Archive for the 'Real Estate Market News' Category
By Inman News
Foreclosure starts jumped by double digits from July to August in four out of five Western states tracked by ForeclosureRadar, reversing what had been a declining trend over the past several months, the company said.
The increase in foreclosure starts seen in Arizona, California, Nevada, Oregon and Washington appeared to be driven primarily by Bank of America and related companies, which boosted notice of default and notice of trustee sale filings by 116 percent from July to August.
Wells Fargo and US Bank also ramped up foreclosure start filings, ForeclosureRadar said, while filings by JP Morgan Chase and Citibank were essentially flat, ForeclosureRadar said.
In California, foreclosure starts jumped nearly 70 percent from July to August, totaling 31,965 — the highest level in a year. The average time to foreclose in California increased to 333 days in August, 49 days longer than a year ago.
Notice of trustee sale filings were up more moderately, rising 6 percent from July to August but still down nearly 24 percent from a year ago at 24,020.
California properties sold back to the bank (REO) increased 12 percent from July, to 11,104, down nearly 23 percent from a year ago. Sales to third parties on the courthouse steps were up 10 percent from July, to 3,853, an 11 percent increase from a year ago.
California foreclosure inventories remain down or flat from a year ago. Banks had 107,000 REO homes on their books — about the same as in July — and the number of homes scheduled for trustee sale was down nearly 24 percent from a year ago, to 94,000.
Homes in preforeclosure — those already hit with a notice of default but not yet scheduled for sale — jumped 20.5 percent from July to August, to 134,000. That was 10 percent below the preforeclosure number in California a year ago.
In Arizona, notice of trustee sale filings — the first step in the foreclosure process in that state — were up nearly 15 percent from July to August, to 7,060. That’s 34 percent below the same time a year ago. Time to foreclose in August was flat from July at 175 days, but up 15 percent from a year ago.
The number of Arizona homes going back to the bank as REOs fell 8 percent from July and 43 percent from a year ago, to 3,068. Sales to third parties on the courthouse steps were up 5 percent from July and 39 percent from a year ago, to 1,666.
Banks had 25,278 Arizona homes in their REO inventories, down 5 percent from July and 22 percent from a year ago. Another 35,860 had been hit with a notice of trustee sale filing, down 3 percent from July and 38 percent from a year ago.
In Nevada, notice of default filings jumped 44 percent from July but were down nearly 14 percent from a year ago, to 6,108. Time to foreclose jumped 14 percent from July to August, reaching a new record of 368 days.
Notice of trustee sale filings slipped for the fifth consecutive month, dropping 10 percent from July and 43 percent from a year ago, to 3,523.
Banks took back 1,805 Nevada homes, up 1 percent from July but down 14 percent from a year ago. Properties sold to third parties on the courthouse steps rose 20 percent from July and 28 percent from last year, to 786.
Foreclosure inventories were down or flat from a year ago. Banks had 16,425 REOs on their books, down nearly 5 percent from July and from a year ago.
The number of properties scheduled for sale was down 9 percent from July and 40 percent from a year ago, to 7,758. Homes in preforeclosure jumped nearly 26 percent from July to 47,509, down 14 percent from a year ago.
Washington saw a 3 percent increase in notice of trustee sale filings from July to August, reversing four months of consecutive declines. Activity on the courthouse steps slowed as foreclosures sold back to the bank (REOs) dropped 30 percent month over month, and foreclosures sold to third parties — typically investors — were down 33 percent. Time to foreclose was nearly flat in August at 104 days.
In Oregon, notices of default were up 36 percent from July to August, but filing activity was down 46 percent from a year ago. Properties sold back to the bank rose 243.3 percent from July as Recontrust, a subsidiary of Bank of America, began to clear the 2,800 foreclosures it started in April.
Properties sold to third-party investors were up 46 percent from July and 17.4 percent from a year ago. Time to foreclose dropped in August for the second month in a row, falling nine days from July, to 150 days.
The real estate market meltdown was much more severe and has lasted much longer than even the most bearish housing market observer would ever have predicted. Rather than values taking a dip, they’ve taken a double dip in many places; and the housing sector drama has infected the job market and the entire world’s economy.
Yet, there are some very shiny silver linings to this whole mess — a handful of ways in which our mindsets, habits, behaviors and approaches to money, mortgage and even life decision-making — have been changed by this real estate market debacle. As I see it, here are the five best things about this otherwise terrible housing recession:
1.People now buy for the long term. Even Jeff Lewis, that reality TV house flipper extraordinaire, has declared that he’s tapped out of the flipping business for the foreseeable future, trading in his real estate wheeling and dealing for the design business.
Recently, he mentioned having lost six homes in the real estate market crash. While Lewis flipped homes as his business, just five years ago, many Americans — homeowners and investors alike — took a short-term view on their homes, buying them with the idea that they could count on refinancing, pulling cash out or even reselling them anytime they wanted, at a profit.
Reality check — those days are gone. Now, buyers know they’d better be prepared to stay put for somewhere between seven and 10 years (shorter in strong local markets, longer in foreclosure hot spots) before they buy if they want to break even. And this is causing them to take mortgages they can afford over time, and make smarter, longer-term choices about the homes they buy.
2. Dysfunctional properties are being weeded out and creatively reused. Municipalities like Detroit and Cleveland are demolishing blighted and decrepit properties in dead neighborhoods en masse, intentionally shrinking their cities to match their shrinking populations. These efforts are also eliminating breeding grounds for crime, and focusing resources on the neighborhoods that have a better chance of surviving and thriving in the long term.
In the so-called “slumburbias” of central California, Nevada and Arizona, McMansions are being repurposed into affordable housing for groups of seniors, artist communities and group homes.
3. American housing stock is getting an energy-efficient upgrade. The news would have you believe that every American has lost his or her home, walked away from it, or is now renting by choice. In fact, the vast majority of homeowners have simply decided to stay put.
Instead of selling and moving on up, homeowners are improving the homes they now plan to stay in for a long(er) haul. And this generation of remodeling is focused less on granite and stainless steel, and more on lowering the costs of “operating” the home and taking advantage of tax credits for installing energy-efficient doors, windows, water heaters and more. And while the first-time homebuyer tax credit is a thing of the past, the homeowner tax credits for energy-optimizing upgrades are in effect until the end of this year.
4. People are making more responsible mortgage decisions, and building financial good habits in the process. Buyers are buying far below the maximum purchase prices for which they are approved. They are reading their loan disclosures and documents before they sign them. And, thanks to the stingy mortgage market, they are spending months, even years, in the planning and preparation phases before they buy: paying down their debt; saving up for a down payment (and a cash cushion, so that a job loss wouldn’t be disastrous); being responsible and sparing in their use of credit to optimize their FICO scores; and creating strong financial habits in one fell swoop.
5. Our feelings about debt and equity have been reformed. Americans no longer use their homes like ATM machines, to pull out cash, pay off their credit cards and then start the whole overspending cycle over again. Many can’t, because their homes are upside down and cannot be refinanced in any event — much less to pull cash out.
Others have been reality-checked by the recession, and are dealing with their non-mortgage debt the old fashioned way: by ceasing the pattern of spending more than they make, and applying the self-discipline it takes to pay their bills off.
Home equity, in general, is no longer viewed as an inexhaustible source of cash. Rather, we see it as a fluctuating asset to be protected and increased — not so much through the vagaries of the market, but through the hard work of paying the principal balance down. Many of those refinancing into today’s lower rates aren’t doing it to pull cash out, as was the norm at the top of the market; instead, they are refinancing into 15-year loans to pay their homes off sooner than planned, or reducing their required payment so their extra savings can be applied to principal.
Of course, it remains to be seen how lasting these changes will be if and when home prices go up and mortgage guidelines loosen up. But since neither of these things look likely to happen in the short term, hopefully there’s a chance that these behavior shifts will become part of a permanent mindset reset for American housing consumers.
SAN FRANCISCO — Attorney General Kamala D. Harris today announced that the California Department of Justice, in conjunction with the State Bar of California, has sued multiple entities accused of fraudulently taking millions of dollars from thousands of homeowners who were led to believe they would receive relief on their mortgages.
Attorney General Harris sued Philip Kramer, the Law Offices of Kramer & Kaslow, two other law firms, three other lawyers, and 14 other defendants who are accused of working together to defraud homeowners across the country through the deceptive marketing of “mass joinder” lawsuits. “Mass joinder” lawsuits are lawsuits with hundreds, or more, individually named plaintiffs. This is the first consumer action by the Attorney General’s Mortgage Fraud Strike Force.
Kramer’s firm and other defendants were placed into receivership on Monday, Aug. 15. The legal actions were designed to shut down a scheme operated by attorneys and their marketing partners, in which defendants used false and misleading representations to induce thousands of homeowners into joining the mass joinder lawsuits against their mortgage lenders. Defendants also had their assets seized and were enjoined from continuing their operations. Nineteen DOJ special agents participated as the firms were taken over Wednesday, Aug. 17, along with 42 agents and other personnel from HUD’s Office of Inspector General, the California State Bar, and the Office of Receiver Thomas McNamara at 14 locations in Los Angeles and Orange Counties. Sixteen bank accounts were seized.
“The defendants in this case fraudulently promised to win prompt mortgage relief for millions of vulnerable homeowners across the country,” said Attorney General Harris. “Innocent people, already battered by the housing crisis, were targeted for fraud in their moment of distress.”
“The number of lawyers who have tried to take advantage of distressed homeowners in these tough economic times is nothing short of shocking,” said State Bar President William Hebert. “By taking over the practices of four attorneys accused of fraudulent marketing practices, the State Bar can put a stop to their deplorable conduct as part of our ongoing effort to protect the public.”
It is believed that at least two million pieces of mail were sent out by defendants to victims in at least 17 states. Defendants’ revenue from this scam is estimated to be in the millions of dollars.
As alleged in the lawsuit, defendants preyed on desperate homeowners facing foreclosure by selling them participation as plaintiffs in mass joinder lawsuits against mortgage lenders. Defendants deceptively led homeowners to believe that by joining these lawsuits, they would stop pending foreclosures, reduce their loan balances or interest rates, obtain money damages, and even receive title to their homes free and clear of their existing mortgage. Defendants charged homeowners retainer fees of up to $10,000 to join as plaintiffs to a mass joinder lawsuit against their lender or loan servicer.
Consumers who paid to join the mass joinder lawsuits were frequently unable to receive answers to simple questions, such as whether they had been added to the lawsuit, or even to establish contact with defendants. Some consumers lost their homes shortly after paying the retainer fees demanded by defendants.
This mass joinder scam began with deceptive mass mailers, the lawsuit alleges. Some mailers, designed to appear as official settlement notices or government documents, informed homeowners that they were potential plaintiffs in a “national litigation settlement” against their lender. No settlements existed and in many cases no lawsuit had even been filed. Defendants also advertised through their web sites.
When consumers contacted the defendants, they were given legal advice by sales agents, not attorneys, who made additional deceptive statements and provided (often inaccurate) legal advice about the supposedly “likely” results of joining the lawsuits. Defendants unlawfully paid commissions to their sales representatives on a per client sign-up basis, a practice known as “running and capping.”
Defendants’ alleged misconduct violates the following laws:
-False advertising, in violation of section 17500 of the Business and Professions Code
-Unfair, fraudulent and unlawful business practices, in violation of section 17200 of the Business and Professions Code
-Unlawful running and capping, in violation of section 6152, subdivision (a) of the Business and Professions Code (i.e., a lawyer unlawfully paying a non-lawyer to solicit or procure business)
-Improper fee splitting (defendants unlawfully splitting legal fees with non-attorneys)
-Failing to register with the Department of Justice as a telephonic seller.
Homeowners who have paid to be added to one of the lawsuits should contact the State Bar if they feel they may be victims of this scam. They can also contact a HUD-certified housing counselor for general mortgage related assistance.
The Department of Justice has seized the practices of the following non-attorney defendants:
Attorneys Processing Center, LLC; Data Management, LLC; Gary DiGirolamo; Bill Stephenson; Mitigation Professionals, LLC; Glen Reneau; Pate Marier & Associates, Inc.; James Pate; Ryan Marier; Home Retention Division; Michael Tapia; Lewis Marketing Corp.; Clarence Butt; and Thomas Phanco.
The State Bar has seized the practices and attorney accounts of the attorney defendants:
The Law Offices of Kramer & Kaslow; Philip Kramer, Esq; Mitchell J. Stein & Associates; Mitchell Stein, Esq.; Christopher Van Son, Esq.; Mesa Law Group Corp.; and Paul Petersen, Esq.
Attorney General Harris is challenging the defendants’ alleged misconduct in marketing their mass joinder lawsuits; her office takes no position as to the legal merits of any claims asserted in the mass joinder lawsuits filed by defendants.
Victims in the following states are known to have received these mailers, or signed on to join the case. This is a preliminary list that may be updated:
Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Texas, Washington
The complaint, temporary restraining order, examples of marketing documents and photos of the enforcement action are available with the electronic version of this release at http://oag.ca.gov/news.
Information provided by State of California Dept of Justice
The California Energy Commission (CEC) recently developed and released SAVE to evaluate existing solar systems placed on real property.
SAVE has been designed to be used by appraisers, REALTORS®, and others in order to provide a means for evaluating existing solar systems and to determine their expected capacity (i.e. this system, can, on average, generate this much electricity).
SAVE will provide appraisers with a tool that can place an actual dollar value on solar systems, and will help to provide prospective purchasers with information on the average energy savings that can be achieved by the system. The information contained in the tool is derived from information obtained by the CEC through coordinated efforts with utilities, installers of solar systems, property owners, and their respective agents. Properties not included within SAVE can manually input property information and solar system specifications in order to obtain an estimated capacity valuation.
C.A.R. participated as a stakeholder in the development of this tool and provided the CEC with recommendations that assured the tool would effectively meet industry needs.
To learn more about SAVE, including upcoming training webinars, please visit http://www.gosolarcalifornia.org/tools/save.php.
Employment in the U.S. unexpectedly stagnated in August as employers became less confident in the strength of the recovery. The jobless rate held at 9.1 percent.
Payrolls were unchanged last month, the weakest reading since September 2010, after an 85,000 gain in July that was smaller than initially estimated, the Labor Department said today in Washington. The median forecast in a Bloomberg News survey called for a gain of 68,000. The August figures included a 48,000 drop in information industry jobs, mostly reflecting striking Verizon Communications Inc. workers.
It was the first time since World War II that the economy had a net zero jobs created for a month, CNBC reported.
The state Attorney General’s Office has shut down four Southern California law firms that allegedly conned about 2,500 California homeowners facing foreclosure into paying thousands of dollars to join a lawsuit against lenders that went nowhere.
The law firms made false promises to the plaintiffs to entice them to sue the lenders, telling them that foreclosure proceedings would be stopped and their monthly payments reduced, Attorney General Kamala Harris said Thursday at a news conference.
The attorney general is suing the law firms of Philip Kramer, Christopher Van Son, Paul W. Petersen and Mitchell Stein, which also has an office in Walnut Creek.
“It will bring justice to a number of homeowners of California who were targeted by predators,” Harris said. The suit, which seeks civil penalties, alleges false advertising and violations of the business and professions code.
The State Bar Association has taken over the practices of the law firms. Since 2009, 20 attorneys in California have either been disbarred or given up their license after they got in trouble from loan-modification rescue scams.
Harris alleges that the Southern California attorneys banded together to file “mass joinder” lawsuits, which effectively folded cases with separate but similar circumstances into one legal filing.
The law firms sent out mailers to homeowners in California and 16 other states who had trouble paying their mortgage.
The mailers gave the impression that a legal settlement was within reach and that the homeowners would benefit by becoming a named plaintiff.
Telemarketers gave homeowners misleading advice and information about the benefit of joining the case, according to Harris’ suit. Call center companies were also named in the suit.
Unlike conventional civil cases, which typically work on a contingency fee basis, the homeowners were required to pay from $4,000 to $10,000 to be added as a plaintiff. To date, about 2,500 homeowners, all from California, have been identified as victims, said Harris.
“They are really homeowners who have been victimized a second time,” she said.
Representatives of the Van Son, Kramer, and Petersen law firms could not be reached for comment. A man named Toby, who declined to give his last name and identified himself as a senior paralegal for Mitchell Stein, said the law firm had an active case in Los Angeles Superior Court.
“It’s not as simple as Kamala Harris filing suit,” he said.
No disciplinary charges have been filed against the attorneys by the Bar Association.
The attorney general’s lawsuit does not indicate whether the cases filed by the four law firms have any legal merit. To that end, the Bar Association will look at the circumstances of each case to see whether they should be referred to other lawyers. Clients can call the Bar Association at 213-765-1672 for more information.
A state law makes it illegal to ask for an upfront payment for loan-modification services. The law applies to real estate licensees and attorneys.
“Be wary of any person or company that asks for a fee in advance,” said Ophelia Basgal, regional counsel for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development,
She reminded consumers that HUD-approved counseling agencies provide free help to homeowners facing foreclosure. Call 888-995-HOPE (4673) for more information.
By Andrea V. Brambila
No matter the state of the housing market, there are real estate professionals doing business. Despite gloomy housing and economic news at the national level, real estate agents and brokers in some markets are seeing a high dollar volume in home sales due to rising prices and relatively vibrant local economies.
Inman News examined total sales, median sales price, real estate licensee data and Realtor membership counts in dozens of metro areas across the country to develop a list of 10 metros where real estate professionals are doing comparatively well in terms of sales and average total dollar volume in sales per Realtor.
The average total dollar volume in sales per Realtor was calculated by multiplying the average number of sales per Realtor by the median sales price in a given metro in the 12 months between June 2010 and May 2011.
Half of the markets on the resulting list are in the South (four are in Texas), three are in the West, one is in the Midwest, and one is in the Northeast. The 10 markets are, in order: Seattle-Bellevue-Everett, Wash.; Fort Worth-Arlington, Texas; Denver-Aurora-Broomfield, Colo.; Salt Lake City; San Antonio-New Braunfels, Texas; Pittsburgh; Dallas-Plano-Irving, Texas; Kansas City Mo.-Kan.; Austin-Round Rock-San Marcos, Texas; and Nashville-Davidson–Murfreesboro–Franklin, Tenn.
Total average sales volume per Realtor in the year ending in May 2011 ranged from $599,171 in the Nashville metro to $1.54 million in the Seattle metro. Sales per Realtor ranged from 3.2 in the Austin metro to 8.3 in the Fort Worth metro. For some metros, a high median sales price offset a relatively low sales rate to result in a higher than usual average total dollar volume in sales.
While all Realtors are real estate licensees, it’s important to note that in a given market there are some real estate licensees who are not Realtors. And the sales rate per Realtor statistic does not account for sales by non-Realtors — including sales by real estate licensees and for-sale-by-owner transactions — in a given market.
It’s also important to note that two real estate sales associates can profit in every sales transaction, as the typical sale features a real estate agent working on the “sell” side (or listing side) of the deal and another agent working on the “buy” side of the deal. And it is typical for sales associates on both sides of the deal to share a portion of their commission income with their broker.
Seven out of the 10 markets saw their median sales price rise year-over-year in May, and none of the remaining three saw double-digit price drops. On a month-to-month basis, all 10 either saw the sales price remain roughly flat or rise in May. That same month, the U.S. median sales price fell 3.2 percent on a year-over-year basis, to $152,000, according CoreLogic data.
Seven out of 10 markets had a median sales price higher than the national median ($150,500) in the 12 months between June 2010 and May 2011. Median prices ranged from $107,250 in the Pittsburgh metro to $302,000 in the Seattle metro.
Not surprisingly, the 10 metros, chosen for their total sales and total dollar volume in sales per real estate professional, turned out to have better-than-average local economies. None of the 10 markets had unemployment rates higher than the national rate in June, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Only the Seattle market had a rate equal to the nonseasonally adjusted national rate of 9.3 percent, while the rest had lower jobless rates. Nine out of 10 markets had lower foreclosure rates than the national rate in the second quarter, when 1 in 111 housing units nationwide received a foreclosure filing, according to data from foreclosure data site RealtyTrac. Only Salt Lake City had a somewhat higher rate, with 1 in 108 units in the area receiving a foreclosure filing.
According to the National Association of Realtors’ state existing-home sales data, there was an average of five sales per Realtor in the second quarter of this year. Among the top 10 states with a high rate of sales per Realtor, most were in the Midwest or the South.
Q2 2011 sales
Membership as of June 30, 2011
Sales per Realtor
Source: National Association of Realtors.
For data-quality purposes, only markets with at least 1,500 sales posted in May 2011 were considered for this report. While most of the 10 states above also posted high sales rates for real estate licensees (not just Realtors), most metros in these states did not meet the 1,500-sales-count threshold and were therefore not included in this report.
Another consequence of this threshold is that the populations of each of the 10 markets exceeded 1 million, and ranged from 1.1 million to 4.2 million.
Nine out of the 10 markets are projected to see double-digit population growth by 2020, according to data from data analysis firm ProximityOne. While the national population is expected to rise 8.9 percent between 2010 and 2020, each of the 10 markets except Pittsburgh is expected to see double-digit increases, from 10.6 percent in the Kansas City metro to 33.1 percent in the Austin metro.
The Pittsburgh area’s population is expected to stay virtually flat at 2.4 million.
Commentary: Fed chairman’s speech a ‘Thud!’
By Lou Barnes
Markets are stumbling to a standstill at week’s end, exhausted by the last month’s worries, and today big money in New York is distracted by Hurricane Irene. Better send the help to batten the house in the Hamptons, and see if those eager one-off friends up the Hudson would mind short-notice company.
The 10-year T-note, after its dramatic dive from 3 percent to 2 percent, has settled near 2.2 percent, no better indicator of deep concern still in place.
It is football season, and one sound from games fills the air: “Thump!”
The entire financial world had waited two weeks for Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke’s speech at the annual gathering of central bankers in Jackson Hole, Wyo.
At 8 a.m. Mountain Standard Time today … “Thud!”
As punts go, a dribbler. This whiff — no new policy, no wisdom — reflects a divided Fed, with country rascals at regional Feds in open rebellion.
The ball landed at the Fed’s Sept. 20 meeting, the chairman adding Sept. 21 for extended argument. The game will go on, but the Fed will be entirely off the field for a month, maybe more.
Bernanke did give a whole paragraph to housing, noting the credit-default spiral still under way, with defaults producing tighter credit — which, in turn, produces a weaker housing market and more defaults.
What to do about the obvious? Federal Housing Finance Agency home prices falling 5.9 percent year over year? New mortgage delinquencies declining through 2010, but gently rising in 2011?
Mortgage rates failing to follow Treasurys down, the spread opening as in disastrous 2008? The Fed refusing to roll mortgage-backed securities purchased in QE1 (the first round of the Fed’s quantitative easing)?
He didn’t swing his foot at any of that. Just passive, professorial observation.
Our other professor, President Obama, depending on the track and vigor of Hurricane Irene, may forced to interrupt his vacation.
No matter: He already punted to an economic policy speech on Sept. 4. The nation trembles in anticipation. Uh-huh. He might have demanded that Congress stay in town, get to work; but that would require the same from him. “Thwack!” Shank.
Markets live in real time, and “tempus fugit” (Latin for “time flies”) no matter how much you’d like it to pause.
Markets attend the Church of What’s Happening Now, whether the punter is in town or not.
Second-quarter U.S. gross domestic product was revised down to 1 percent. The University of Michigan’s measure of consumer confidence has plunged from 75 to 55; every such move since the 1970s has marked a new recession. Maybe this time we’re just peeved.
On Thursday, Sept. 1, we’ll get employment data from August, and the first of the August surveys from the Institute for Supply Management. Maybe the captains of the sidelines are right to wait to see the data. The fans get so emotional about things.
This week, Warren Buffett executed a signature grandstand play, putting $5 billion into troubled Bank of America. A sign of the big turn, all OK? CNBC stock-pushers said so.
BofA stock sank steadily from $15 in January to $9.50 in July, then in a week crashed to $6. He didn’t just dump $5 billion into stock. He bought cumulative preferred paying a 6 percent dividend. Do you know any safe investments paying 6 percent guaranteed today?
He also received warrants to buy 700 million shares at $7.14 and resell whenever the stock price rises a convenient distance above that level. Buffett did a similar deal with Goldman, but in the depth of panic in early ’09. No healthy institution would accept such terms today.
America is a big and diverse place. Asserting an understanding of the American state of mind at any moment is a tad grandiose. However, never since the 1930s has there been such an opening for leadership to get out of its boxes.
We are learning the hard way — very hard — that the standard prescriptions of the left and right are dead ends.
More spending, income redistribution, and regulation won’t get us out of this. Neither will do-nothing, hard-money liquidation, or nut-case imaginings.
Salvation lies in basic things: Unity of purpose. Determination to compete. Pursuit of excellence. Abandon the past and self-congratulation, and adapt.
Perhaps disgust at the national punting team will do the trick.
Lou Barnes is a mortgage broker and nationally syndicated columnist based in Boulder, Colo. He can be reached at [email protected]
Despite home prices in major urban centers decreasing 31 percent between 2005 and 2009, property taxes across the U.S. increased by nearly 20 percent. There is good news, however; homeowners can fight back.
Making sense of the story
Homeowners should keep in mind that property taxes do not always correspond with home values, because local governments typically don’t measure values every year and some have limits on annual property-tax increases.
As a result, current property taxes might reflect the home’s value when the market was healthier. According to the Congressional Budget Office, property-tax adjustments lag behind changes in home prices by an average of three years.
Although homeowners cannot change their property-tax rate, which is set by the local government, homeowners can get their assessment lowered if they appeal to their local assessor.
One key to a successful appeal is fact checking the assessor’s work. About half of all successful appeals come from homeowners pointing out an error in the assessor’s description of the home, according to one property tax expert.
During the appeal process, which is similar to a less-formal court hearing, homeowners may present their case to several local officials or representatives. The simplest way to convince officials that a property has been incorrectly valued is to provide evidence of the sales price of homes that are comparable to the property being discussed. This should include square footage, amenities, and neighborhood characteristics. Sale documents and photos of the property in question, as well as the comparable properties also should be brought in.
Homeowners who have made improvements or substantial changes to the property should be cautious about appealing an assessment though, as it could have negative effects and actually increase the property’s value and, in turn, the property taxes
The Wall Street Journal
Read the full story
Current statistics show that 82.5 percent of all Web users view video online. Furthermore, 30 percent of all current Web traffic is devoted to video. That number may be as high as 70 percent by 2020.
Habitat for Hermanity‘s Herman Chan, a real estate celebrity and expert, did a dynamite session at Real Estate Connect San Francisco on how and why REALTORS® should be using video as an integral part of their business.
Today’s buyers and sellers place a premium on video. While only 12 percent of all agents have a YouTube account, 73 percent of the sellers are more likely to hire an agent who uses video in their business.
Herman’s three lame excuses not to do video
1. Too much work
“Video is too much work? You must be kidding! All you have to do is point, click and upload.” The newer video cameras such as the Kodak Playtouch upload your video automatically. In fact, if you have a smartphone or an iPad you probably already have a camera built into your mobile device.
2. It’s too expensive
In the past, shooting video was expensive. Once you shot the raw footage, you needed a professional to edit the video. Today, it’s easy to shoot short videos from your iPhone or other mobile device. Furthermore, most people have no issue with amateur videos as long as the sound quality is good. (Please note: It’s smart to hire a videographer to shoot the your main marketing pieces for your listings, especially on expensive listings.)
If you want to edit the videos, tools such as iMovie on the Mac make it easy. There are a host of tools for Windows users as well, including Windows Live Movie Maker and PC Magazine’s top recommendation, CyberLinkPowerDirector9.
3. I’m ugly
As Herman said, “Not everyone is as good looking or interesting as I am.” His recommendation was a smart one: Turn the camera the other way. Interview your favorite stager or seek video testimonials from past customers. Seek out local business owners who have interesting stories or who are fun on camera. Your goal is to engage your viewers with what is great about living in your area and, in the process, constantly upgrade your website and/or blog with fresh content.
Herman’s top video tips
1. No more than 2-3 minutes
Research shows that the longer your video is, the less likely YouTube viewers are to view it. While Herman recommended no more than two to three minutes for the length of your video, other experts suggest keeping it to 60-90 seconds.
2. Grab their attention in the first 15 seconds
If you want to have people watch your video, you must grab their interest in the first 15 seconds or they’re gone. Make a controversial statement, ask a thought-provoking question, or entertain them with something funny.
3. Use “ESP” — energy, smile and personality
If you’re going to shoot a video, you must have high energy. Smile and let your personality shine through. As Herman put it, “Don’t be a plain Jane — be a jolly Jane or Jack!” People don’t want to look at someone who is a sourpuss.
4. Sell-sell-sell — not!
Your video should inform and entertain. Dump the selling or the viewers will dump you and your video.
5. Don’t be a tour guide
Remember that your job is selling real estate, not being a tour guide who says, “This is the bedroom, this is the kitchen, this is the dining room.” That’s boring. If you’re shooting a video of the property, focus on what is interesting and unique.
Interview the seller about what he or she loved about living in the house or the neighborhood. Search for colorful facts about the local area that provide a rich mosaic of what it is like to live there.
6. Have a strong point of view
It’s not only acceptable to have an opinion, it’s critical. While not everyone may agree with your opinion, those who support your point of view will love you for it.
7. Take baby steps
Everyone starts a new process as a beginner. Chances are you already know how to point and click your camera in the right direction. Begin by uploading your unedited videos on the Web. As you become more proficient, try editing or playing with upgrading your videos. When you take it step by step, the process is much easier.
8. Look somewhat presentable
Remember that once a video is posted online, it’s there permanently. Make sure that the image you convey is appropriate for the client base you serve. A good guideline is to dress as your clients dress when they are at work.
9. Syndicate your videos
Two great syndication services are Hey!Spread and TubeMogul.com. Hey!Spread syndicates to nine different video portals, including YouTube, Facebook and BlipTV.com, while TubeMogul syndicates to more than 25 different video portals. The basic levels of both syndication services are free.
If you want to get the edge on your competitors, don’t wait — point and click your camera, upload, and watch your business grow.