Wednesday, December 30, 2009

HGTV’s FrontDoor.com Identifies Top 10 Real Estate Predictions for 2010

(BUSINESS WIRE)--With some subtle signs of recovery in the housing market, the real estate industry is due to bounce back – but more challenges could lie ahead for buyers and sellers alike. HGTV’s FrontDoor.com identifies the top 10 must-know real estate trends for the coming year: (http://www.frontdoor.com/top10)

#10: Cash is king. All-cash offers will become even more popular for foreclosures and short sales, as banks would rather get less money than deal with the hassles of loan transactions.

#9: Smoother short sales. As lenders and real estate professionals become more accustomed to short sales (sales in which the proceeds are less than the outstanding debt), the process will become more streamlined and successful for all parties involved.

#8: Tricky appraisal rules. Due to the government’s Home Valuation Code of Conduct passed in May, property appraisals will be more expensive and take longer, sometimes hindering (or breaking) real estate deals.

#7: A conflicted construction market. Though lenders are still reluctant to finance new housing projects for builders, there’s a chance of double-digit increases in new construction next year (according to the McGraw-Hill Construction Outlook Report).

#6: Rising mortgage rates. The Fed’s effort to keep mortgage rates at historic lows is scheduled to end in March. Homebuyers should act now to capitalize on the lowest interest rates in years.

#5: Lending standards still tight. With the subprime mortgage debacle in recent memory, lenders will continue to require stellar credit and thorough documentation from borrowers.

#4: Some stabilizing home values. Nationally, the outlook for home values is good, with a rise in home prices during the last two quarters of 2009. Locally, however, many markets are a long way from full recovery.

#3: More foreclosures to come. Though more homes will go into foreclosure in 2010, some homeowners will be able to lease back their property at market rental rates for a year’s time, allowing more people to stay in their homes longer.

#2: More buyers entering the market. The government’s first-time homebuyer tax credit was extended to April 30 and to a broader range of buyers, which should bring even more buying activity to bear.

#1: Still a buyer’s market. As 2010 looks to be another year of low home prices and a robust inventory of homes for sale, it will still be the best opportunity for buyers to cash in on some great real estate deals.

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Monday, December 28, 2009

New Tax Credit Includes Current Homeowners

(NAPSI)-Many current homeowners can now qualify for up to a $6,500 home buyer tax credit. The initial success of the $8,000 first-time home buyer tax credit convinced Washington to expand the program and extend it until April 30, 2010. This extension, however, will be the last.

Under the extended home buyer tax credit, current homeowners are eligible as long as they have lived in their present residence for five consecutive years within the past eight. First-time home buyers who haven't owned a home in the past three years are still eligible for up to an $8,000 tax credit. Singles who make up to $125,000 and married couples who make up to $225,000 can qualify for the full credit. Those who exceed those income limits may qualify for a reduced amount.

"The new provisions and modifications make an already enticing real estate market even more attractive and accessible. Interest rates are low and home prices are more affordable now than they have been in decades," said National Association of Realtors® (NAR) Chief Economist Lawrence Yun. "There's never been a better time for potential buyers to invest in their future through homeownership."

Many areas are already seeing a rise in home prices and demand, with multiple bids on properties becoming more common. According to the NAR Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers, first-time home buyers became homeowners in record numbers over the past year, comprising 47 percent of all home sales between July 2008 and June 2009. This flood of activity helped shrink housing inventory levels. Reduced inventory is a sign the market is returning to a more balanced state and helps sustain home values.

Yun said that while the housing crisis isn't over, the extended and expanded tax credit is a step in the right direction.

"The bottom line is that the housing market is doing much better now than one year ago, and the home purchases using the tax credit should continue to reduce inventory to acceptable levels. The extension is a big win for consumers, but to take advantage of this rare opportunity, would-be buyers need to get the ball rolling and contact a Realtor® who can help them on the path toward owning a home."

For more information about the tax credit, visit www.HouseLogic.com/homebuyertaxcredit.

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Friday, December 18, 2009

3344 Peachtree Nears 90 Percent Leased

Luxury Atlanta Mixed-Use Tower nearing commercial capacity

Regent Partners, one of Atlanta’s leading real estate development firms and very recent winner of the Urban Land Institute’s prestigious “Project of the Year” for its development of the luxury high rise Sovereign, has leased close to 90-percent of its commercial real estate space at Sovereign. This success comes at a time when Buckhead faces historically high class A office vacancy rates.

The 50 story mixed used tower on Peachtree Road in Atlanta’s Buckhead district that includes more than one-half million square feet of Class A office and retail space, recently welcomed tenants, Asset Preservation Advisors, Crescent Wealth Management and the Law Firm of Weinberg, Wheeler, Hudgins, Gunn, & Dial. Together, these firms represent over 80,000 square feet of new occupancy which comes on the heels of the very successful November opening of Bistro Niko, Buckhead Life Groups’ newest restaurant which is located on Peachtree Road in the buildings retail area.

The luxury high-rise also continues to see success on the residential side, selling two luxury condos during the third quarter, including one of its Penthouse units, which will be the highest residence in Atlanta. The recent success at Sovereign, contradicts the current trend of struggling residential and commercial real estate developments across the Atlanta landscape.

“We are extremely pleased that we are continuing to experience such strong success on both our commercial and residential sides,” said Regents Partners Principal, David Tennery. “When you look at the current realities of the overall Atlanta real estate market, we are truly blessed to be in the position we are in. We worked hard and took considerable risks in order to deliver a project that could make a long-term difference in the community and it would appear that the strategy, combined with significant determination have indeed been well received by the market.”

The development concept for Sovereign began as early as the mid 1990’s, but design plans did not begin in earnest until the early 2000’s. The multi-use project was completed in mid 2008. Designed by architects, Stewart, Stewart & Associates the 635-foot building is Buckhead’s tallest building to date. It’s fluid and organic architecture that includes curved features has enabled Sovereign to quickly become a City landmark and the center piece for the Buckhead district.

Sovereign has consistently been acknowledged with several industry and community accolades over the last few years including the Best of the Best Award in McGraw-Hill Construction’s (MHC) national competition, which recognizes design and construction excellence in residential projects. Sovereign competed against winners from 11 regions in MHC publications’ Best of 2008 Awards to be recognized as the overall Best of the Best.

Their most recent accomplishments complement a series of awards and accolades that Sovereign has received since 2007, prior to its opening in 2008. The multiple achievements include Regent Partners, LLC being named as Development Firm of the Year by the Georgia Chapter of the National Association of Industrial and Office Properties and the 2008 Development of Excellence Award – Livable Center Initiative Achievement Award from the Atlanta Regional Commission and the Livable Communities Coalition. Also, The Atlanta Business Chronicle named 3344 Peachtree/Sovereign the 2007 Deal of the Year for Mixed-Use Development and the Development Authority of Fulton County awarded 3344 Peachtree/Sovereign with the 2007 Economic Development Award.

About 3344 Peachtree/Sovereign:
Developed by Atlanta-based Regent Partners, LLC, Sovereign, located at 3344 Peachtree Road in Buckhead is a 50 story mixed-use tower designed by architects, Smallwood, Reynolds, Stewart, Stewart & Associates. The 635-foot tower includes more than one-half million square feet of Class A office and retail space crowned by the 82 residences of Sovereign. Homes are offered from $1 million and begin on the building's 28th story affording penthouse-like views from all residences, which range from more than 1,700 square feet to more than 10,000 square feet. Sovereign, which was named Best in Atlanta Real Estate in 2007, includes fine dining at Bistro Niko, a Buckhead Life Signature French restaurant and the services of the distinguished Buckhead Club. As a mixed-use new urban design, Sovereign offers unparalleled private pedestrian and automobile access to major roadways, restaurants, services, shopping and recreation. Residential sales at Sovereign are handled by Atlanta Fine Homes Sotheby's International Realty. For more information about Sovereign, please call 404-266-3344 or visit www.sovereignbuckhead.com.

About Regent Partners:
Established in 1988, Regent Partners, LLC is a leading Atlanta-based real estate development, investment and services firm. Currently the partnership has more than one half billion dollars in development projects under way. Since its inception the company has acquired and developed more than 10 million square feet of office, residential and hotel space valued in excess of $2.0 billion. Regent Partners' diverse portfolio includes hotel, residential, office, retail, mixed-use and land holdings. The senior management team consists of executives with more than 150 years of combined experience in acquiring, re-positioning, developing, managing, leasing and constructing commercial real estate assets. For more information about Regent Partners, visit www.regentpartners.com.
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Thursday, December 10, 2009

Lending Industry Still Fighting Mortgage Modification as Foreclosure Crisis Continues

/PRNewswire/ -- As the House debates the Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2009 this week, the lending industry continues to fight a mortgage modification provision that would allow bankruptcy judges to adjust the terms of mortgages to help struggling families as part of a broader effort to stem the worsening foreclosure crisis.

Lending industry opponents of the measure, some of the biggest recipients of federal bailout money, have spent lavishly on lobbying and campaign contributions in 2009. An analysis by Common Cause and Public Campaign shows that the coalition of banks opposed to the mortgage modification provision - including Citigroup, Bank of America, Wells Fargo and JPMorgan Chase & Co -- have spent more than $80 million on lobbying and more than $6 million on campaign contributions this year, according to data from the Center for Responsive Politics.

"These Wall Street banks were rescued by the taxpayers after they almost collapsed under their own bad investments," said Common Cause President Bob Edgar. "They took that money and are spending millions lobbying and making campaign contributions to stop proposals that would help those same taxpayers keep their homes."

"From regulatory reform to health care, campaign cash from Wall Street interests is permeating every corner of debate in Washington, D.C.," said Nick Nyhart, president and CEO of Public Campaign. "Congress must create a political system that works for all of us, not just those with money to spare. It's time to pass the Fair Elections Now Act."

The House is currently debating the Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2009 (HR 4173), the most significant overhaul of the financial industry since the New Deal. It may take up the bankruptcy amendment offered by Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers Jr. (D-MI) and Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) as soon as today. The House passed identical language in March, but the effort ran aground in the Senate.

Some House members want the Senate to reconsider the proposal, as most major lenders have not responded to the voluntary initiatives adopted in place of the bankruptcy provision. The Treasury Department estimates that only one-in-five eligible households have received government assistance through these voluntary programs.

Common Cause and Public Campaign continue to work to pass the Fair Elections Now Act (H.R. 1826 / S.752) as the comprehensive solution to the pay-to-play culture in Washington, D.C. exposed by the debate over regulatory reform. The legislation, sponsored by Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Rep. John Larson (D-Conn.) would create a citizen-funded election system for Congress in which candidates could run for office on a blend of small donations and public funds.

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Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Fattah's Emergency Mortgage Assistance Plan for the Jobless Moves Close to House Passage

/PRNewswire/ -- A $3 billion emergency mortgage assistance program for unemployed homeowners -- authored by Congressman Chaka Fattah (D-PA) and based on a successful Pennsylvania program that Fattah helped create as a young state legislator -- is on the verge of passage in the House of Representatives.

"There's broad agreement that a major threat to homeowners today is loss of their homes because of unemployment and job distress through no fault of their own," Fattah said. "Our program is a game changer, especially for struggling homeowners in our cities and rural areas and for minorities. It will provide $3 billion in TARP funds for mortgage payments that will keep these families in their homes.

"This has been a six year effort in the House since I first introduced mortgage assistance of the unemployed in 2003, and now we're on the verge of success," Fattah said. "The Obama Administration supports this effort, and I look forward to passage in the Senate followed by the President's signature in the near future."

In Pennsylvania, unemployed and financially distressed homeowners have received $236 million in emergency mortgage assistance since 1983, when the Homeowners' Emergency Mortgage Assistance Program (HEMAP) was enacted by the Legislature. (Most of those loans have been repaid.) Fattah, as a 26-year-old freshman state representative, took the lead in designing and winning approval for the HEMAP program.

"HEMAP has been a big winner for homeowners in Pennsylvania, especially in our most impoverished urban and rural areas," Fattah said. "The program has drawn praise from housing and mortgage advocates in Philadelphia and elsewhere, and now it becomes the model for this much needed national scale-up."

Fattah's HEMA proposal was incorporated into H.R. 3766, the Main Street TARP Act, introduced by Chairman Barney Frank (D-Mass) of the Financial Services Committee, with Subcommittee Chairwoman Maxine Waters (D-CA) and Rep. Fattah as original cosponsors.

H.R. 3766 proposes to use unspent TARP (Troubled Asset Relief Program) funds to provide relief for distressed homeowners who are unable to meet their mortgage obligations due to financial hardship, as well as providing assistance to renters seeking affordable housing. The mortgage assistance provisions have been included in the Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2009 (H.R. 4173).

Chairman Frank, sponsor of the overall Wall Street Reform bill, and Subcommittee Chairwoman Waters, have praised the Philadelphia Congressman's initiative on mortgage relief. Frank will include the Main Street TARP Act's key provisions into what's called the Manager's Amendment to the Wall Street Reform bill, which is scheduled for final action in the House this week.

Under Fattah's HEMA proposal, a lender must inform a homeowner in mortgage default about the HEMA program before the lender can begin foreclosure proceedings.

A homeowner found eligible to participate in the program then makes a partial mortgage payment to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development instead of the lender. HUD subsequently pays the homeowner's entire monthly mortgage to the lender provided that the homeowner has a reasonable prospect of resuming mortgage payments within 24 months.

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Thursday, December 3, 2009

Bankrate: Mortgage Rates Remain Near Record Lows

/PRNewswire/ -- The average conforming 30-year fixed mortgage moved a touch higher from 5 percent to 5.01 percent, according to Bankrate.com's weekly national survey. The average 30-year fixed mortgage has an average of 0.39 discount and origination points.

The average 15-year fixed mortgage set a new record low of 4.46 percent while the larger jumbo 30-year fixed rate inched lower to 6.02 percent. Adjustable rate mortgages posted mixed results, with the average 3-year ARM jumping to 4.77 percent and the 5-year ARM sinking to 4.52 percent.

Mortgage rates are at ultra-low levels because the Federal Reserve isn't showing any indication of raising interest rates soon and because investors around the globe maintain a healthy appetite for debt backed by the U.S. government. The demand for government debt and federally guaranteed mortgage-backed securities have kept bond prices elevated and held bond yields down. Mortgage rates are closely related to yields on government and mortgage-backed debt. However, there are no guarantees about how long mortgage rates will remain near record lows.

Mortgage rates are nearly one full percentage point lower than one year ago. This time last year, the average 30-year fixed mortgage rate was 5.92 percent, meaning a $200,000 loan would have carried a monthly payment of $1,188.83. With the average rate now 5.01 percent, the monthly payment for the same size loan would be $1,074.87, a savings of $114 per month for a homeowner refinancing now.

SURVEY RESULTS
30-year fixed: 5.01% -- up from 5.00% last week (avg. points: 0.39)
15-year fixed: 4.46% -- down from 4.47% last week (avg. points: 0.32)
5/1 ARM: 4.52% -- down from 4.54% last week (avg. points: 0.30)

Bankrate's national weekly mortgage survey is conducted each Wednesday from data provided by the top 10 banks and thrifts in the top 10 markets.

For a full analysis of this week's move in mortgage rates, go to http://www.bankrate.com/mortgagerates

The survey is complemented by Bankrate's weekly forward-looking Rate Trend Index, in which a panel of mortgage experts predicts which way the rates are headed over the next 30 to 45 days. The majority of panelists, 62 percent, expect mortgage rates to head higher and just 7 percent predict lower rates. Nearly one in three, or 31 percent, forecast that rates will remain more or less unchanged over the next 30 to 45 days.

For the full mortgage Rate Trend Index, go to http://www.bankrate.com/RTI

To see mortgage rates in your area, go to http://www.bankrate.com/funnel/mortgages/

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