May home price gains continue to show signs of slowing

Posted in Housing Recovery, National Real Estate | 107 Comments

From Forbes:

S&P/Case Shiller: May Home Prices Rise At Slowest Rate Since Feb. 2013

In yet another sign that the housing recovery is slowing down, the 14-month streak of double-digit, year-over-year jumps in home prices finally ended in May, data from S&P/Case-Shiller released Tuesday shows.

The 10-City Composite Index rose 9.4% year-over-year while the 20-City measure climbed 9.3%. That pace is significantly lower than the rates the indices increased in April: 10.9% and 10.8%, respectively. It is also the slowest rate since Feb. 2013.

To be clear, home prices are still rising–just not as fast as they have been. Economists like year-over-year prices because they give a better sense of the market’s overall direction than do the swings in prices from month to month (compared to April, both city indices gained 1.1%).

As of May 2014, home prices are back to their summer 2004 levels, but still about 17-18% off their summer 2006 peaks. All the cities the indices track, with the exception of Charlotte and Tampa, saw year-over-year home prices rise at slower rates than during the prior month.

“Nationally, today’s Case-Shiller data is consistent with the slow glide-path down towards a more normal housing market we’ve been experiencing for the past few months,” said Stan Humphries, Zillow’s chief economist. “But the national numbers are masking a lot of variation from city-to-city: Cleveland, for example, is performing a lot differently than the Bay Area.”

You’ve got the shore, and you’ve got everything else

Posted in Housing Recovery, New Jersey Real Estate, Shore Real Estate | 91 Comments

From the Press of Atlantic City:

2014 mixed bag so far for South Jersey real estate

Some South Jersey real estate markets are dealing with plenty of distressed properties that affect sale prices. Others have been selling expensive vacation homes.

Ultimately, the first half of 2014 showed the wide variety in local real estate throughout Atlantic, Cape May, Cumberland and southern Ocean counties.

The number of homes sold and median prices dipped in some regions, increased in others, plummeted in some and skyrocketed in others, according to a Press analysis of New Jersey Association of Realtors data.

In North Wildwood, the median selling price of a single-family home was $386,510 in the first half, 21 percent higher than the same period last year. The median means half of homes sold for less, half for more. There were 26 fewer sales there.

James Flynn, broker of Flynn Real Estate in North Wildwood, said sales were predominantly vacation homes to residents of New Jersey and Philadelphia suburbs.

High-end homes with water views have sold well, so far.

“They sell high, $800,000 … $900,000 to $1.1 million. A lot of them, the buyers are not getting mortgages; they’re paying cash,” he said. “The high-end homes, they’re just using them for themselves.”

The New Jersey Association of Realtors said the spring season was off to a slow start across New Jersey. The early part of the year saw wet, wintry weather that kept potential house-hunters indoors.
Some markets still saw volume increases.

Cumberland County, Vineland, Millville and Bridgeton all saw more total sales, although single-family home prices fell in Millville and Bridgeton, both by 13 percent, according to state Realtor data.

Larry DePalma, owner of DePalma Realty in Millville, said the volume of bank-owned properties and short sales are putting pressure on the market, particularly with prices.

“We have a lot of that kind of inventory to get through,” he said.

“I see the market as ‘spurty.’ We get three, four, five deals, it gets busy and then it seems to die off,” he said. “It seems like that for a while, and then you’ll get a flurry of activity.”

In Millville, for example, sales of single-family homes, condos and adult communities reached 172 the first half of 2014, compared with 127 the year before. The median single-family home sold for $110,000, which was $16,900 less than the first six months of 2013.

Short sales are still a factor in the market, although Haberkern says more buyers are steering away from these sales, deterred by long wait times to find out if an offer was approved by the lender, and sometimes getting no answer.

In Egg Harbor Township, total first half sales fell from 217 last year to 192 this year, according to state Realtor data. The sale price of a single-family home there dropped 10 percent, to $195,000.

In Margate, first half sales were 106, four fewer than last year. The single-family price was up 10 percent.

Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous

Posted in Humor, North Jersey Real Estate | 99 Comments

From the Star Ledger:

Snooki’s and JWoww’s Jersey City ‘Guidette Barbie house’ for sale

Jersey City’s very own south Jersey Barbie dream house is now on the market.

The one-time home of Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi and Jenni “JWoww” Farley near Van Vorst Park is on the auction block in Jersey City for $2.5 million, according to trulia.com.

The two reality-television stars lived in the firehouse-turned “guidette Barbie house,” located at 38 Mercer St., for five weeks in March 2012 during the filming of their spinoff show, “Snooki and JWoww.”

The “Jersey Shore” duo were repeatedly spotted hauling animal printed curtains, chairs and other items back to their home during their stint there.

“It’s very big, just think of a guidette Barbie house, that’s what it looks like,” Snooki told Us Weekly at the time.

The two-story, brick building which still retains its large firehouse garage door in front, is located around the corner from city hall. The home, a 4,700-square foot duplex with three bedrooms, boasts 12-foot tin ceilings and walls, the original firehouse spiral staircase and two-car garage, according to trulia.com.

An economic analysis to start off your weekend

Posted in Demographics, Economics, Employment, New Jersey Real Estate, Politics | 124 Comments

From NJ Spotlight:

ANALYSIS: NEW JERSEY’S ECONOMIC WOES GO FAR BEYOND CASINO CLOSINGS

While the United States is in the middle of a solid economic expansion that has restored all of the jobs lost during the Great Recession, New Jersey has regained just 55 percent of the private-sector jobs lost, and time may be running out for a “full metal jacket recovery,” a top Rutgers University economist warned yesterday.

In fact, the 122,300 jobs New Jersey has regained over the past 4 ½ years is actually more than the 77,500 jobs the state added during the anemic 2003-2007 recovery – a “lost decade” that demonstrates the underlying weakness of the state’s economy, James W. Hughes, dean of Rutgers Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy, told an economic roundtable convened by Assembly Republican leaders.

There are actually 97,000 fewer New Jerseyans working today than there were at the beginning of 2001, and that’s just the beginning of the bad news:

New Jersey has been left out of the nation’s manufacturing rebound, lacks the energy resources that spurred a fracking boom in Pennsylvania, its slow population growth lowers consumer demand, and its business tax climate ranks near the bottom nationally.

New Jersey lacks the diversified R&D clusters that have lured the state’s high-end pharmaceutical jobs to equally high-cost, high-tax Massachusetts and California.

The quintessential suburban state, New Jersey is the poster child for “white elephant” suburban office parks that sit empty because today’s millennial workforce — the “digitali,” as Hughes dubbed them — wants to live and work in walkable 24/7 cities rather than the suburbs in which they grew up.

The threatened closure of three Atlantic City casinos by September would put 6,500 employees on the unemployment line and result in hundreds of layoffs in ancillary businesses,

Further, Hughes noted, “you could say we are living on borrowed time” because the state’s 61-month expansion since the official June 2009 end of the last recession is already longer than the average post-World War II economic expansion in New Jersey, which lasted an average of 58 months.

Hughes laughingly referred to himself as the “Doctor Kevorkian of the New Jersey economy,” while other business leaders call him “Doctor Doom,” noting that Gov. Chris Christie has permanently bestowed the “Doctor Kevorkian” moniker on David Rosen, the Office of Legislative Services budget analyst whose revenue forecasts so often differ from Christie’s rosy projections.

Housing finance learns to swim

Posted in Demographics, Economics, Employment, Foreclosures, Housing Recovery | 53 Comments

From HousingWire:

1 in 6 homes still seriously underwater as home price growth slows

In the second quarter some 9.1 million U.S. residential properties were seriously underwater — where the combined loan amount secured by the property is at least 25% higher than the property’s estimated market value — representing 17% of all properties with a mortgage, RealtyTrac reports.

The second quarter of 2014 saw a percentage decrease in homes that were seriously underwater — 17.2% versus 17.4% in the first quarter of 2014 — bringing it to the lowest level since RealtyTrac began reporting negative equity in the first quarter of 2012.

“Home price appreciation has slowed in the last few months in many of the markets with the most underwater homes, slowing the pace at which homeowners are recovering equity lost during the Great Recession,” said Daren Blomquist, vice president at RealtyTrac. “For instance, annual home price appreciation in California was at 16% in May 2014 compared to a high of 31% in July and August of 2013. In Arizona, home price appreciation has slowed to 6% annually compared to a high of 24% last year.

“In addition many of the properties that are seriously underwater are in a deep negative equity hole that will take some time to dig out of,” Blomquist continued. “The average loan-to-value on the 9.1 million homes seriously underwater was 133%, and the average loan-to-value on the homes in foreclosure that are seriously underwater was 134%.”

The recent peak in negative equity was the second quarter of 2012, when 12.8 million U.S. residential properties representing 29% of all properties with a mortgage were seriously underwater.

Another 8.8 million properties were on the verge of resurfacing equity in the second quarter of 2014, with between 10% negative equity and 10% positive equity, representing 17% of all properties with a mortgage, up from 8.5 million representing 16% of all properties with a mortgage in the first quarter of 2014.

June Home Sales Hit Eight Month High

Posted in Demographics, Economics, Housing Recovery, National Real Estate | 86 Comments

From Bloomberg:

Previously Owned U.S. Home Sales Rise to Eight-Month High

Sales of previously owned U.S. homes climbed in June to an eight-month high as more listings helped prices cool, luring buyers into the market.

Sales increased 2.6 percent to a 5.04 million annual rate last month, led by gains in all four U.S. regions, figures from the National Association of Realtors showed today in Washington. The median forecast of 78 economists surveyed by Bloomberg projected sales would rise to a 4.99 million rate. Prices advanced at the slowest pace since March 2012 and inventories rose to an almost two-year high.

Historically low interest rates and smaller price increases are helping bring homeownership within reach for more Americans. A pickup in employment opportunities that lead to faster wage growth would provide an added spark for a residential real-estate market that began to soften in the middle of 2013.

“We’re recovering from the winter doldrums, more people are working and interest rates are attractive,” said Brian Jones, senior U.S. economist at Societe Generale in New York, who projected a 5.05 million pace of sales for June.

Estimates in the Bloomberg survey of economists ranged from a sales pace of 4.8 million to 5.11 million after May’s previously reported 4.89 million.

The existing home-sales advance was led by a 6.2 percent gain in the Midwest, followed by a 3.2 percent increase in the Northeast. Purchases rose 2.7 percent in the West and 0.5 percent in the South.

Purchases of single-family homes increased 2.5 percent to an annual rate of 4.43 million, the report showed. The sales pace of multifamily properties including condominiums climbed 3.4 percent to 610,000 in June, also the highest since October.

Cash transactions accounted for about 32 percent of all purchases in June, according to the report. Investors made up 16 percent of purchases.

Sales of distressed property, including foreclosures, accounted for 11 percent of the total last month, matching the lowest share since October 2008.

Screw you FHA

Posted in Mortgages, Politics, Risky Lending | 122 Comments

From Housingwire:

JPMorgan’s Dimon threatens to quit FHA loans

JPMorgan Chase’s (JPM) CEO says his bank is considering getting out of the FHA mortgage origination business altogether.

Notably, with the second quarter’s 66% year-over-year plunge in originations reported last week, that process is inadvertently and unintentionally under way.

CEO Jamie Dimon’s JPMorgan paid more than $600 million in federal fines for originating $200 million in flawed FHA loans, and now he and others in the industry want clearer rules spelling out when the government will demand these triple penalties, Bloomberg reports.

“The real question to me is, should we be in the FHA business at all?” Dimon said. “And we’re still struggling with that.”

Dimon’s threat to stop FHA lending may be meant to push regulators to address bankers’ frustrations over the stiff penalties they must pay, housing industry analysts say. Banks are under pressure to provide FHA mortgages — despite the risk of damages for underwriting errors — to help meet federal laws requiring them to serve minority and low-income borrowers. The standoff is hurting the tepid housing recovery as lenders tighten standards for FHA loans to avoid triggering the fines.

“My guess is that it’s probably gotten people’s attention that he signaled that maybe he’s had enough,” said Brian Montgomery, vice chairman of the Collingwood Group in Washington, who served as FHA commissioner under President George W. Bush. “I suspect that every one of his competitors feels the same.”

Won’t fix, won’t sell, why bother?

Posted in Economics, Foreclosures, New Jersey Real Estate | 109 Comments

From the Philly Inquirer:

N.J. municipalities join forces to deal with vacant homes

For Michael Miller and Allison Rupert, 58 Grove St. truly is the evil twin.

A ramshackle residence that shares a wall with the Haddonfield couple’s well-kept home, 58 lost its last human dweller several years ago. Varmints got in through gaping windows, and Miller and Rupert have heard mice scurrying in the walls. They have spent thousands of dollars of their own money for tree removal to get rid of encroachment from 58′s yard, where, in the summer, mosquitoes breed in untended puddles.

With 58′s violation notices, weatherworn paint, and scruffy grounds, it can be embarrassing having friends over.

“So, yeah, it’s a mess,” Rupert said. “It sucks big time.”

They have complained. Boy, have they complained. But it hasn’t been easy figuring out whom to complain to, let alone get results.

“It’s been bouncing back and forth from service company to service company,” Miller said, “and quite frankly they haven’t done much.”

A new initiative could change that.

Several Camden County communities – Collingswood, Audubon, Haddonfield, Haddon Township, Oaklyn, Pennsauken, and the Fairview section of Camden – have joined forces, enlisting the help of two doctoral candidates and a master’s student from Rutgers-Camden’s department of public policy and administration to identify the abandoned or derelict vacant properties in their midst.

The hope is that the coalition will be able to convince banks that may have gotten the houses through foreclosure that it is worthwhile to sell them. At the least, it wants the banks and mortgage companies to do a better job of maintenance.

Many of the properties – nearly 700 have been counted so far – are believed to be the casualties of the recession, the mortgage crisis, or both. Some are so-called zombies – properties in which foreclosure was commenced but not completed and the former owners have moved out. They are in communities of every economic stripe.

The Philadelphia region has the fifth-highest rate of zombies in the nation, according to RealtyTrac, a national real estate search engine. New Jersey’s identified zombies went up 58 percent from the last year.

The towns believe the banks or mortgage companies should be responsible for the properties’ maintenance. “The quality of that leaves a lot to be desired,” said Neal Rochford, Haddonfield’s commissioner for public safety. “We’re constantly on the phone.”

Steindel gets the axe

Posted in Economics, New Jersey Real Estate, Politics | 64 Comments

From NJBIZ:

Report: Amid overly optimistic revenue projections, Christie’s chief economist resigns

Charles Steindel, chief economist of the New Jersey Department of Treasury, has resigned from his post to pursue a college teaching position, according to a report this morning from Bloomberg News.

Bloomberg reports that Steindel, who joined the Treasury in 2010, informed Gov. Chris Christie’s administration months ago that he would be resigning at the end of August to accept a position as a resident scholar at Ramapo College in Mahwah.

The department has subsequently put out a job posting for Steindel’s position, which existed under a different title in prior administrations. The state is seeking applicants by a July 30 deadline, the report said.

According to Bloomberg, Steindel’s overly optimistic revenue projections in four out of the last five years have been off target by a total of $3.5 billion.

New Jersey faces a projected budget revenue shortfall of $1.7 billion in the current fiscal year alone.

The forecasts have been often cited in downgrades to the state’s debt by Wall Street credit rating agencies over the years.

Prior to his work in Trenton, Steindel served as a senior vice president at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

June Unemployment

Posted in Economics, Employment, Housing Recovery, New Jersey Real Estate | 70 Comments

From the Star Ledger:

N.J. unemployment rate falls in June as private sector adds 9,600 jobs

New Jersey’s unemployment rate ticked down in June to 6.6 percent, adding nearly 10,000 more private sector jobs, according to preliminary data from the state Department of Labor and Workforce Development. The May unemployment rate was 6.8 percent.

Public sector employment continued to fall however, with 1,400 newly unemployed, led by a drop of 2,200 at the state government level.

The monthly job gains were made in the private sector, which added 9,600 jobs last month.

Leading the way was education and health services with 3,500 new hires, followed by finance with 2,600, leisure and hospitality with 1,700; and trade, transportation and utilities with 1,500 new jobs.

The lone sour note was in construction, which suffered a sharp decline with 2,600 newly unemployed in June, Labor statistics showed.

The latest jobless figure remains above the national unemployment rate, which stands at 6.1 percent, but well below New Jersey’s jobless rate in June 2013, when it was 8.4 percent.

In a statement that followed the jobs report, Gordon MacInnes, president of the left-leaning think tank New Jersey Policy Perspective, called June’s employment numbers, “welcomed good news for a change.”

But, he added, “one month of positive data does not a strong recovery make. The Garden State has now recovered just 45 percent of the jobs it lost in the recession, far fewer than the nation as a whole — which has recovered 105 percent — and our neighbors in New York (183 percent) and Pennsylvania (93 percent).”

In the past year, MacInnes said, New Jersey has added just 7,200 jobs, while 52,100 residents have left the labor force. “This is not an indication of a strong economy,” he said.

Foreclosures nearly back to normal, but not everywhere.

Posted in Demographics, Economics, Foreclosures, Politics | 60 Comments

From CNBC:

Foreclosure activity hits lowest level in eight years

Foreclosure activity has been falling steadily for the past few years as the housing market recovers, but the latest reading shows it has hit a new milestone.

According to RealtyTrac, a foreclosure sales and analytics company, 107,194 U.S. properties had a foreclosure filing in June—the lowest level since July 2006, before the housing price bubble burst.

“Over the next six to nine months, nationwide, foreclosure numbers should start to flat line at consistently historically normal levels,” said RealtyTrac’s Daren Blomquist in a release.

Improvement, however, does not mean the level of distressed housing is back to normal; not by a long shot. There continues to be a wide discrepancy between states that require a judge in the foreclosure process and those that do not.

Nine states saw foreclosure activity rise in the first half of 2014 compared with a year ago, according to RealtyTrac. They include judicial states such as New Jersey (up 54 percent), Maryland (up 18 percent), Massachusetts (up 4 percent) and Connecticut (up 4 percent). Florida, also a judicial foreclosure state, had the highest rate, with one in 74 housing units receiving some kind of foreclosure filing.

“There continue to be concerning trends in some states and local markets that clearly indicate those markets are not completely out of the woods when it comes to the lingering foreclosure problem left over from the housing bust,” Blomquist said.

It has all created an interesting scenario. The result of the foreclosure crisis was a complete overhaul of the rules governing lending. That improved mortgage quality dramatically and all but negated delinquencies on the latest loans.

“There’s virtually nothing new entering the pipeline—loans issued over the past few years are performing at the highest rates in history,” Sharga said.

Fed: No idea why housing slowed down

Posted in Demographics, Economics, Housing Recovery, National Real Estate | 74 Comments

From the WSJ:

Yellen, Fed Still Worried About Slowdown in Housing Recovery

The Federal Reserve remains concerned about the U.S. housing recovery–which began to slow down last year when mortgage rates spiked–and has so far has failed to regain much traction, Chairwoman Janet Yellen said Tuesday.

“The housing sector…has shown little recent progress,” Ms. Yellen said in remarks prepared for delivery before the Senate Banking Committee. “While this sector has recovered notably from its earlier trough, housing activity leveled off in the wake of last year’s increase in mortgage rates, and readings this year have, overall, continued to be disappointing.”

Her comment Tuesday reinforced a warning she offered when testifying before lawmakers more than two months ago. On May 7, Ms. Yellen told the Joint Economic Committee that “readings on housing activity–a sector that has been recovering since 2011–have remained disappointing so far this year and will bear watching.”

Several broad gauges of housing-market activity stumbled last year after mortgage interest rates rose when the Fed began discussing the end of its bond-buying program, which now is on track to end later this year. The average interest rate on a 30-year fixed rate mortgage rose from 3.35% in early May 2013 to 4.51% in mid-July 2013, according to Freddie Mac. Rates have come down since then, to an average of 4.15% last week.

But while the rise in rates is “the most obvious explanation for the weakness in the housing market over the past year,” it “seems unlikely that interest rates are the whole story,” according to the Fed’s semiannual Monetary Policy Report, also released on Tuesday. “Historical correlations between mortgage rates and residential investment suggest that the effects of last year’s run-up should have begun to fade by now, but housing activity has yet to pick up.”

It also said that “ongoing increases in house prices may indicate that constraints on the supply of new housing are binding more significantly than seemed to be the case.”

Stalemate

Posted in Economics, Housing Recovery, New Jersey Real Estate | 43 Comments

From HousingWire:

Credit Suisse: Homebuyers discouraged by rising prices

Homebuyers held off purchasing homes in June due to rising home prices, Credit Suisse reported in their monthly traffic survey of real estate agents.

“Comments from agents in June suggest that buyers are growing increasingly discouraged by economic and employment conditions, and as a result, have made the decision to hold-off on purchases—particularly at current prices,” the company reported.

Out of the 40 markets surveyed, 32 saw lower than expected traffic, five were in line with expectations and three saw better than expected traffic. Those numbers were all a decline from May, when only 28 were below expectations and five saw better than expected traffic.

The only three markets that saw better than expected traffic last month were Columbus, Ohio, Ft. Myers, Florida, and Dallas. Some of the weakest markets were San Diego, New York/Northern New Jersey and Phoenix, which all saw Buyer Traffic Index levels below 30 (50 is neutral, where the traffic met expectations).

New York/Northern New Jersey (traffic index at 23) — “Stalemate. Buyers expect deal and sellers expect rebound in market pricing.”

How to kill Atlantic City (good riddance?)

Posted in Demographics, Economics, Employment | 94 Comments

From the Record:

North Jersey casinos concept gets early support, but experts warn that competition is fierce

Analysts are offering a tempered endorsement of the concept of two North Jersey casinos being championed by a number of state Democratic lawmakers, but they cautioned against overestimating returns in an increasingly saturated region for gambling.

More than a dozen casinos and racinos have opened in nearby states in the past decade, and more are likely to come on line in the near future in New York and Pennsylvania.

Still, the analysts say, North Jersey is a big affluent market, capable of supporting two casinos — in part by generating new business and attracting residents who now travel to casinos in neighboring states.

“Let’s recapture that revenue we’ve lost,” said Steve Norton, a private gambling consultant who once served as an executive with Atlantic City Resorts.

Roger Gros, publisher of Global Gaming Business magazine, said that the Resorts World Casino at Aqueduct Racetrack serves as a case in point of how a well-placed gambling venue can be a big winner. Centrally located in the middle of Queens, the site produced $435 million in tax revenue for New York last year, double what New Jersey received from its entire Atlantic City casino industry.

“You can see from Aqueduct how successful a casino can be when it comes into a large market,” Gros said.

The future of New Jersey’s casino industry is a huge issue for state officials, who in recent years have watched tax revenue plummet along with the fortunes of the state’s only casinos in Atlantic City.

Talk of an end to the seaside resort’s monopoly has increased dramatically since Governor Christie backed recent comments by state Senate President Stephen Sweeney, D-Gloucester County, that lifted a five-year moratorium on such discussions in Trenton. Sweeney suggested the issue may go to voters statewide in a November 2015 referendum, a move that would likely cut a full year off the timeline for the possible addition of casinos elsewhere in New Jersey.

The changing landscape was underscored by revelations last week of a $4.6 billion preliminary proposal for a 95-story casino, 100,000-seat auto racing track and giant Ferris wheel near the Liberty National Golf Club in Jersey City. Backers of a Meadowlands casino have tried to make sure that the sports complex in East Rutherford also remains a likely site for a casino.

Supporters of North Jersey casinos, including state Sens. Paul Sarlo of Wood-Ridge and Raymond Lesniak of Union County said the state treasury could reap at least $500 million a year, based on a tax rate of 50 percent or more on casino operations, similar to rates in New York and Pennsylvania.

No (where to) sleep till in Brooklyn

Posted in Demographics, Economics, Housing Recovery, NYC | 31 Comments

From the Daily News:

Brooklyn or bust! Thin inventory and hot demand send home prices to new record high

Soon enough, no one will be able to afford Brooklyn.

A lack of inventory coupled with strong demand sent the average price of a residential property in the borough to a record $783,296 in the second quarter, up 16.6% from the year-ago period, according to a report from Douglas Elliman.

“Prices pretty much soared,” Frank Percesepe, senior regional vice president, Brooklyn, at Corcoran Group, told the Daily News.
“The inventory crunch continues. We would have done much more business if there was more to sell.”

With Brooklyn prices rising, the borough’s affordability rep is rapidly fading.

The gap in median sales prices between Brooklyn and Manhattan has gone from $500,000 in the second quarter of 2008, before the real estate market tanked, to $335,000 today – a 33% decline, according to Douglas Elliman.

“The spread is narrowing,” Jonathan Miller, CEO of appraisal firm Miller Samuel, which compiles the Douglas Elliman report, told the Daily News.