would also harm local communities and impair economic growth.” The press release from the NAHB went on to say that newer homes are at less risk because they are build more soundly and with more precautions than older homes, which means insurance claims would be less. 

 

While this proposal won’t hinder homes from being built or rebuilt and privately insured, lenders may not accept private flood insurance, which will narrow down the buying pool for new homes drastically. Though there is a regulatory proposal to require lenders to accept private insurance, the measure has not been finalized. The NFIP was temporarily extended in September and Congress has until December 8th to reinstate it.

 

 

Top Fall Home Projects

Top Fall Home Projects

Top Fall Home Projects

 

Top Fall Home Projects

 

The weather is getting cooler and the holidays are coming soon. Now is the perfect time to complete those projects around the house you’ve been putting off.

 

 

Renovate

 

Unless your home is new construction or you’ve recently remodeled, there is a room in your house that could use a bit of freshening up. Replace your appliances and upgrade your kitchen counter tops for that beautiful Thanksgiving dinner you’ve always wanted. You could also simply replace door handles, upgrade bathroom fixtures, or add a fresh coat of paint to the well-lived in rooms. With the cool weather on the horizon, it’s a perfect time to paint the outside of the home or add that porch or patio you’ve been wanting.

 

 

 

Clean

 

Another way to take advantage of the cool weather is by catching up on that Spring cleaning we’ve all been putting off since March. Here is a list of items you may have missed. Fall also adds another element to our cleaning: leaves. Get out your trusty ladder and ensure your gutters are free and clear from debris. Also consider power-washing your home and deck to remove dirt or grime from siding, especially if you plan on painting in this gorgeous weather.

 

 

Weather Proof

 

Keep your home as energy efficient as possible this fall and winter. Replace older windows with high efficiency windows. This not only will help eliminate hot spots in your home and keep your AC from over use while increasing the value of your home, it will also help reduce the amount of noise pollution entering your home. Bonus: Duke Energy offers rebates up to $400 for replacing old windows with more efficient ones! Win/win.

 

Also consider having your furnace tuned up (this will also help save on your electricity bill!) and fire place cleaned. Take full advantage of this time so make your home cozy, warm, and inviting.

How Will the New Flood Insurance Bill Impact You?

Flood Insurance is at Risk

 

How Will the New Flood Insurance Bill Impact You?

 

The National Flood Insurance Program, which was created in the late 1960’s to help facilitate more private insurance options, is going to expire on September 30th, 2017. Congress has recently introduced the “21st Century Flood Reform Act” that will allow flood insurance policies to go uninterrupted through the middle of Florida’s 2017 hurricane season.

 

The catch? The bill has to be passed and signed by the president before September 30th.

 

What This Means For The Homeowner

 

According to Florida Realtors, Florida represents 40% of NFIP nationally. If you are a homeowner in a flood zone in the Tampa Bay area this could be troublesome as congress has merely only introduced the bill needed to keep flood insurance afloat and hurricane season will not end until November.

 

Further, if you are looking to buy or sell your home, closing will be tough. Florida realtors states “Mortgage lenders require proof of property insurance before they will lend money at closing, and they require proof of flood insurance if a property is located within a FEMA-designated flood zone. If home buyers can’t secure proof of flood coverage, their closing could be cancelled or delayed.”

 

What You Can Do

 

Call or email your congress representative and ask them to push a long the bill, or pass an extension so flood insurance is not disrupted. You can easily find contact information for your representative here.

 

 

 

The Price Group Sales March 2017

The Price Group Realtors St Pete Statistics for March

 

The Price Group Realtors – March

 

 

March was an awesome month for The Price Group Realtors in St Pete! With a total of over $3.7 million in sales the team pulled in at 4th in all of West Central Florida of Coldwell Banker. Some other things to note is the average days to close, new listings, and steady growth in volume of total sales. In March we sold homes on average in 50 days, added nearly twenty new listings, and have increased our sales volume by almost 2 million from January this year. We are soaring through 2017, almost doubling the amount of volume sold from 2016.

 

the price group realtors st pete

We can’t make these numbers without our amazing clients. Thank you to all who have chosen The Price Group to help you achieve your real estate vision.

 

 

 

What does all this mean for you, the homeowner?

 

 

 

Simply put: We will sell your home at the highest value and quickly.  On the fence about selling your home? Now is the time to hop off and call us. Our aggressive marketing including mailers, just listed postcards, online presence (Zillow, Realtor, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc) as well as an up-to-date blog with current listings, newspaper and online ads, and weekly email blasts make us the top 1% realtors in Pinellas County.

 

 

 

Contact us, sign up for our newsletter, get updated market reports, and find out what your home is worth all in one place. You get all the information you need with the personal touch of an experienced realtor by your side.

 

Understanding HOA Rules: Why it’s Important

price group realtors st pete

 

Home Owner’s Associations have a variety of different functions. They may collect fees that are collected monthly, quarterly or yearly and cover anything from gates to the community, buildings, landscaping and general maintenance of the common areas. There are also rules, or covenants, that must be followed.

 

These covenants can be quite restrictive, but with the right HOA rules not only will your neighborhood remain beautiful and functioning well, your property value will not be diminished due to neighbors untidy keeping of their homes. Understanding these rules before you buy is crucial because once you agree to them, changing the ones you cannot live with can be quite difficult.

 

First, read the HOA documents thoroughly. Then think about how the rules will affect your way of life. To put is plainly, if you own a boat and large trucks, you may want to reconsider the condo where the HOA prevents you from owning a vehicle larger than mid-sized SUVs. If something isn’t clear, ask your realtor for clarification. After all, a professional realtor will know or find the answers for you.

 

Want more home-buying tips? Check out our buyer’s guide here!

 

Also, double check to see if the home you fell in love with isn’t already out of compliance with the current HOA rules. Otherwise that’s an extra expense you may have to deal with, or rely on the seller to fix which can delay closing. Something as small as an unapproved paint color can be a major pain if you’re not expecting it.

 

Finally, double check that there aren’t any major assessments coming up. (This is something your realtor should ask, too.) Sometimes condo buildings and communities will have assessments to make major changes, improvements or repairs to the community. This means each resident is charged a fee to cover these costs. While you’re at it, check to see what kind of insurance the HOA has. Especially in St. Pete where (knock on wood) we are vulnerable to flooding and hurricanes.

 

 

Thinking of Selling Your Home?

If you’ve been sitting on the fence on whether or not to sell your home, it’s time to hop off. According to an article in the Tampa Bay Times, Tampa Bay led the state in sales of single family homes for the month September.

homes for sale in tampa bay

 

The article goes on to say that within our area home prices rose over 13% while the state average was around 11% growth. Pinellas’ gain was at 16.6%. Let’s break that down: If you were reluctant to sell your home valued at $250,000, you could sell it now for $41,500 more. Competition is fierce now with the new generation of millennial first time buyers, which means selling your home just got easier.

 

In order to sell your home, all you need to do is make the decision to call us. We can handle the rest. Now is the time to contact us. Our proven track record in aggressive marketing, alongside our huge online presence puts us in the top 1% of Realtors in Pinellas County. Call us today, to find out what we can do for you!

Tips For Buying A Home in St. Petersburg

Buying a home is an exciting event. It can also be stressful. The Price Group can help make your transition into your new home seamless. Here are some tips for buying a home in St. Petersburg.

Get your finances in order.tips for buying a home

Consider the costs of buying a home. Ideally, you want to have money saved for closing costs, down payments, inspections and moving and repair costs. Also consider costs after move in. Some of the missed costs of a home are insurance, property taxes and HOA dues. Let buyers know you’re serious and get pre-approved for your home loan. Not only will this save you time because you’ll be looking at houses you can afford, it will also give you an edge against a buyer who may not have lending set up. Also, don’t move money around or open up any credit lines at least six months prior as this may affect your loan.

Use your instincts, not your heart.

Remember that there is no such thing as a flawless house. Buyers should not expect the seller to address every cosmetic issue in the home. The main thing to remember is to keep your expectations realistic. There may be some issues the buyer may need to compromise on in order to find their dream home. (For example, walls can always be painted.) The same can be said for the neighborhood you choose. Researching the neighborhoods and surrounding areas can help you focus in on available houses and make the search less overwhelming. 

Some neighborhood questions you may want to consider:

  • Are there schools nearby?
  • Do the amenities in the neighborhood fit my lifestyle?
  • What is the commute to work like?
  • Are there public utilities such as recycling, garbage, water, etc?

(Psst – You can visit our Links & Resources page for local government, school, and neighborhood information.)

Stay on top of deadlines.

This is something your realtor should help you with, especially if you’re a first time home buyer. Depending on the closing dates and type of property the schedule can vary. Some of the most important events that you want to keep track of are escrow deadlines, final walk-thru, and closing. Other things to consider are making sure your utilities are canceled, opened, or transferred and packing up your home to move.

(Use our handy moving schedule so that you know what needs to be done when during the closing process.)

Moving in.

You made it! Home ownership is finally yours and you deserve to celebrate. But before you do, you have to move in. In the weeks before the move-in day, you should inventory your home and decide what to keep and what can be donated in order to de-clutter and make your move easier (the fewer boxes to carry the better). If you’re done with the days of bribing friends with pizza and beer to help, professional movers may be a great option for you. It may also be a good idea to have your furniture cleaned before you have it moved into the new home. Lastly, check out local restaurants and food delivery service such as Uber Eats. After a long day (or two) of moving, the last thing you’ll want to do is make dinner. Order in or go out and enjoy what your new neighborhood has to offer.

3% downpayment loans are back! 620 credit scores or above

A new program from Wells Fargo & Co. promises to make it easier for prospective borrowers to apply and qualify for a low downpayment residential loan.

Borrowers who use the yourFirst Mortgage program can purchase a home with a downpayment as low as 3 percent, an announcement Thursday indicated.

The San Francisco-based company said the program is intended to help first-time homebuyers and low- to moderate-income consumers become homeowners.

Fannie Mae is acting as a partner in the program.

According to Wells Fargo, the program features fixed interest rates. Prospective borrowers with less than 10 percent down can earn an interest rate reduction of 12.5 basis points by completing a homebuyer education course.

Expanded credit criteria include nontraditional sources like tuition, rent and utility bill payments.

The loan is fully documented and underwritten, and income from others who will reside in the subject property – such as family members or renters – can be considered for debt-to-income ratio calculations.

Downpayments and closing costs can come from gifts and downpayment assistance programs.

“yourFirst Mortgage is a conventional loan that avoids the complexities associated with loan applications for previous affordable lending programs,” the news release stated.

“There are a lot of conventional loan products with low downpayment options, but the criteria are so complex that it creates barriers for many qualified borrowers,” Wells Fargo Home Lending Executive Vice President Brad Blackwell said in the statement. “With yourFirst Mortgage, we wanted to provide access to credit and simplify the experience while maintaining responsible lending practices.”

Copyright © 2016 Mortgage Daily, Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC

More Great News – Tampa’s Property Values Are WAY Up!

More Great News – Tampa’s Property Values Are WAY Up!

Within the last year, the price appreciation for many homes here in the South increased.
 
Existing home sales in the Southern states climbed 3 percent in the third quarter of this year, according to a recent report from the National Association of Realtors, and are now almost 7 percent above the third quarter of 2014.
 
Specifically speaking, the greater Tampa area has seen a serious increase in home prices – a direct reflection of market value, and excellent news for Florida homeowners. Through a combination of solid job gains, above average shares of vacation and foreign buyers, and little new construction being added, areas in Florida have enjoyed a faster price growth on homes than other areas of the nation. According to the NAR report, prices have jumped an astonishing 20.7 percent during the past year – a remarkable increase.
 
This rising value is a clear sign that homes in the area are an investment with a great appreciating value. Family, vacation and/or retirement homes’ value will keep increasing due to the demand for these homes, making now a great time to buy. Investing now will let you get into a home at a lower price today as the housing market continues to heat up here in the Florida sun.
 
Thinking of moving away from the cold and snowy weather? The place to be is Florida! These homes may be the cheapest they will be for a while, so if you’re considering making a move to the Sunshine State, now’s the time to do so. Looking to move out instead? Selling your home in this market is sure to bring you a great price, so make the move you’ve been waiting on and list your home today.
 
At The Price Group, we can help you find your new dream home or help you get your property out to the many eager buyers looking for homes in the region. We have experience selling waterfront, historic and downtown properties throughout the region, and our commitment to excellence will ensure you have the best experience possible throughout the buying or selling process. To get started with your search or to learn more about selling your property with The Price Group, give us a call today at 727-851-6189.
 

The top 3 mistakes made by first-time buyers

First-time homebuyers are emerging as a bigger force in the housing market. But getting approved for a mortgage, finding the right home and staying within budget can pose a challenge for them.

Bankrate.com notes some of the most common first-time buyer mistakes:

1. Judging only the mortgage payment: Some first-time homebuyers mistakenly focus only on the monthly mortgage payment, which they can afford, and forget that a home comes with other expenses, which they can’t afford.

“They have an idea of what their mortgage payment is going to be, but they don’t realize there’s much more to it,” says attorney Rafael Castellanos, a managing director at Expert Title Insurance. Property insurance, taxes, homeowner association dues, maintenance and utility bills can add up too.

2. Emptying out their savings for a downpayment: It’s a mistake to spend everything in the savings account for a downpayment, says Ed Conarchy, a mortgage planner and investment adviser at Cherry Creek Mortgage in Gurnee, Ill. “Some people scrape all their money together to make the 20 percent downpayment so they don’t have to pay for mortgage insurance, but they are picking the wrong poison because they are left with no savings at all,” he says. “I’d take paying for mortgage insurance any day over not having money for rainy days. Everyone – especially homeowners – needs to have a rainy-day fund.”

3. Getting new credit before the deal is closed: When borrowers prequalify for a loan, they need to avoid big-ticket purchases until the loan closes. Lenders pull credit reports before the closing to make sure the borrower’s financial situation has not changed since the loan was approved. Any new loans on their credit report could cause a closing delay.

First-time buyers “sign the contract and they want to buy new furniture for the house or a new car,” says Steve Anderson, a broker and owner at RE/MAX Benchmark Realty in Las Vegas. “I remember one case where, just before closing, the buyer drove to the office and says, ‘Look at my brand-new car.’ I told them, ‘You’d better go back to that dealership.'” Continue reading

Rents growing 5% yearly – more in some Fla. cities

Rent growth in the national apartment market is on a streak not seen for almost four years, according to Axiometrics. Annual effective rent growth for the U.S. apartment market in April 2015 remained steady at 5 percent.

It’s the third straight month it has been at or above 5 percent, and it’s the highest April rate since at least 2009, when Axiometrics began reporting the metric monthly.

In the first three months of the year, rents grew at their highest rate since the third quarter of 2011.

“Though the rate of rent growth has been steady the past several months, the fact that rents are rising at a 5 percent annual clip points to an extremely robust apartment market,” says Stephanie McCleskey, Axiometrics Vice President of Research. “The absorption of the large amount of new supply, fueled by increasing job gains, has been a boon for landlords and property owners – not to mention apartment investors.”

Annual effective rent growth did not reach 3 percent until March 2014, 4 percent until August 2014, and 5 percent until December 2014.

“If the market sustains this trend of 5 percent rent growth, 2015 would exceed the surprisingly strong year of 2014 as the highest-performing year of the recovery,” McCleskey says. “However, we still believe that rent growth rates will moderate as the year progresses.”

Occupancy rates

The national occupancy rate was 95.2 percent in April, an increase from March’s 94.9 percent. Occupancy last reached 95.2 percent in August 2014, the first time it had attained this level since Axiometrics began reporting occupancy rates monthly in April 2008.

“Axiometrics considers properties and markets full at 95 percent occupancy,” McCleskey says. “So, in essence, the national apartment market is full and in need of even more new supply, even though a record number of new units have been identified for delivery this year. Of course, individual markets differ, and there are some metro areas in which new supply is exceeding demand; but overall, the outlook is strong for the apartment industry.”

Florida cities’ rent growth

Eight California markets were among the top 17 markets with the highest annual effective rent growth in April within Axiometrics’ top 50 markets, based on total units, but three Florida cities ranked near the top of the list in April for “effective rent growth”:

Orlando: 6.7% rent growth, 95.6% occupancy rate
West Palm Beach: 6.4% rent growth, 95.5% occupancy rate
Fort Lauderdale: 6.3% rent growth, 95.8% occupancy rate
In addition, Axiometrics noted other hot markets that saw even higher percentage increases, including:

Naples: 10.2% rent growth, 97.7% occupancy
Cape Coral: 10.2% rent growth, 97.3% occupancy
Deltona: 9.0% rent growth, 96.5% occupancy
Orlando had the biggest rise among the top 17 markets in April, moving from No. 15 in March to No. 10 in April; West Palm Beach had the steepest decline, dropping from eighth place in March to No. 14 in April.

Affordable rental housing still elusive

According to Housing Spotlight: The Affordable Rental Housing Gap Persists, there are more renters today than ever before, but not enough affordably priced rental units to meet the needs of the lowest income households.

The study, released by the National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC), found a U.S. deficit of 7.1 million rental units that are appropriate for low income households – ones that make 30 percent or less of an area’s median income.

Nationwide, there are only 31 affordable and available units for every 100 extremely low income renters.

In Florida, it’s even less. The state tied for fourth place with only 21 affordable and available housing units for every 100 families.

Nevada topped the U.S. states with just 15 units of available and affordable housing per 100 renters, followed by Arizona and California (20). Oregon tied Florida for fifth place with 21 units per 100 families followed by Texas (26).

South Dakota (54 units per 100 families) and North Dakota (52) topped the list.

In every state, at least half of all extremely low-income renters spent more than 50 percent of their income on housing costs.

According to NLIHC, extremely low-income renters make up 25 percent of the total renter population, but just 7 percent of all rental units are affordable and available to this group. This report is based on 2012 data, the latest available.

For the first time, this edition of Housing Spotlight also highlights how it is nearly impossible for renters with income at or below 15 percent of area median income to find housing that they can afford. These renters are considered deeply low income by NLIHC. They are most often elderly or disabled households living on fixed incomes, such as Supplemental Security Income (SSI). There were 4 million of these renter households in 2012, but just 16 affordable and available units for every 100 of them; 90 percent spent more than half of their income on housing costs.

“The housing crisis pushed higher wage earners into the rental market, causing rent increases and a surge in the development of luxury apartments, making it nearly impossible for extremely low income households to find housing that is truly affordable to them,” says Sheila Crowley, president and CEO of the National Low Income Housing Coalition.

© 2014 Florida Realtors®

Study suggests 1 in 10 renters wants to buy in 2014

March 13, 2014 – If a Zillow survey crunched its numbers correctly, the real estate market will see a big upswing in buyer demand over the next year.

According to the inaugural edition of the Zillow Housing Confidence Index (ZHCI), more than 5 percent of all residents in 19 of the 20 large U.S. metro areas want to buy a home in the next year. When the survey focused on just current renters, the number rises to one in 10 (10 percent) hoping to buy a home in the next 12 months.

However, existing headwinds, including tight inventory, rising mortgage interest rates and growing affordability problems in a handful of areas, may make it difficult for many potential buyers to follow through. Still, the majority of respondents were “confident” or “somewhat confident” they could afford homeownership now.

If all renters hoping to buy jumped into the market, it would represent close to 4.2 million first-time home sales – more than double the roughly 2.1 million first-time homebuyers in 2013.

A lack of home inventory may halt some buyers’ aspirations, however. While inventory is up 11.1 percent nationally compared to a year ago, it’s still well below optimal levels. Recent Census Bureau data indicates that the share of new homes built as rental units has grown, while the share of new construction dedicated to single-family homes is down. Mortgage interest rates also continue to rise.

“Even after a wrenching housing recession, this data shows that the dream of homeownership remains very much alive and well, even in those areas that were hardest hit,” says Zillow Chief Economist Dr. Stan Humphries. “But these aspirations must also contend with the current reality, and in many areas, conditions remain difficult for buyers. The market is moving toward more balance between buyers and sellers, but it is a slow and uneven process.”

Pulsenomics created the Zillow Housing Confidence Index. Measured on a 0 to 100 scale, readings above 50 indicating positive sentiment. The overall ZHCI for the U.S. stood at 63.7 at the start of the year. Of the 20 metro areas surveyed, 11 had individual confidence levels higher than the U.S. as a whole. The overall U.S. ZHAI among all households, which measures consumers’ plans to buy and their attitudes toward the social value of homeownership, stood at 62.4.

“While it is reassuring to see all of the headline ZHCIs in positive territory, the underlying indicators … reveal significant variability,” says Pulsenomics Founder Terry Loebs. “Several of these drivers of overall housing confidence registered negative or only marginally positive readings in some cities. These data confirm that real estate recovery and economic healing are relative, local phenomena …”

© 2014 Florida Realtors®

Senate Passes Flood Insurance Bill

On Jan. 30, 2014, the United States Senate voted 67-32 to approve the Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act (S. 1926), sponsored by Senators Menendez (D-NJ) and Isakson (R-GA).

This bipartisan legislation, an NAR member priority, calls for a 4-year timeout on rate increases triggered either by a property’s sale or a flood map update for a property with previously grandfathered rates. NAR provided Congress with expert testimony suggesting that many of these increases are excessive and inaccurate. The bill also creates a flood insurance advocate within the Federal Emergency Management Act (FEMA) to investigate home owner complaints of multiple different or excessive rate quotes.

The Senate vote sends the measure to the House of Representatives, where Reps. Grimm (R-NY) and Waters (D-CA) have already built an impressive list of 181 co-sponsors in favor of the bill; a total that is 30 votes shy of a House majority NAR will redouble its efforts there to persuade the House leadership to bring a similar bill up for a floor vote at the earliest opportunity.

FL home sale prices up 11.4% year-to-year in Dec.

Florida’s housing market reported higher median prices, more new listings, fewer days on the market and the continued stabilization of inventory in December, according to the latest housing data released by Florida Realtors®. Closed sales of single-family homes statewide totaled 19,497 last month, up 8.6 percent over the December 2012 figure.

“Florida’s housing market continues to demonstrate its recovery,” says 2014 Florida Realtors President Sherri Meadows, CEO and team leader, Keller Williams, with market centers in Gainesville, Ocala and the Villages. “December marked over two years – 25 months – of consecutive gains in statewide median sales prices, year-over-year, for both single-family homes and for townhouse-condo properties. The rising prices, along with the renewed strength of the state’s housing market, are encouraging more homeowners to list their properties for sale. Statewide, new listings for single-family homes increased 23.8 percent in December, while new townhome-condo listings rose 8.1 percent. The rising prices mean increased equity, which is another reason people are listing properties.

“Properties also are taking less time to sell, another trend that is sparking sellers’ interest,” Meadows added. “In December, the median days on market (the midpoint of the number of days it took for a property to sell that month) was 50 days for single-family homes and 51 days for townhouses and condos. That means 50 percent of homes on the market in Florida sell in less than two months.”

The statewide median sales price for single-family existing homes last month was $172,630, up 11.4 percent from the previous year, according to data from Florida Realtors Industry Data and Analysis department in partnership with local Realtor boards/associations. The statewide median price for townhouse-condo properties in December was $137,500, up 17 percent over the year-ago figure. The median is the midpoint; half the homes sold for more, half for less.

According to the National Association of Realtors (NAR), the national median sales price for existing single-family homes in November 2013 was $196,200, up 9.4 percent from the previous year; the national median existing condo price was $197,400. In California, the statewide median sales price for single-family existing homes in November was $422,210; in Massachusetts, it was $316,500; in Maryland, it was $257,677; and in New York, it was $229,000.

Looking at Florida’s townhome-condo market, statewide closed sales totaled 8,364 last month, down slightly (2.5 percent) compared to December 2012. However, the closed sales data reflected fewer short sales and cash-only sales in December: Traditional sales in Florida rose 23.3 percent for single-family homes and 6 percent for condo-townhome properties. Closed sales typically occur 30 to 90 days after sales contracts are written.

“Florida’s market exhibited all the signs of the annual holiday lull,” said Florida Realtors Chief Economist Dr. John Tuccillo. “Because of things like the reduced number of workdays and the presence of other important things to do, the statistics at this time of year don’t necessarily give a good read on where the market really is. Three continuing trends to note, however, are rising inventories, declining cash sales and the lessening presence of distressed property sales.

“The first two are indicative of reduced investor activity and thus a return to a more normal market. The last is a product of rising values that have increased market sales relative to short sales and foreclosures.”

Inventory was at a 5.5-months’ supply in December for single-family homes and at a 5.8-months’ supply for townhouse-condo properties, according to Florida Realtors.

According to Freddie Mac, the interest rate for a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged 4.46 percent in December 2013, up from the 3.35 percent average recorded during the same month a year earlier.

© 2014 Florida Realtors®

U.S. homes selling 30 days faster than a year ago

Nationwide, homes listed for sale on real estate marketplace Zillow were selling a month faster in September than a year ago, according to a new analysis. In the United States as a whole, homes sold in September spent a median of 86 days on Zillow, down 30 days from 116 days in September 2012.

Among the 30 largest metro markets covered by Zillow in September, homes moved the fastest and spent the fewest days listed on Zillow in the San Francisco Bay Area (48 days); Sacramento, Calif. (59 days); and Dallas (60 days).

Homes sold faster this September compared to last September in all 30 of the largest metros. Large metros where homes moved the fastest this year compared to last year include Las Vegas (44 days faster), Sacramento (43 days faster) and San Antonio (37 days faster).

Zillow calculated the median number of days listings spent on Zillow, at the national, metro and county levels, dating to January 2010. In order to correct for homes that are listed, then removed and re-posted with new prices, Zillow considered multiple listings within 40 days at the same address as one listing. Since the beginning of 2010, homes nationwide have spent a median of 119 days on Zillow before being sold or taken off the market.

“The declining inventory of for-sale homes over the past year naturally creates pressure for buyers to more quickly snap up the inventory that is on the market. This demand has been fueled by huge resets in home prices since market peak, historically low mortgage rates and a slowly improving broader economic climate,” said Zillow Chief Economist Dr. Stan Humphries.

“Home shoppers in today’s environment need to be prepared to move quickly, with pre-approvals in place and an established sense of what they’re willing to pay for a home. But even though things are moving fast, buyers should resist the urge to enter into bidding wars or pay prices they’re uncomfortable with. We do expect that this need for speed will abate in the near-term as mortgage rates rise and more inventory becomes available because of new construction and declining negative equity.”

Copyright © 2013 Real Estate Weekly News via VerticalNews.com.

Fannie Mae targeted for pitfalls in short sales

The Office of Inspector General is recommending more oversight of Fannie Mae’s short-sale approvals after discovering flaws in the mortgage giant’s process.

OIG says in a report that after a review of 41 Fannie Mae short-sale transactions, it found that five servicers were failing to collect all of the required documents before determining if an applicant was eligible for a short sale. In turn, the servicers were also failing to provide the required documentation to Fannie Mae.

During 2012, Fannie Mae and its lenders approved more than 73,000 short sales, and the servicers identified in the OIG report were responsible for 34 percent of them, the report says.

OIG also says the servicers did not always conduct adequate reviews of the documents that were supplied by borrowers and failed to identify what necessary documents were missing – but still approved the short sales.

The Federal Housing Finance Agency, which oversees Fannie, agreed with OIG’s recommendations of stricter oversight from its audit of the mortgage giant’s short-sales processes.

OIG raised questions over Fannie Mae’s Low FICO Program, which allows servicers to approve short sales without collecting or reviewing any information or documentation for borrowers that have a FICO score below 620 and are at least 90 days late on their mortgage. OIG urged FHFA to review Fannie’s program and determine whether it should apply to borrowers who have non-owner occupants in their properties.

Source: “OIG Recommends Tighter Oversight of Fannie Mae Short Sales,” Mortgage News Daily (Nov. 19, 2013)

© Copyright 2013 INFORMATION, INC. Bethesda, MD (301) 215-4688

Citizens Property Insurance Corporation

Nearly 400,000 policyholders will be given the option to return to the private market in November, following last week’s approval by the Office of Insurance Regulation (OIR) for 10 private insurers to take out policies from the state-owned insurance firm.

Homeowners with policies that Citizens wants to transfer will receive a notice at least 30 days in advance. It will announce the name of the private insurer that’s slated to take their policy, and it will give them instructions on how they can elect to remain with Citizens if they wish. Homeowners who move their coverage to a private company also have 30 days to decide whether to return to Citizens.

“Citizens policies are becoming more attractive to private carriers,” says Citizens Property Insurance Corporation CEO Barry Gilway. “We have had success but still have a ways to go.

A key advantage for homeowners who choose to make the switch from Citizens to a private company involves the cost after a hurricane strikes: Switched policyholders would no longer be subject to Citizens’ assessments, which could reach 45 percent of the premium. Instead, they would be subject to the 2 percent assessment that could be levied on all Florida policyholders. Even then, however, the 2 percent kicks in only if event Citizens policyholder assessments are insufficient.

“These takeout efforts not only improve the coverage for many individuals but also reduce the risk of a hurricane tax on all Florida policyholders,” Gilway says.

In January 2014, Citizens will launch another tactic to cut back on the number of homeowners covered: A consumer clearinghouse, which will help match Citizens policyholders and applicants with private carriers willing to write coverage at comparable rates.

“The clearinghouse will provide policyholders with more private market options so they do not need to enter Citizens in the first place,” Gilway said.

Citizens Property Insurance Corporation

Nearly 400,000 policyholders will be given the option to return to the private market in November, following last week’s approval by the Office of Insurance Regulation (OIR) for 10 private insurers to take out policies from the state-owned insurance firm.

Homeowners with policies that Citizens wants to transfer will receive a notice at least 30 days in advance. It will announce the name of the private insurer that’s slated to take their policy, and it will give them instructions on how they can elect to remain with Citizens if they wish. Homeowners who move their coverage to a private company also have 30 days to decide whether to return to Citizens.

“Citizens policies are becoming more attractive to private carriers,” says Citizens Property Insurance Corporation CEO Barry Gilway. “We have had success but still have a ways to go.

A key advantage for homeowners who choose to make the switch from Citizens to a private company involves the cost after a hurricane strikes: Switched policyholders would no longer be subject to Citizens’ assessments, which could reach 45 percent of the premium. Instead, they would be subject to the 2 percent assessment that could be levied on all Florida policyholders. Even then, however, the 2 percent kicks in only if event Citizens policyholder assessments are insufficient.

“These takeout efforts not only improve the coverage for many individuals but also reduce the risk of a hurricane tax on all Florida policyholders,” Gilway says.

In January 2014, Citizens will launch another tactic to cut back on the number of homeowners covered: A consumer clearinghouse, which will help match Citizens policyholders and applicants with private carriers willing to write coverage at comparable rates.

“The clearinghouse will provide policyholders with more private market options so they do not need to enter Citizens in the first place,” Gilway said.

Citizens Property Insurance Corporation

Nearly 400,000 policyholders will be given the option to return to the private market in November, following last week’s approval by the Office of Insurance Regulation (OIR) for 10 private insurers to take out policies from the state-owned insurance firm.

Homeowners with policies that Citizens wants to transfer will receive a notice at least 30 days in advance. It will announce the name of the private insurer that’s slated to take their policy, and it will give them instructions on how they can elect to remain with Citizens if they wish. Homeowners who move their coverage to a private company also have 30 days to decide whether to return to Citizens.

“Citizens policies are becoming more attractive to private carriers,” says Citizens Property Insurance Corporation CEO Barry Gilway. “We have had success but still have a ways to go.

A key advantage for homeowners who choose to make the switch from Citizens to a private company involves the cost after a hurricane strikes: Switched policyholders would no longer be subject to Citizens’ assessments, which could reach 45 percent of the premium. Instead, they would be subject to the 2 percent assessment that could be levied on all Florida policyholders. Even then, however, the 2 percent kicks in only if event Citizens policyholder assessments are insufficient.

“These takeout efforts not only improve the coverage for many individuals but also reduce the risk of a hurricane tax on all Florida policyholders,” Gilway says.

In January 2014, Citizens will launch another tactic to cut back on the number of homeowners covered: A consumer clearinghouse, which will help match Citizens policyholders and applicants with private carriers willing to write coverage at comparable rates.

“The clearinghouse will provide policyholders with more private market options so they do not need to enter Citizens in the first place,” Gilway said.

What Turns Renters Into Home Owners?

It’s not what you know about home ownership that makes you want to own a home, but rather how you value it. Or so says a new study from Fannie Mae that concludes having a personal experience like being unable to pay a mortgage, thinking home values will fall in the future, or being underwater on a home loan don’t play a big part in renters wanting to be home owners.

The key drivers pushing renters toward home ownership are attitudes and beliefs. Those who believe “owning makes more sense financially over the long term” do indeed go on to buy homes.

Things that are much less important factors for renters:

· The perceived ease of getting a mortgage

· Knowing someone who defaulted on a mortgage

· The belief that home values will rise or fall

· The desire to have a good place to raise and educate children

· Safety

· More space and control over your living environment

The study suggests Americans’ desire to own homes is strong, even when the housing market undergoes dramatic challenges.

“Our study shows that the negative housing events of the past few years have not discouraged
people from wanting to own a home,” the study authors wrote. “Exposure to mortgage default, perceived home value appreciation/depreciation, and self-reported underwater status are not significant factors in the models predicting individuals’ intentions to own a home for their next move.”

Source: Fannie Mae

Miami developer plans implosion to clear way for multifamily project in downtown St. Petersburg

The 98-year-old Tropicana building in downtown St. Petersburg could be imploded this year to make room for a new residential and hotel complex.

Miami-based Tropicana Redevelopment plans to tear down the four-story, nearly 41,000-square-foot building at 25 Second St. N, across from Jannus Live.

The site had already been approved years ago for a multifamily project, and multifamily projects currently make up the hottest sector of commercial real estate throughout the Sunshine State.

“We feel the timing is right,” vice president Jerome Hollo said. “We love the city and what has been done to the downtown area.”

Tropicana Redevelopment, part of Florida East Coast Realty, bought the building in 2001 for $4 million. The 60-year-old real estate firm specializes in urban high-rise buildings.

Hollo doesn’t know the cost of the new project as plans are still being tweaked. He described the development as “very large.” The building is the only property the firm owns in the Tampa Bay area.

Tenants in the building were told in March to leave by the end of May so the building could be prepared for demolition. The remaining tenants are in the process of moving out, Hollo said.

The firm has not yet sought demolition permits.

Mark Puente can be reached at mpuente@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8459. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/markpuente.

Bidding wars are back!

A new development is catching home buyers off guard as the spring sales season gets under way: Bidding wars are back.
From California to Florida, many buyers are increasingly competing for the same house. Unlike the bidding wars that typified the go-go years and largely reflected surging sales, today’s are a result of supply shortages.
Peter Earl McCollough for The Wall Street Journal
Debbie and Bill Wetherell received multiple offers for their home.
“It’s a little surprising because we thought bidding wars were done with,” said Andy Aley, who is looking to buy his first home in Seattle’s Beacon Hill neighborhood. The 31-year-old attorney was outbid this year when he offered up to $23,000 above the $357,000 listing price and agreed to waive inspections and other closing conditions.
Competitive bidding in the current environment isn’t producing huge price increases or leaving sellers with hefty profits, as occurred during the housing boom. Still, the bidding wars caused by tight inventory provide the latest evidence that housing demand is starting to pick up after a six-year-long slump.
An index that measures the number of contracts signed to purchase previously owned homes rose in March to its highest level in nearly two years, up 12.8% from a year ago and 4.1% from February, the National Association of Realtors reported on Thursday.
“We very much believe we’ve hit bottom,” said Ivy Zelman, chief executive of a research firm, who was among the first to warn of a downturn seven years ago. Earlier this week, she raised her home-price forecast for the year, calling for a 1% annual gain, up from a 1% decline.
View Interactive

The Wall Street Journal’s quarterly survey found that the inventory of homes listed for sale declined sharply in all 28 markets tracked. Real-estate agents consider a market balanced when there is a six-month supply of homes for sale. At the height of the housing crisis, in 2008, there was an 11.1-months’ supply. In March, there was a 6.3-months’ supply.
Inventory levels in many markets were at the lowest level in years. At the current pace of sales, it would take just 1.5 months to sell all the homes listed in Sacramento, Calif., and 2.4 months to sell all the homes listed in Phoenix. San Francisco and Washington, D.C., each have 3.4 months of supply, while Miami has 4.1 months of supply.
Other markets have plenty of homes. Chicago, for example, has 9.4 months of supply, while New York’s Long Island has 16.1 months of supply. Even in those markets, the number of houses for sale is edging down.
Increased competition is frustrating buyers and their agents. “We’re writing a record number of offers, but we’re not seeing a record number of closings and that’s because it’s so competitive,” said Glenn Kelman, chief executive of real-estate brokerage Redfin Corp. in Seattle with offices in 14 states.
Nearly 83% of offers that Redfin agents have made on behalf of clients in the San Francisco Bay area this year and 71% in Southern California have had competing bids. Redfin represented a buyer that made the winning bid on a Gaithersburg, Md., home earlier this month after agreeing to adopt the dog of the seller, who was relocating and looking to find a new home for “Buddy,” a white toy poodle.
Inventories are declining for a number of reasons. Some sellers, unwilling to accept prices that are still down from their peak by one-third, are taking their homes off the market in anticipation of higher prices down the road. Meanwhile, investors have been outmaneuvering consumers for the best properties, often making cash offers that are quickly accepted by sellers.
In addition, some economists say that inventory levels are being held artificially low because Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and the nation’s biggest banks have been slow to list for sale hundreds of thousands of foreclosed homes they currently own. The lenders slowed down foreclosure sales and repossessions after record-keeping abuses surfaced 18 months ago.
Banks and other mortgage investors owned nearly 450,000 foreclosed properties at the end of March, and another two million mortgages were in some stage of foreclosure.
Inventories could rise, putting more pressure on prices, if the banks and other lenders step up their efforts to sell their properties. Real-estate agents say they aren’t concerned. “There’s an enormous appetite for foreclosures. Release the inventory. It will sell,” said Richard Smith, chief executive of Realogy Corp., which owns the Coldwell Banker and Century 21 real-estate brands.

The declining inventory of older homes is spurring sales of new homes. New home sales are up 16% so far this year, compared with a year ago, while inventories of new homes fell in March to their lowest level since record keeping began in 1963.
Meritage Homes Corp., a builder based in Scottsdale, Ariz., reported Thursday a 36% increase in orders for the quarter ending in March versus the previous-year period.
Even though bidding wars are pushing prices higher, many homes are still selling for prices far lower than a few years ago. Increased demand is “entirely affordability driven, which tells me there will be strong resistance to price increases” by buyers, says Jeffrey Otteau, president of Otteau Valuation Group, an East Brunswick, N.J., appraisal firm.
Rents are rising at a time when mortgage rates have fallen to very low levels. The result is that the monthly mortgage payment on a median-priced home is lower than any time since the 1990s. Freddie Mac reported on Thursday that mortgage rates fell to 3.88% for the average 30-year fixed rate mortgage, near its lowest recorded level.
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Rates are “so low that we can afford a house that was out of our price range before,” said Aarthi Srinivasan, who is looking with her husband for a home around Palo Alto, Calif., one of the country’s hottest real-estate markets.
Ms. Srinivasan says she fears that prices are being bid up too quickly. She says she had her “aha moment” earlier this year while touring a 50-year-old house that needed extensive remodeling. The home, listed at $1.1 million, received nearly 10 offers and eventually went under contract for more than $1.3 million to a buyer who hadn’t even viewed the property.
“There are only so many buyers who are going to be in such a hurry, so we’re hoping it’ll top off soon,” she says. On Monday, they offered to pay more than the $1.2 million list price for a four-bedroom, bank-owned foreclosure. They haven’t found out if they made the top bid.
On the other side of those transactions are sellers like Debbie and Bill Wetherell, who had 17 offers in four days for their four-bedroom home in Danville, Calif. “I was floored. It was so fast, it was surreal,” says Ms. Wetherell. The home sold on Wednesday for $796,000, more than $50,000 above the asking price.
Still, the sale is for nearly $180,000 less than what they paid for the house in 2005. Ms. Wetherell’s husband has commuted to Reno, Nev., for five years and they have decided to relocate.
Housing markets face other headwinds. More than 11 million homeowners owe more than their home is worth. It is a big reason that the “trade-up” market has been stalled. These homeowners can’t sell their current homes, let alone come up with the down payment for their next home.
Mortgage-lending standards remain tough. Real-estate agents say an unusually high share of deals are falling apart because homes won’t appraise at the price that buyers have agreed to pay sellers.
Still, borrowers with stable jobs are looking to make deals. Kelly Pajela-Fu and her husband offered to pay the asking price of $600,000 for a four-bedroom home in Marblehead, Mass., within a day of the property hitting the market.
“We just knew this house would go quickly,” says Ms. Pajela-Fu, a 31-year-old doctor who had lost out on an earlier offer. Their strategy to avoid a bidding war paid off: The sellers accepted their offer before having an open house.

Pinellas County real estate monthly indicators

Click to view the Pinellas County real estate Monthly Indicators

The media sometimes obsesses over the negatives, but last year brought several important improvements in key metrics that should not be brushed aside, such as an improved inventory picture. Foreclosures also dominate news stories, and for good reason. People should occupy homes, not banks. Which means qualified buyers need reliable access to mortgage capital, and distressed properties may need further attention in 2012 to expedite transfer of ownership and tax-base recapture. As we delve into a new year, we’re seeing mostly positive signs. Let’s examine some of them.

New Listings were down 18.3 percent for detached homes and 29.9 percent for attached properties. Pending Sales increased 2.9 percent for single-family homes but decreased 11.3 percent for townhouse-condo properties.The Median Sales Price was up 9.8 percent to $118,000 for detached homes and 14.5 percent to $85,000 for attached properties. Months Supply of Inventory decreased 39.7 percent for single-family units and 36.7 percent for townhouse-condo units.

U.S. economic data has been encouraging. The unemployment rate flirted with a 3-year low and an initial reading on the fourth quarter of 2011 GDP was in-line with expectations. Mortgage rates posted yet another fresh new record low. At the risk of sounding redundant (at the risk of sounding redundant), the missing puzzle piece is still jobs. Improvements in the labor market will spur housing demand through new household formations, improve family financials and galvanize consumer confidence.

Click to view the Pinellas County real estate Monthly Indicators

The 3.8% Tax Is Not a Real Estate Transfer Tax

Shortly after the federal government enacted sweeping healthcare reform earlier this year, there was considerable concern over a last-minute addition to the legislation: a 3.8 percent tax on investment income of upper-income households to help shore up Medicare. The tax takes effect in 2013.

Among the concerns expressed among consumers and business people, including real estate professionals, both then and today, is that the tax amounts to a transfer tax on real estate. Not true, NAR Director of Tax Policy Linda Goold says.

Here’s how the tax works. For individuals earning $200,000 a year or more and married couples earning $250,000 a year or more, certain investment income above these income levels might be subject to the 3.8 percent tax on a portion of that income. I say “might” because whether the tax applies or not depends on many factors having to do with the kind and amount of the investment income the household receives.

Investment income includes capital gains, dividends, interest payments, and, for those who own rental property, net rental income.

Importantly, the $250,000 (for individuals) and $500,000 (for married couples) capital gain exclusion on the sale of a principal residence remains in place. So, if you’re a married household that sold a house for a $500,000 gain (that’s gain, not sale proceeds), that amount remains excluded from your income calculation.

Let’s take a look at a married couple that has $325,000 in adjusted gross income (AGI), plus $525,000 in capital gains from the sale of their house.

This household would be considered upper-income by most standards. Not only is their income relatively high, at $325,000 (adjusted gross income, or AGI), but they’re receiving a $525,000 gain on their house sale. Presumably, they bought their house years ago and it’s appreciated over the years, so upon selling it, their gain is a relatively high $525,000.

For this household, only $25,000 in investment income would be subject to the 3.8 percent tax. That would amount to $950. That’s because it’s the $25,000 over the $500,000 capital gains exclusion that’s taxable.

Before they would know that, though, they would have to do a calculation that involves their adjusted gross income. They would have to add their capital gain of $25,000 to the amount of their income above the $250,000 income trigger (for married couples). Since their income is $325,000, they would add the $25,000 to $75,000 ($325,000 – $250,000), which would equal $100,000. Then they would compare the $25,000 to that $100,000, and apply the tax to the lesser of the two, which is the $25,000. Thus, $25,000 x 3.8% = $950.

So, you have a household that had income of $850,000 for the year, and its tax on investment equaled $950.

This is a simplification. Other tax issues could come into play. But it shows that the tax applies to just a portion of investment income for certain upper-income households and that the capital gains exclusion remains untouched.

Nobody likes taxes, and this tax was inserted into the legislation at the 11th hour as a “pay-for,” that is, as a revenue generator to help offset some of the costs of the reform. It’s expected to generate $325 billion over eight years.

NAR has prepared a brochure that looks at how the tax might apply under eight income scenarios: 1) sale of principal residence (which we just looked at), 2) sale of a non-real estate asset, 3) gain, interest, and dividend from securities, 4) real estate investment income, 5) rental income as sole source of earnings, 6) sale of second home with no rental use, 7) sale of inherited investment property, and 8. purchase and sale of investment property.

You can download the brochure for free. It’s written in plain language and I think you’ll find it organized efficiently, so you can see at a glance the potential considerations for the different scenarios. Of course, it’s just guidance: each household’s situation will be different, so you would want to suggest to your customers and clients that they consult with a tax advisor to make sure the tax is applied correctly in their case.

You can also get a good sense of how the tax works in the video above, in which Goold walks through a sample income scenario.

CNN money Home prices: Tampa, St. Pete & Clearwater

Report from CNN Money (click here) show Pinellas county with a -3% drop in property values over the 1st quarter of 2012. The 2nd part of this report show a huge price increase expected in the follow 4 quarters. We are already seeing a tremendous amount of activity in St. Petersburg and the beaches so far this year, including multiple offers and lots of cash sales. I’m sure the interest rates are playing a big part with sub 4% rates.

If you look at my last blog post you can see the inventory levels and the number of sales of both single family and condos on the rise. Check back with us in Mid Feb for Jan 2012’s numbers.

Pinellas County Real Estate Statistics for December 2011

Click to view December 2011 Pinellas County Residential Real Estate Report

The same story keeps repeating itself in the local real estate market. Listings are down for both the
condo and single family market. There does appear to be more strength in the single family market
versus the condo market. For all of 2011 the median sales price for condo’s dropped by $13,000 even
while listings have been at five year lows and sales have increased by 7.4% from December 2010 to
December 2011. In the single family market the median sales price has managed to see some support
at a floor of $125,000 from December 2010 to December 2011 while listings decreased by almost
62%.
Overall the residential market sales, as well as the median sales price were relatively flat year over
year. Active inventory is at a 6 year low (6.4 months supply of inventory) with just over 24% of the
7,964 active listings being distressed. Of the 1,927 distressed listings, 1,596 are short sales and 331 are
foreclosures.
Condo sales from December 2010 to December 2011 are up 7.5%. The median sales price for condos
dropped by $14,000 and condo listings decreased from 5,205 to 4,010 or 23% for the same time
period.
Single family listings are down from 6,327 to 3,954, or 38% from December 2011 to December 2010.
The median sales as noted previously remained stagnate year over year. Single family sales decreased
by 4.4% for the same time period.
Pending sales for the residential market are up almost 14% from December 2010 to December 2011.
However 74% of those pending sales are either short sales or foreclosures and 26% are non-distressed
properties. When you look at the pending sales that actually close you will see that 65% of the closed
sales in December were non-distressed and 35% are distressed. This may be due to more short sales
being listed as pending from December 2010 to December 2011.
Days on market also continues increase on all property types. Non-distressed properties days on
market increased almost 33%, short sale nearly doubled and bank owned properties increased almost
40% from December 2010 to December 2011.

Click to view December 2011 Pinellas County Residential Real Estate Report

A guide to administration’s new mortgage-refi plan

WASHINGTON – Oct. 25, 2011 – Two big questions loom over the Obama administration’s latest bid to help troubled homeowners: Will it work? And who would benefit?

By easing eligibility rules, the administration hopes 1 million more homeowners will qualify for its refinancing program and lower their mortgage payments – twice the number who have already. The program has helped only a fraction of the number the administration had envisioned.

In part, that’s because many homeowners who would like to refinance can’t, because they owe more on their mortgage than their home is worth. But it’s also because banks are under no obligation to refinance a mortgage they hold – a limitation that won’t change under the new plan.

Here are some of the major questions and answers about the administration’s initiative:

Q: What is the program?

A. The Home Affordable Refinance Program, or HARP, was started in 2009. It lets homeowners refinance their mortgages at lower rates. Borrowers can bypass the usual requirement of having at least 20 percent equity in their home. But few people have signed up. Many “underwater” borrowers – those who owe more than their homes are worth – couldn’t qualify under the program. Roughly 22.5 percent of U.S. homeowners, about 11 million, are underwater, according to CoreLogic, a real estate data firm. As of Aug. 31, fewer than 900,000 homeowners, and just 72,000 underwater homeowners, have refinanced through the administration’s program. The administration had estimated that the program would help 4 million to 5 million homeowners.

Q. Why did so few benefit?

A. Mainly because those who’d lost the most in their homes weren’t eligible. Participation was limited to those whose home values were no more than 25 percent below what they owed their lender. That excluded roughly 10 percent of borrowers, CoreLogic says. In some hard-hit areas, borrowers have lost nearly 50 percent of their home’s value. Another problem: Homeowners must pay thousands in closing costs and appraisal fees to refinance. Typically, that adds up to 1 percent of the loan’s value – $2,000 in fees on a $200,000 loan. Sinking home prices also left many fearful that prices had yet to bottom. They didn’t want to throw good money after a depreciating asset. Or their credit scores were too low. Housing Secretary Shaun Donovan acknowledged that the program has “not reached the scale we had hoped.”

Q: What changes is the administration making?

A. Homeowners’ eligibility won’t be affected by how far their home’s value has fallen. And some fees for closing, title insurance and lien processing will be eliminated. So refinancing will be cheaper. The number of homeowners who need an appraisal will be reduced, saving more money. Some fees for those who refinance into a shorter-term mortgage will also be waived. Banks won’t have to buy back the mortgages from Fannie or Freddie, as they previously had to when dealing with some risky loans. That change will free many lenders to offer refinance loans. The program will also be extended 18 months, through 2013.

Q: Who’s eligible?

A. Those whose loans are owned or backed by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac, which the government took control of three years ago. Fannie and Freddie own or guarantee about half of all U.S. mortgages – nearly 31 million loans. They buy loans from lenders, package them into bonds with a guarantee against default and sell them to investors. To qualify for refinancing, a loan must have been sold to Fannie and Freddie before June 2009. Homeowners can determine whether Fannie or Freddie owns their mortgage by going online: Freddie’s loan tool is at freddiemac.com/mymortgage; Fannie’s is at fanniemae.com/loanlookup. Mortgages that were refinanced over the past 2 1/2 years aren’t eligible. Homeowners must also be current on their mortgage. One late payment within six months, or more than one in the past year, would mean disqualification. Perhaps the biggest limitation on the program: It’s voluntary for lenders. A bank remains free to reject a refinancing even if a homeowner meets all requirements.

Q: Will it work?

A. For those who can qualify, the savings could be significant. If, for example, a homeowner with a $200,000 mortgage at 6 percent can refinance down to 4.5 percent, the savings would be $3,000 a year. But the benefit to the economy will likely be limited. Even homeowners who are eligible and who choose to refinance through the government program could opt to sock away their savings or pay down debt rather than spend it.

Q: How many homeowners will be eligible or will choose to participate?

A: Not entirely clear. The government estimates that up to 1 million more people could qualify. Moody’s Analytics says the figure could be as high as 1.6 million. Both figures are a fraction of the 11 million or more homeowners who are underwater, according to CoreLogic, a real estate data research firm.

Q: Who will benefit most?

A: Underwater homeowners in the hard-hit states of Arizona, California, Florida and Nevada could be greatly helped. Many are stuck with high mortgage rates after they were approved for mortgages with little or no money as a downpayment and few requirements. The average annual savings for a U.S. household would be $2,500, officials say.

Q: When will it start?

A: Fannie and Freddie will issue the full details of the plan lenders and servicers on Nov. 15, officials say. The revamped program could be in place for some lenders as early as Dec. 1.
Copyright © 2011 The Associated Press, Derek Kravitz, AP real estate writer. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

White House weighs mass refinancing plan

The White House is considering a housing proposal that would allow millions of homeowners with government-backed mortgages to refinance into lower interest rates, The New York Times reports.

“A wave of refinancing could be a strong stimulus to the economy, because it would lower consumers’ mortgage bills right away and allow them to spend elsewhere,” an article in The New York Times notes.

Many homeowners have been unable to take advantage of today’s low interest rates — which are averaging around 4 percent — because they don’t qualify for refinancing at the best rates since they owe more on their home than it is currently worth or because of poor credit. The refinancing plan is still under discussion of how it would work, The New York Times said.

“This is the best stimulus out there because it doesn’t increase the deficit, it accomplishes monetary policy, and it reduces defaults in housing,” Christopher J. Mayer, an economist at the Columbia Business School, told The New York Times.

The White House is also considering other options to try to stimulate the housing market or save homeowners from foreclosure. Such options include more changes to its refinancing programs so more homeowners can participate or a home rental program to that would rent out foreclosures instead of putting them for sale so foreclosures would stop weighing down overall home prices.

“This is just want this economy needs! I was just saying I would love to refinance my home but after talking to Wells Fargo I was told they couldn’t refinance my home because my loan to value wasn’t within tolerance. I was looking to refinance to a 15 year mortgage to take advantage of the low rates. I do hope this gets through the White House. I could see this as a huge plus for most Americans, putting $150-$200 a month or more in their pockets.”

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