Friday, February 27, 2009

The Astoria at the Aramore Offers Live, Work and Play

Condominium community in heart of historic Peachtree Battle combines office, retail, services, dining and residential opportunities on vibrant Peachtree Road

Beautiful, classic and sophisticated, The Astoria at The Aramore is reminiscent of an exquisite boutique hotel. This exclusive community is nestled in the living room of Atlanta in a prime location just between the shops of Buckhead and arts and entertainment of Midtown. Unparalleled by any other address on Peachtree, the Astoria is within walking distance to the city's finest cultural and entertainment venues, shops and restaurants. One of Atlanta's finest dining experiences, Restaurant Eugene, can be found in The Aramore retail level. The Aramore also includes Pizza Fusion, Agera and Baccus Fit Spa, Mims dress shop, Starfish Restaurant, Holeman & Finch, H&F Bakery, Addictive Trendz and BB&T.

The picturesque streetscape surrounding the area is rich with the history of Peachtree Battle and Peachtree Hills. These landmark neighborhoods are lined with ancient oaks and dotted with open park areas. The Astoria features 70 exclusive high-rise residences with condominiums priced from the $400,000s and penthouses priced from the $900,000s.

The combined traditional and modern architecture of the building fits into the history of the area and the scale and design of the community. The Astoria caters to the needs of residents with an abundance of amenities for both work and play. The Astoria offers a pool, heated spa, outdoor fireplace in elegant garden setting, private poolside cabanas, poolside summer kitchens and grilling areas, state-of-the-art fitness center overlooking the sundeck, elegant clubroom with full catering kitchen, more than one acre of green space, media room, concierge, private guest suite for out of town guests, and street-level retail and dry cleaning services, all designed to cater to homeowners' individual needs. For more information on The Astoria at The Aramore, call 404-355-6999 or visit www.theastoriacondos.com.

Kairos Development Corporation lives up to its Greek-inspired name, which challenges them to identify crucial moments to perform accurately so they can achieve their goals and meet the needs of all. Driven by the desire to create aesthetically beautiful “Live Life Communities” and facilities that address their clients’ needs and distinctive styles, Kairos (ki-ros) offers a vast array of choices and options in each of its communities. Since entering the industry in the mid 1980s, the company has developed more than $400 million in Atlanta area real estate assets, including residential, retail and office properties. During that time, Kairos Development has received many outstanding awards. Most notable is the 2005 Development of Excellence Award presented by the Atlanta Regional Commission and the Regional Business Coalition for the multi-use urban development and environmental buffer provided by The Aramore on the city’s famous Peachtree Road. Current projects include the Astoria, Avignon at Vinings, Buggy Works and Jefferson Station in East Point. For more information, call 404-350-1440 or visit www.kairosdevelopmentcorp.com.
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Thursday, February 26, 2009

WicksteadWorks Named EarthCraft's Renovator of the Year

Southface and The Greater Atlanta Home Builders Association (GAHBA) named WicksteadWorks as the 2009 Renovator of the Year earlier this month. The Renovator of the Year award distinguishes an EarthCraft House renovator that has gone above and beyond the established measures to decrease energy consumption in an existing home. The annual EarthCraft House Awards honors the leading builders, developers, renovators and manufacturers dedicated to protecting the environment through sustainable design and construction of homes, communities and products. WicksteadWorks is an Atlanta remodeler that builds to a minimum standard of EarthCraft certification on all projects.

EarthCraft House is a voluntary, green building third-party validation program that serves as a blueprint for healthy comfortable homes that reduce utility bills and protect the environment.

“WicksteadWorks has actively embraced sustainable building standards and pursues best-practices to achieve quality certified projects,” said Daniel Harvey with EarthCraft House. “Frank Wickstead and his team is dedicated to responsible building and construction methods that lead to improved energy efficiency, sustainability and air quality. Frank is making an impact in Atlanta, and for that reason, we named WicksteadWorks our Renovator of the Year.”

A team of EarthCraft House judges selected the nominees and winners for the EarthCraft House awards. The winners were honored at the annual awards ceremony earlier this month.

Since EarthCraft's inception in 1999, more 450 builders have become builder members, and more than 7,150 homes in the Southeast region have been certified to EarthCraft House standards.

As an experienced remodeling company, WicksteadWorks is able to provide solutions for all types of problems. For example, one renovation project of WicksteadWorks was for a family with two asthmatic children. After the project was completed, the children’s asthma symptoms were completely gone due to WicksteadWorks’ renovations of the crawl space and HVAC system. Once the renovations were complete, the house became EarthCraft certified.

“Regardless of the scale, complexity or cost of a project, we incorporate the elements of environmentally-friendly construction 100 percent of the time,” said Frank Wickstead, president of WicksteadWorks. “With all of our projects, the focus is on doing it right. Earthcraft does not increase cost, it is about improving the processes and methods to build the best possible project and take care of our clients.”
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Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Ashton Woods Announces Successful Completion of Exchange Offer and Capital Restructuring Plan

Ashton Woods USA L.L.C. (the “Company”) a premier builder of energy efficient, single-family detached, town homes and stacked flat condominium homes, today announced that it has successfully completed its previously announced capital restructuring plan. In connection with the restructuring plan, all prior defaults under the Company’s senior credit facility and $125 million 9.5% Senior Subordinated Notes due 2015 were either waived or cured. The restructuring plan was designed to align the Company’s capital structure with the current economic environment. The capital restructuring included the following:

The successful completion of the previously announced private exchange offer and consent solicitation to exchange any and all of its $125 million 9.5% Senior Subordinated Notes due 2015 (the “Old Notes”) for new 11% Senior Subordinated Notes due 2015 (the “New Notes”), related guarantees and Class B membership interests (the “Class B Interests”) in the Company (the “Exchange Offer”);

The effectiveness of the previously executed amendment to its existing senior credit facility providing access to up to $95 million in borrowing capacity, subject to borrowing base calculations;

The closing of a $20 million capital investment in the Company by its existing equity holder; and
The repayment of the previously disclosed bridge loan, under which $1.0 million aggregate principal amount was outstanding at February 23, 2009.

As a result of the tender of 98.64% of the Old Notes in Exchange Offer, the Company now has $64.116 million in aggregate principal amount of New Notes outstanding and $1.7 million aggregate principal amount of Old Notes outstanding. No interest will accrue on the New Notes for the first three years following the date of issuance.

Holders of Old Notes who participated in the Exchange Offer also received aggregate Class B Interests representing 19.728% of the outstanding equity of the Company.

“We have continued to post satisfactory margins during these difficult times, but we needed to work with our lenders and bondholders to restructure our balance sheet so that we can continue to grow and be profitable,” said Tom Krobot, Chief Executive Officer of Ashton Woods. “This restructuring infuses new capital, reduces the Company’s overall debt, and improves the Company’s liquidity. It is very positive for our customers, employees, suppliers and developers,” said Krobot.

Over the past several months the Company has continued building and selling homes to a population of customers who, for years, have remained loyal to the Ashton Woods brand. “We thank our employees, customers, suppliers and developers for their unwavering loyalty and support,” continued Krobot. “Our company will continue with its past practice of partnering with developers to build homes in diverse markets within strong communities.”

Moelis & Company acted as financial advisor to the Company in connection with the restructuring.

With headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia, Ashton Woods USA, L.L.C. currently operates in Atlanta, Dallas, Houston, Orlando, Phoenix, Denver and Tampa.
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Volunteers Help “Makeover” City of Morrow Homes

"Bus driver, move that bus!” is a popular statement heard on a well-known home makeover television show. When the family hears the statement, they know the house has magically changed for the better. Some Morrow homes will be receiving a little “makeover magic” with the help of volunteers from Boston College during the week of Sunday, March 1, 2009 through Friday, March 6, 2009. The students are being hosted by the City of Morrow and the Morrow Business and Tourism Association.

During this first week in March, the volunteers will be working with the City of Morrow’s Code Enforcement Officer Marti Tracy on helping repair residents’ homes and yards. The homes chosen for the “makeover” have the greatest need for the help from Officer Tracy and the volunteers. While the volunteers are working on the homes, the families will have the opportunity to be treated like a V.I.P. at the Red Roof Inn in Morrow. Once the renovations are complete, the family will be brought back to their house for the “big reveal.”

The volunteers will also be participating in evening activities with members of the community. One of the evening activities will be “History Night,” and the volunteers will be taken on a tour of Morrow’s history with local historians. Other evening activities will include programs where the volunteers will have a chance to get to know each other. During their final evening in Morrow, the volunteers will be part of a celebration for International Women’s Day, which will be Thursday, March 5 at the Morrow Tourist Center. The celebration will be honoring the volunteers as well as The Conner's Honors program, where Conner's Florist will honor a special volunteer in the community.

The volunteers are visiting through a program called Volunteers for Communities. VfC is a program of the Southeast Rural Community Assistance Project, Inc. (Southeast RCAP) based in Roanoke, Virginia. The program trains communities throughout the Southeast to host volunteers and to help build community leadership. If you are interested in this program for your community, please contact VfC at (276) 699-1493.

The Volunteers for Communities program a unique project which matches college student volunteers with communities in need of assistance with water and wastewater system improvements or economic development projects. These volunteers assist in a variety of ways such as painting houses and other buildings, digging trenches and laying pipes, and rehabilitating and weatherizing houses.

For more information about the Volunteers for Communities program, please contact Michael Sakowitz Twomey, President & Executive Director of the Morrow Business and Tourism Association, at 678-614-3824 or mtwomey@cityofmorrow.com. For more information about Southeast RCAP and VfC, visit http://www.southeastrcap.org/.
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Thursday, February 19, 2009

Atlanta Company’s Unique Lease-Purchase Option Offers Hope for Metro Atlanta Families

Foreclosures are at an all time high. The state of Georgia again ranked in the top 10 for 2008 foreclosure rates, placing eighth. Metro Atlanta ranked 17th highest for foreclosure rates among major U.S. cities, according to the Realty Trac 2008 U.S. Foreclosure Market Report published last month. Media coverage abounds about the housing and mortgage markets.

Families, however, still need a place to call home. One Atlanta company, Pride of Ownership Partners, understands the financial challenges of those families who live from paycheck to paycheck. With the current economy, family budgets are often stretched to the limit and the idea of coming up with several thousand dollars’ down payment for a house is all but impossible to achieve.

The lease to own program developed by Pride of Ownership Partners makes it possible to live in a home, have its maintenance covered during the lease period, and get half the monthly rent set aside for up to three years to put toward buying that home. At the end of the lease period, renters will have thousands saved toward purchasing that home and can generally go to the closing without their checkbooks. Pride actually allows the full three-year rent credit at any time during the lease that the tenant qualifies for a mortgage and purchases the home. In addition, the price of the home is locked in at the time the lease is signed to avoid any unpleasant surprises later. Any increase in the home’s appraised value during the up to three-year leasing period will mean instant equity in the property.

People with credit issues are also candidates for this lease-purchase program and the company will work with such renters to clean up past credit issues and improve their credit rating before the home purchase. The initial cost of participating in the credit repair program is $95 and Pride of Ownership reimburses the tenant the cost of credit repair when they buy their home.

“When I try to explain our lease-purcha se concept to people, I usually hear, first thing, ‘What’s the catch?’ We’ve tried to develop a program that will serve as an option for people who thought they had no options, even when credit is an issue,” said Chief Operating Officer Timothy Cabrera. “This is a lease option, not a lease commitment. We’re not asking for money up front, other than the standard one month’s security deposit and first month’s rent. Many other lease-purchase companies can require thousands of dollars to get into their programs.”

Pride of Ownership Partners buys homes in good shape, usually seven years old or newer, puts in new appliances, new carpet, paint, landscaping, etc. and then leases the home out with the option to buy. Home prices are typically in the low to mid $100s and the homes are in like-new condition at the time of move in. Furthermore monthly rentals are typically from $1000 to $1300 per month. Properties have been purchased in DeKalb, Gwinnett, Cobb and Henry counties, with the firm looking to expand the lease-purchase program into other metro Atlanta counties as well.

Cabrera, with his background in finance and mortgage, explained that even people with b ankruptcies or foreclosures can get into the Pride of Ownership lease-purchase program. “That’s because you need at least 24 months beyond a foreclosure to get an FHA loan or a year or more after bankruptcies to get a mortgage. Families will be renting during that time, so not only will they have a place to call home, they will be repairing their credit and earning money for the home’s down payment with half their rent being set aside.”

The Pride of Ownership program is an excellent option for single mothers, those in need of credit rehabilitation and families who are finding it impossible to save for a down payment. The Atlanta-based firm began this project in mid 2008 and expects to grow to assisting 50 families a month by the end of 2009. For more information on the company, to read testimonials from those who have already gone through the program, to see photos of actual homes used in this program or to submit a free, online application, visit the firm’s website at www.prideownership.com or call 770-484-8317.
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Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Rismedia: Will the Stimulus Benefit Homeowners and Buyers?

”There are four primary sections of the economic stimulus plan that will benefit home owners and buyers,” said Gibran Nicholas, chairman of the CMPS Institute, an organization that certifies mortgage bankers and brokers. According to Nicholas, these include:

1. Expansion of Home Improvement Tax Credit.”The tax credit for making energy efficient home improvements is now 30% of the cost of the improvements up to a maximum of $1500,” Nicholas said. “This means that if the improvements cost you $4,500, you would receive a tax refund of $1,500 when you file your tax returns.”

Eligible improvements include energy efficient exterior doors and windows, insulation, heat pumps, furnaces, central air conditioners and water heaters.

“Generally, most modern improvements like windows, furnaces, and air conditioners meet the necessary standards for energy efficiency,” Nicholas said. “If you’ve been holding off on making some of these improvements, now is a great time to get a move on it - especially with all the great deals being offered.”

2. Expansion of First-time Home Buyer Tax Credit.

The tax credit available to first-time home buyers was increased from $7,500 to $8,000 for homes purchased between January 1, 2009, and December 1, 2009. Also, the credit no longer needs to be paid back as long as the buyers live in the home without selling it for at least 3 years.

“The previous version of the credit expired on July 1, 2009, and required home buyers to pay the funds back over a 15 year time frame,” Nicholas said.

The income limitations remain the same ($75,000 for single tax payers claiming the full credit and $150,000 for married tax payers), as do most other qualification requirements. Also, the credit remains refundable. “This means that first-time home buyers who owe less than $8,000 in taxes for the year are still eligible for the full $8,000 credit when they file their tax returns, and the IRS will write them a check for the difference between $8,000 and their actual tax bill,” Nicholas said. “In fact, the credit can be claimed on your 2008 tax returns that you file by April 15 of this year, even if you buy the home in 2009.”

There is one catch, however: if you bought the home in 2008, the credit remains $7,500, and it still needs to be paid back over a 15 year timeframe beginning in 2011 when you file your 2010 returns.

3. Higher Reverse Mortgage Loan Limits.

The loan limits for FHA-insured reverse mortgages have been increased to $625,500 across the entire country-not just the higher cost areas. The previous limit was $417,000 across the country.

“This is especially important because the FHA program is virtually the only game in town as private and jumbo reverse mortgage programs have nearly all evaporated,” Nicholas said.

This coincides with another little-known change in the reverse mortgage
arena: the availability of reverse mortgages on home purchase transactions.

“This is a fantastic opportunity for senior citizens to buy a new home and live mortgage payment-free without having to wait for their old home to sell,” Nicholas said. “Seniors could also use this strategy to buy a new home and turn the old home into a rental or otherwise wait for market conditions to improve before trying to sell the old home.”

4. $729,750 FHA and Conforming Loan Limits Restored in High Cost Areas.

“The $729,750 maximum loan limit had been in force throughout 2008, but was reduced to $625,500 in 2009,” Nicholas said. “The economic stimulus plan restores the $729,750 maximum. This makes higher cost homes more affordable - especially in the coastal housing markets that tend to have higher than average home values.”

For more information, visit http://gibrannicholas.com and www.CMPSInstitute.org or call 888.608.9800.



Sunday, February 15, 2009

Bowen Family Homes to Host Free Homebuyer Seminar

Homebuyer Seminar: Understanding the Power of Credit Scores

Bowen Family Homes, AmericaHomeKey Mortgage and Power 4 Purchase will host a free homebuyer seminar on credit scores and how they effect home buying on Saturday, Feb. 21, 2009. The seminar, entitled Understanding the Power of Credit Scores, will be held from 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. at the Bowen Family Homes’ corporate office in Duluth.

The seminar will present answers to many of the common questions regarding credit scores, including how credit scores are derived, mistakes on one's credit, changing one's credit, how to improve one's credit and credit score and much more. To reserve a seat for the seminar, RSVP to mybowen@bowenfamilyhomes.com or call 1-877 MY BOWEN. The seminar has already received an overwhelming number of RSVPs and limited seating is available so attendees must RSVP no later than Wednesday, Feb. 18, 2009.

The Bowen Family Homes corporate office is located at 6650 Sugarloaf Parkway, Suite 200, Duluth, Ga. 30097. To visit, take I-85 North from Atlanta to Sugarloaf Parkway (exit 108). Turn right onto Sugarloaf Pkwy NW. Make a U-turn at Premiere Pkwy onto Sugarloaf Pkwy NW. The Bowen Family Homes corporate office will be on the right.

About Power 4 Purchase
With over 25 years of combined mortgage and credit reporting experience, Power 4 Purchase has the knowledge and expertise to evaluate a client’s specific credit needs and apply an individual roadmap with step by step instruction for correcting any credit challenges and improving their credit scores. Power 4 Purchase’s primary goal is to increase their clients’ credit scores, which helps people boost their qualified buyer’s credit so that they can own a home instead of renting, obtain a better loan program, secure a lower rate and fulfill an executed sales contract. Power 4 Purchase is dedicated to helping people become homeowners. For more information, call 404-281-3440.
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Friday, February 13, 2009

Freddie Mac Extends Moratorium on Foreclosure Sales

/PRNewswire-FirstCall/ -- Freddie Mac (NYSE:FRE) today announced it is immediately suspending all foreclosure sales involving occupied single family and 2-4 unit properties with Freddie Mac-owned mortgages through March 6, 2009. The suspension does not apply to vacant properties.

The extension will provide servicers with more time to help troubled borrowers find an alternative to foreclosure.

Freddie Mac gives lenders servicing its mortgages broad authority to provide forbearance to borrowers who are not yet delinquent, and permanent rate reductions, mortgage term extensions, forbearance of principal or other modifications to borrowers who are already delinquent. (For more about Freddie Mac workout options, see freddiemac.com.)

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Tulley Named as Individual Agent Leader for Peachtree City Office

Kathy Tulley was named Individual Agent Leader for the Peachtree City office of Coldwell Banker Bullard Realty.

Debbie Lowe was the individual No. 2 producer for the Peachtree City office and Donna Lasseter was No. 3 for the office.

Prior to joining the Coldwell Banker Bullard Realty Peachtree City/Fayette office as a sales associate, Tulley worked at the Atlanta Journal Constitution in sales and sales management for 29 years.

Active in the Fayette County Board of Realtors as well as the National and Georgia Associations of Realtors, she is a graduate of Florida State University with a B.A. degree in psychology.

Tulley, a resident of Fayette County for 29 years, is a member of the Rotary Club of Peachtree City, the Fayette County Chamber of Commerce, and the Peachtree City United Methodist Church.
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Updated FEMA Bulletin Accepts the Use of Non-Paper Faced Gypsum Board in Special Flood Hazard Areas

/PRNewswire/ -- The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) recently published the revised Flood Damage Resistant Materials Requirements manual, which outlines acceptable materials for commercial and residential buildings constructed in special flood hazard areas in accordance with the National Flood Insurance Program. Among other wall and ceiling materials, the guide accepts the use of non-paper faced gypsum board for wall and ceiling applications.

Georgia-Pacific Gypsum's array includes interior and exterior gypsum panels which comply under the new guidelines.

"With the many flood hazard areas in the U.S., it is important these areas enlist the best building practices and water resistant products available," said Barry Reid, product development manager, Georgia-Pacific Gypsum. "The inclusion of non-paper faced gypsum boards in the guide speaks to the commitment to finding the types of products that can best resist the effects of a flood."

Within the portfolio of Gypsum products that comply with the new FEMA requirements, customers can select from non-paper-faced Dens(TM) Brand gypsum panels, such as DensArmor Plus(R) High-Performance Interior Panels, DensArmor Plus(R) Impact-Resistant Interior Panel, DensArmor Plus(R) Abuse-Resistant Interior Panel, DensGlass(TM) Exterior Sheathing, and DensShield(R) Tile Backer incorporate fiberglass mats instead of paper facings.

In order to qualify for the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) - a system created by Congress to provide flood insurance to property owners in return for local government's commitment to sound floodplain management - all structures located in a Special Flood Hazard Area (SFHA) must adhere to FEMA's "acceptable materials" guide.

For more information about the FEMA guidelines and Gypsum product information, please visit www.gp.com/fema.

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Thursday, February 12, 2009

Foreclosure Activity Decreases 10 Percent in January According to RealtyTrac(R) U.S. Foreclosure Market Report

/PRNewswire/ -- RealtyTrac(R) (www.realtytrac.com), the leading online marketplace for foreclosure properties, today released its January 2009 U.S. Foreclosure Market Report(TM), which shows foreclosure filings -- default notices, auction sale notices and bank repossessions -- were reported on 274,399 U.S. properties during the month, a 10 percent decrease from the previous month but still up 18 percent from January 2008. The report also shows one in every 466 U.S. housing units received a foreclosure filing in January.

"The extensive foreclosure efforts on the part of lenders and government agencies appear to have impacted the January numbers -- particularly the Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac moratorium on all foreclosure sales that was extended through the end of January along with Florida's voluntary 45-day freeze on all new foreclosure actions and scheduling of foreclosure sales that was announced at the beginning of December," said James J. Saccacio, chief executive officer of RealtyTrac. "January REOs, which represent completed foreclosure sales to the foreclosing lender, were down 15 percent nationwide from the previous month. And in Florida overall foreclosure activity was down 20 percent from the previous month."

Nevada, California, Arizona post top state foreclosure rates

Nevada foreclosure activity in January decreased 4 percent from the previous month, but the state continued to register the nation's No. 1 foreclosure rate, with one in every 76 housing units receiving a foreclosure filing during the month. Foreclosure filings were reported on 14,444 Nevada properties in January, up 137 percent from January 2008.

California posted the nation's second highest state foreclosure rate in January, with one in every 173 housing units receiving a foreclosure filing during the month, and Arizona posted the nation's third highest state foreclosure rate, with one in every 182 housing units receiving a foreclosure filing during the month.

Despite a 20 percent month-over-month drop in foreclosure activity, Florida posted the nation's fourth highest state foreclosure rate, with one in every 214 housing units receiving a foreclosure filing during the month.

Other states with foreclosure rates ranking among the nation's 10 highest were Oregon, Illinois, Michigan, Georgia, Idaho and Ohio.

California, Florida, Arizona post highest foreclosure totals

Foreclosure filings were reported on 76,761 California properties, the most of any state despite a 14 percent decrease from the previous month. The state's foreclosure activity in January still increased 34 percent from January 2008.

Florida's 40,770 properties receiving foreclosure filings in January was the second highest total of any state, and Arizona's 14,674 properties receiving foreclosure filings was the third highest total of any state

Illinois foreclosure activity in January increased 16 percent from the previous month, giving the state 14,447 properties with foreclosure filings -- the fourth highest state total. One in every 363 Illinois properties received a foreclosure filing in January, the nation's sixth highest foreclosure rate.

Nevada, Michigan, Ohio, Georgia, Texas and Virginia also reported foreclosure totals that were among the nation's 10 highest.

California, Florida, Nevada cities post top metro foreclosure rates

California cities accounted for six of the top 10 metro foreclosure rates in January among metro areas with a population of 200,000 or more. Merced, Calif., posted the top metro foreclosure rate, with one in every 59 housing units receiving a foreclosure filing during the month -- nearly eight times the national average.

Other California metro areas with foreclosure rates among the top 10: Riverside-San Bernardino at No. 4 with one in every 81 housing units receiving a foreclosure filing; Modesto at No. 5 with one in every 84 housing units receiving a foreclosure filing; Stockton at No. 6 with one in every 86 housing units receiving a foreclosure filing; Vallejo-Fairfield at No. 7 with one in every 100 housing units receiving a foreclosure filing; and Bakersfield at No. 8 with one in every 120 housing units receiving a foreclosure filing.

Two Florida cities posted foreclosure rates among the top 10 metro foreclosure rates: Cape Coral-Fort Myers at No. 3 with one in every 80 housing units receiving a foreclosure filing and Port St. Lucie at No. 9 with one in every 123 housing units receiving a foreclosure filing.

With one in every 63 housing units receiving a foreclosure filing, the Las Vegas-Paradise, Nev., metro area posted the second highest metro foreclosure rate in January. The Reno-Sparks, Nev., metro area posted the 10th highest metro foreclosure rate, with one in every 128 housing units receiving a foreclosure filing. Reno-Sparks was the only metro area in the top 10 that did not experience a month-over-month decrease in foreclosure activity, but all of the top 10 saw year-over-year increases in activity.

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Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Federal Home Loan Bank of Atlanta to Award More Than $12.4 Million for Housing in Georgia

/PRNewswire/ -- Federal Home Loan Bank of Atlanta (FHLBank Atlanta) announced today that it will award more than $12.4 million to help finance 1,359 affordable housing units in Georgia. The funding is part of more than $43 million FHLBank Atlanta will award in ten states to create or preserve 4,514 units of affordable housing.

FHLBank Atlanta will award the funds as part of its 2008 Affordable Housing Program (AHP) offering. Local community developers, in partnership with FHLBank Atlanta member institutions, will use the awards to fund 18 affordable housing developments in Bleckley, Butts, Cobb, Crawford, DeKalb, Dodge, Fulton, Henry, Houston, Jones, Lamar, Laurens, Monroe, Montgomery, Peach, Pike, Pulaski, Spalding, Telfair, Treutlen, Twiggs, Upson, Wheeler, and Wilcox counties, as well as Atlanta, Bowdon, Cordele, Decatur, Donalsonville, Dublin, and Rabun Gap.

"AHP program funding has positive far-reaching effects for the communities it serves by providing a source of affordable housing and new jobs, which stimulates the local economy," said Arthur Fleming, first vice president and director of Community Investment Services, FHLBank Atlanta.

AHP is a competitive funding program that helps develop owner-occupied and rental housing for very low-, low-, and moderate-income families. FHLBank Atlanta awards the funds annually to member financial institutions and their community housing partners. AHP is a component of FHLBank Atlanta's affordable housing, economic development, and down-payment assistance initiatives. For the complete list of AHP winners, visit www.fhlbatl.com/ahp.

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Homeowner Perception Changing: Most No Longer In Denial About U.S. Housing Slide

/PRNewswire/ -- American homeowners' perceptions of the value of their own homes moved more in line with reality at the end of 2008, at least when it came to hindsight. More than half (57 percent) believe their own home lost value during the year, according to the Zillow Q4 Homeowner Confidence Survey(1). This is markedly more than the 38 percent who believed their home's value was declining when asked during the second quarter of 2008.

In reality, 76 percent of all U.S. homes lost value in 2008, according to analysis of the Zillow Q4 Real Estate Market Reports. With these new findings, Zillow's Home Value Misperception Index(2) shrunk to 10 in the fourth quarter, from 16 in the third and 32 in the second quarter. An index of zero would mean homeowners' perceptions were in line with actual values.

Homeowners May Believe A Bottom Has Been Reached

However, when asked what the near future will bring for their homes, most homeowners expressed optimism, and appear to believe that the worst may be over. According to the survey, more than two-thirds (70 percent) of homeowners believe their home's value will either increase or stay the same in the first six months of 2009. Only 30 percent believe it will decrease.

"It's clear that the 'not my house' sentiment that was so prevalent in earlier surveys is waning, and homeowners are opening their eyes to the unfortunate reality of significant losses in home values across most of the country," said Dr. Stan Humphries, Zillow's vice president of data and analytics. "That said, there's a curious optimism for homeowners when asked about the future - most seem to believe we've hit a bottom and the worst has passed. Unfortunately, the data tells another story. With year-over-year home value losses continuing to accelerate, most areas of the country will see housing values get worse before they begin to stabilize."

Meanwhile, homeowners' optimism for the future does not extend to their neighbors' homes. While 70 percent of homeowners think their own homes' values will increase or stay the same in the first half of 2009, only 52 percent believe home values in their local market will increase or stay the same during the same time period. Nearly half (48 percent) think values in their local market will decrease, but only 30 percent believe the same will happen to their own homes.

Homeowners are still more optimistic about their local market than in the third quarter, however, when more than half (57 percent) said values in their local market would decrease in the next six months.

Homeowner Perception by Region

Homeowner Perception of Home
Value Change in Past Year
by Region US 2008 Northeast Midwest South West
My Home's Value Has
Decreased 57% 58% 58% 47% 70%
My Home's Value Has
Stayed the Same 18% 20% 20% 20% 11%
My Home's Value Has
Increased 25% 23% 22% 33% 19%
Market Reality: Homes Reporting Year-over-Year Value Changes in Q4,
according to Zillow
Actual Percent of Homes
that Decreased 76% 71% 73% 70% 90%
Actual Percent of Homes
that Stayed the Same
(+/-1%) 4% 6% 5% 5% 2%
Actual Percent of Homes
that Increased 20% 24% 22% 25% 9%
Q4 Home Value
Misperception Index 10 3 5 14 13
Q3 Home Value
Misperception Index 16 20 15 13 13
Q2 Home Value
Misperception Index 32 29 31 36 23
Homeowner Perception of Own Home's Value in Next Six Months
My Home's Value Will
Decrease 30% 30% 30% 26% 37%
My Home's Value Will
Stay the Same 43% 43% 46% 45% 38%
My Home's Value Will
Increase 27% 27% 24% 29% 25%

With a Misperception Index of only 3 - down from 20 in the third quarter - the perception of homeowners in the Northeast was closest to reality. Well over half (57 percent) of Northeastern homeowners believe their own home's value declined during 2008, while 20 percent believed it stayed the same. According to Zillow's fourth quarter data, 71 percent of homes in the Northeast declined in value during 2008.

Homeowners in the West, where values were hardest-hit, lost some of their optimism in the fourth quarter, but home values continued to edge downward, leaving Western homeowners' perceptions among the farthest from reality with a Misperception Index of 13 (the same as last quarter). Southerners' perceptions were farthest from reality, with a Misperception Index of 14.

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Friday, February 6, 2009

Jon Carr Named Morris & Raper InTown Managing Director

Morris & Raper Realtors® is pleased to welcome Jon Carr as the new managing director for their Morris & Raper InTown division. Carr brings more than 16 years of real estate experience to the boutique-style operation that serves the needs of buyers and sellers of resale and new construction residential properties within Atlanta's I-285 perimeter.

Carr, who lives in midtown Atlanta, specializes in intown Atlanta real estate. He joined Morris & Raper InTown earlier this month, having previously served as a REALTOR® with RE/MAX and most recently as a REALTOR® with Harry Norman, Realtors®. He began his real estate career in Florida, where he worked for several years before coming to Atlanta in 1996. Additionally, Carr is a member of the Atlanta Board of REALTORS® and National Association of REALTORS®.

“We're very excited to have Jon Carr join the Morris & Raper Intown team as Managing Director,” said Todd Hale, Associate Broker for Morris & Raper Intown. “His knowledge of the intown real estate market and his enthusiasm for leading our office will be an asset to everyone at Morris & Raper Intown. In such challenging times as we're in today, it's very encouraging to have a strong leader that is present and willing to build on what Morris & Raper Intown has established in the intown general real estate market.”

Established in 2001 and with a sales team that possesses expert working knowledge of the intown real estate market along with a highly successful track record, Morris & Raper InTown is especially qualified to guarantee the utmost in customer satisfaction. For more information about Morris & Raper InTown, visit www.morrisandraperintown.com.

When asked about his decision to join Morris & Raper InTown as managing director, he described his excitement about the new position. “We are navigating through unchartered territory in today’s real estate market. I think it is an outstanding opportunity to combine my years of experience and expertise in real estate with such a dynamic and successful brokerage as Morris and Raper InTown. I am ready, along with the sales force, to meet the obstacles, challenges, and successes that many agencies find daunting in today’s market.”

As Atlanta's leading new home real estate firm, Morris & Raper Realtors® specializes in the sales and marketing of new single-family homes, townhomes and condominiums. Renowned in the Southeast as experts in the field, home shoppers find the firm to be highly qualified and competitively superior when it comes to helping locate and purchase a new home. In the past three decades, Morris & Raper Realtors® has successfully connected more buyers and sellers of residential properties than virtually any other real estate company in metro Atlanta and the Southeastern United States. For more information about Morris & Raper Realtors®, visit www.morrisandraper.com.
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Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Freddie Mac Launches New Workout Plan for High Risk Loans

/PRNewswire-FirstCall/ -- Freddie Mac (NYSE:FRE) said today it is piloting a new Workout Strategy For High Risk Loans designed to keep more at-risk borrowers in their homes by employing third party servicers that specialize in servicing Alt A and other types of higher risk mortgages.

"A workout strategy is only as successful as the number of knowledgeable counselors available to answer the phone. Our strategy for high risk loans is designed to help servicers cope with today's unprecedented call volume by directing calls to a specialist with the specific staff and technical resources for handling a high volume of borrowers with these types of mortgages," said Ingrid Beckles, Freddie Mac's senior vice president of default asset management.

Under the new pilot, a selected portfolio of higher risk mortgages that are at least 60 days delinquent will be given to a specialty servicer for intensive attention using the full range of Freddie Mac workout opportunities, including the Streamlined Modification Program developed with the Federal Housing Finance Agency, Fannie Mae and the HOPE Now Alliance.

Ocwen Financial Corporation (NYSE:OCN) is one of the servicers Freddie Mac has selected for the pilot. Ocwen will deploy teams of specially trained counselors to handle Freddie Mac's delinquent high risk mortgages in order to minimize telephone wait times, put borrowers in touch with live counselors faster, and implement the latest Freddie Mac foreclosure reduction policies more quickly.

"We applaud Freddie Mac's leadership in foreclosure prevention and are delighted to support this innovative initiative," said William Erbey, Ocwen's Chairman and CEO. "We bring the technology and processes that now achieve successful workouts in the overwhelming majority of delinquent loans in our servicing portfolio. Our goal is and will continue to be to engineer workouts that keep homeowners in their homes and return greater cash flow to the loan owner than the proceeds from a foreclosure - a win/win situation for American homeowners and taxpayers alike."

Initially, the pilot will target an estimated 5000 reduced documentation loans from California, Nevada and other states with high delinquent rates. Although Alt-A loans were made to borrowers with strong profiles and represent a fraction of Freddie Mac's single family portfolio, they account for half of its seriously delinquent mortgages.

Freddie Mac plans to determine whether to broaden or modify the strategy after reviewing the pilot's June results.

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Sunday, February 1, 2009

Atlanta's Top-Producing Real Estate Agent Reports Solid Sales in 2008

RE/MAX Greater Atlanta agent Mark Spain and his team, who have been named the #1 agent team in metro Atlanta for the last four years by the Atlanta Board of Realtors, report having another solid sales year. The Mark Spain Team achieved $131 million in 2008 gross sales with 535 closings, marking the eighth consecutive year they have broken the $100 million annual sales mark.

“The local real estate market is less active than in 2007 but, as you can see, people are still buying and selling homes,” explained Mark Spain. “Our local media would have you think no one is moving right now, except in foreclosure situations, and that’s simply not true.”

To support this, Spain cited sales statistics recently compiled by Smart Numbers which says there were 3,431 single family home closings in December and 53,786 closings for all of 2008 in metro Atlanta. In addition, there was no significant increase in the average total days a home was on the market in 2008. In 2007, total days on the market was 88.3 while, in 2008, the number had only slightly increased to 95.1 days. In addition, the National Association of Realtors recently announced that, nationwide, existing home sales increased 6.5 percent in December over the November 2008 statistics.

“Whether people are tired of renting, need to downsize or desire a larger living space for a growing family, 2009 is an excellent time to buy a very competitively priced home at an amazing interest rate. Between the tax benefits of owning a home and home prices that have not been seen in metro Atlanta for several years, this is a brief window of opportunity that should not be missed. Home prices and mortgage rates will, as history shows, increase again.”

One of the top-producing real estate teams in business today, the Mark Spain Team ranks #4 worldwide out of 115,000 RE/MAX agents in 65 countries. He and his team broke the $1 billion total sales mark in 2006. Mark Spain has already been inducted into the RE/MAX Hall of Fame and earned the Lifetime Achievement Award from RE/MAX International in 2004—honors he achieved while in his early 30s. For their 2007 sales, the Mark Spain Team was ranked the #6 Team in the U.S. for Closed Transactions by the Wall Street Journal and Real Trends Magazine.

An Atlanta native, Marks is a University of Georgia graduate. He is affiliated with the RE/MAX Greater Atlanta office at 5591 Chamblee-Dunwoody Road in Atlanta, an office named the number one RE/MAX location in the world in terms of sales volume. The Mark Spain Team specializes in assisting home buyers and sellers in the North Atlanta region in all price levels.

To learn more about the Mark Spain Team, call 770-886-9000 or visit http://www.markspain.com to conduct an online home search of available metro Atlanta properties, request a free online home evaluation, sign up for a free monthly e-newsletter about the real estate market at http://www.markspain.com/Newsletter%20Sign%20Up.htm or to learn more about becoming a first-time home buyer.
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