Luring millennials with sushi

From the WSJ:

Suburban Offices Woo Millennials With Food, Fitness and Fun

Suburban landlords trying to compete with sleek urban office settings are finding new ways to step up their game.

Property owners in New York’s suburbs are investing heavily to remake bucolic corporate campuses built during the 1980s and 1990s, adding glass facades for natural light-filled offices and retail space for restaurants, cafes and, in at least one case, a supermarket with specialty services.

They also are rolling out features such as modern fitness centers, bike-share programs, walking trails and spacious lobbies as spaces to socialize.

“It’s all about landlords trying to attract tenants, and tenants trying to attract millennial recruitment,” said Daniel Loughlin, broker lead of real-estate services firm JLL’s New Jersey office.

The suburban office market has lagged behind the New York City office market during this expansion, as preferences shifted to urban settings with restaurants, shops, nightlife and mass transportation, brokers and executives said.

But the suburbs continue to have a larger share of the region’s jobs than the city, noted Kenneth McCarthy, principal economist for real-estate services firm Cushman & Wakefield. As of December, 54.6% of the jobs in the New York metropolitan area were in the suburbs, according to his analysis.

As companies consolidate offices and look to take less space, landlords and investors are betting that overhauled, amenity-laden suburban office properties will attract large tenants already in the suburbs.

Simply being near a hip urban setting isn’t enough, said Michael J. DeMarco, president of real estate investment trust Mack-Cali Realty Corp. The Mack-Cali Business Center in Parsippany, N.J., has two hotels and a restaurant and is near downtown Morristown. Wegmans Food Markets Inc., a supermarket chain known for specialty services, is set to open a location on the edge of the office park this year.

Mack-Cali, which owns about 1.9 million square feet of space in the park, is planning to bring in a 70,000-square-foot fitness club, another hotel and four or five restaurants nearby.

“Food has become an incredibly big thing for millennials,” Mr. DeMarco said. “When you were younger, you’d go out and get a sandwich. Now you get sushi.”

Posted in Demographics, Economics, Housing Recovery, New Development, New Jersey Real Estate | 67 Comments

Rates scaring off buyers?

From the WSJ:

U.S. New Home Sales Drop Sharply in December

New home sales posted a steep decline in December, an indication that affordability challenges are beginning to cut into demand.

Purchases of newly built, single-family houses, which account for a small share of overall U.S. home sales, decreased 10.4% from November to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 536,000 last month, the Commerce Department said Thursday.

That was the slowest monthly sales pace since February and the steepest one-month drop since March 2015.

Economists surveyed by The Wall Street Journal expected new home sales to decline 1.5%, to 583,000 sales.

The drop “was a shocker,” said David Berson, chief economist at Nationwide Insurance. He said home sales are often volatile in the winter months because of weather, however, and he still expects new-home sales to rise in 2017.

Data on new-home sales generally can be imprecise from month to month. December’s 10.4% sales decrease came with a margin of error of 12 percentage points.

In all, an estimated 563,000 new homes were sold in 2016, up 12.2% from a year earlier and the fifth straight year of sales growth. The annual figure indicates broad improvement in the market, even if sales of new homes remain well below where they were during the housing boom of the 2000s, when they topped 1 million a year for four years running.

“Home buyers are facing headwinds from higher mortgage rates and uncertainty about tax policy, but low existing inventory, near full employment, and rising wages are tailwinds that will continue to push new home sales higher in the year ahead,” Mr. McLaughlin said.

Posted in Mortgages, National Real Estate, New Development | 148 Comments

The Foreclosure State

From NJ Spotlight:

New Jersey Still Bogged Down in Foreclosures While Rest of Country Recovering

Housing markets have improved and foreclosure numbers dropped across the country since the Great Recession, but a decade on, New Jersey remains mired in a deep foreclosure swamp.

Statewide figures are significantly better than in 2009, the depth of the economic downturn. Yet some analyses cite Atlantic City as the worst housing market in the country, with Trenton not far behind. Overall, New Jersey continues to have the highest foreclosure rate in the country, according to real-estate data firms.

While many factors contribute to the problem, housing advocates point to a lack of leadership from state government as significant. Gov. Chris Christie, who used $75 million from national foreclosure-prevention aid to plug a budget gap in 2012, seldom mentions the issue.

“In the other states where we work, we have governors who have welcomed us and networked us to their housing agencies and counselors,” said a relative newcomer to the state scene, Jessica Brooks, a vice president at Boston Community Capital.

Nonprofit housing organizations like BCC work with lenders and borrowers to prevent foreclosures. Some for-profit groups also have sprung up, like Community Champions of Melbourne, Florida to fight the effects of foreclosure blight. But as the major federal foreclosure relief ends, a lack of state leadership in New Jersey means municipalities must find such partners themselves. Meanwhile, borrowers must remain alert to police their own mortgages, according to a top foreclosure defense lawyer.

Some other nonprofit groups, notably New Jersey Community Capital of New Brunswick and Newark, have bought troubled mortgages directly from federal agencies. BCC works differently, negotiating with banks to get better terms for borrowers whose job situation has improved but whose mortgages are still onerous.

“In New Jersey, no one from the state stepped up… and many of the community-based housing counselors here are struggling just to keep the lights on,” Brooks said.

Nationwide, foreclosures dropped under 1 million in 2016, the lowest figure in 10 years, according to ATTOM Data Solutions, formerly RealtyTrac, of Irvine, California. Yet that firm found New Jersey has the highest rate in the nation. And in December, when foreclosure starts were dropping 17 percent nationwide, they rose 13 percent here as the state’s economy continued to flounder, the firm found.

New Jersey has the highest inventory of homes in foreclosure at 2.8 percent, according to CoreLogic, another Irvine, California, real-estate analytics firm. That is greatly improved since the recession, but New York is the only other state above 2 percent, the firm reported.

New Jersey’s underlying economics are weak. While the U.S. Census Bureau found median household incomes rose 5.2 percent in 2015, the last year for which complete data are available, New Jersey was treading water with a 0.3 percent gain.

Home prices rose 7.1 percent nationally from November 2016 to November 2017 — or 4.7 percent when weighted for owner-occupied units as opposed to those being acquired by real-estate investors — but just 1.7 percent in New Jersey, according to CoreLogic.

Just like the other numbers, New Jersey’s trend in new foreclosure cases offers a mix of good news and bad. Fewer than 35,000 new cases were posted in the state courts’ public access system last year, half the amount of 2009 in the depths of the Great Recession. But that remains well above the 20,253 filed in 2005, itself on the high end historically.

That continued stream of new foreclosures, plus the lingering effects of Hurricane Sandy, provided reason for BCC to expand its efforts to New Jersey, according to Brooks. While the organization’s SUN program is “a drop in the bucket” compared to the problem, it provides a template of what can be done if lenders and borrowers work together on mortgages that are “underwater,” meaning they cost consumers more than the house’s current value, she said.

Throughout the foreclosure crisis, New Jersey consistently has had a high rate of troubled home loans, even as many borrowers got back on their feet financially after layoffs or business losses, Brooks noted. But the lack of state attention to the issue has contributed to low interest here in SUN, which currently is working with only about 60 New Jersey families, she said.

“New Jersey is the hardest place for us to work, and I feel it’s because there isn’t one state (leader) but many locally driven efforts,” Brooks said.

Posted in Foreclosures, New Jersey Real Estate | 43 Comments

So much for that FHA cut

From MarketWatch:

Trump already suspends Obama-era FHA mortgage insurance cut

The Federal Housing Administration will roll back a cut in mortgage insurance premiums announced just days earlier under outgoing Housing and Urban Development head Julian Castro, the government said Friday.

The reduction in insurance premiums “has been suspended indefinitely,” according to a release. “FHA will issue a subsequent Mortgagee Letter at a later date should this policy change.”

The reduction of 25 basis points, or a quarter percentage point, was meant to help more borrowers gain access to the mortgage market. It came after a surge in mortgage rates.

Castro said FHA’s reserves, which premiums help bolster, were healthy enough to withstand lower revenues. In 2013, FHA required a bailout of $1.7 billion when its reserves fell short.

Congressional Republicans had largely opposed the cut. House Financial Services Chair Jeb Hensarling of Texas issued a statement saying, “the Obama administration’s parting gift to hardworking taxpayers is to put them at greater risk for footing the bill for another bailout.”

And Alabama Senator Richard Shelby announced his opposition to the cut during the confirmation hearing of Dr. Ben Carson, the nominee as next head of HUD. Carson agreed that the cut was worth examining.

Many housing analysts had expected the cut to be challenged. “A delay in the [mortgage insurance premium] cut is probable at this point, but we caution that a delay does not necessarily signal a reversal,” wrote Compass Point analysts on Thursday. “If a delay does materialize, we would likely increase our published odds of a full reversal from 40% to 70%.”

While some progressive groups hailed the cut as a means of helping more borrowers access mortgage credit, it wasn’t universally seen as a big game-changer. For one thing, it was too small to mean big savings for borrowers: FHA estimated it at an average of $500 per year.

And some analysts thought its impact on drawing more borrowers in would be limited. Laurie Goodman, co-director of the Urban Institute’s Housing Finance Policy Center, told MarketWatch that there were other steps FHA could take to entice more lenders to make mortgages, such as limiting its legal actions under the False Claims Act.

Posted in Mortgages, National Real Estate, Politics | 142 Comments

NJ to get 200,000 new homes

From the WSJ:

Court Orders N.J. Towns to Allow Affordable Housing

New Jersey towns and cities must accommodate unmet affordable-housing needs, the state Supreme Court said Wednesday in a unanimous decision that could greatly expand housing options for the state’s low- and moderate-income residents.

In a 6-0 decision written by Justice Jaynee LaVecchia, the Supreme Court ruled that towns and cities are constitutionally required to allow enough affordable housing to be built to satisfy needs that arose during a 16-year period when a state agency charged with enforcing housing laws failed to do its job.

“Municipal responsibility for a fair share of the affordable housing need of low- and moderate-income households formed during that period was not suspended,” Justice LaVecchia wrote.

New Jersey’s Council on Affordable Housing was created in 1985 to monitor and enforce constitutionally mandated affordable-housing requirements, but the agency has been plagued by bureaucratic and legal problems since 1999. In 2015 the state Supreme Court stripped it of its powers after determining that it had failed to enforce state housing laws.

The case was brought by the southern shore town of Barnegat, which had argued that it was unfair to hold towns and cities responsible for affordable-housing requirements that accrued between 1999 and 2015 when the state failed to enforce them. Barnegat was joined by nearly 300 other municipalities.

Kevin Walsh, executive director for the affordable housing advocacy group Fair Share Housing Center, said his analysis shows that about 200,000 affordable housing units are needed to fulfill obligations spanning from 1999 to 2025, but the exact number likely will be worked out through litigation.

“The municipalities don’t have to build the homes, the municipalities don’t have to fund the homes,” Mr. Walsh said. “All the municipalities have to do is remove the local red tape that prevents starter homes and apartments from being built.

Posted in National Real Estate, New Jersey Real Estate | 139 Comments

“Take a vacation on the house.”

From CNBC:

Rising home values aren’t enough to shake consumers’ memories of the financial crisis

Consumers still see value in buying and owning homes. Yet with memories of the recession still fresh in their minds, the recent lift in real estate prices hasn’t been enough to persuade them to spend against that growing value.

In a keynote speech at the National Retail Federation’s annual conference in New York on Tuesday, William Dudley, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, said this consumer hesitancy is one reason retail sales have been held back.

“People haven’t actually tapped that housing wealth,” Dudley said, noting that home values have increased 40 percent since 2012.
Dudley’s comments follow what was, on the surface, a solid holiday season. According to the National Retail Federation, retail sales rose 4 percent in November and December, outpacing the prior 10-year average of 2.5 percent growth.

But spending was choppy, and many traditional retailers struggled to capitalize on those gains. Along with a reluctance to spend money backed by the future value of their homes, a shift toward spending on experiences, a desire for deep discounts and an increased penchant for the web weighed on retailers.

Looking forward, Dudley is unsure whether the recent gains in consumer confidence, which hit a 15-year high last month, will translate into elevated levels of spending. However, as the recession moves further into the rearview mirror, he predicts housing equity will once again become a source of consumer spending.

“As time passes, people will forget the financial crisis,” Dudley said.

Posted in Housing Bubble, Mortgages, National Real Estate, Risky Lending | 85 Comments

Bow to your municipal overlords

From the Star Ledger:

Bamboozled: What’s wrong with some local N.J. governments? This.

New Jersey is bloated with hundreds of little fiefdoms.

Local governments allow red tape to rule the day, and they forget they’re supposed to serve their constituents.

They display no common sense.

Nancy Wells, 57, of Hasbrouck Heights has been drowning in deep bureaucracy for nearly two years.

Her story is simple. She’s been the owner of a two-family home in the 1.5-square-mile, 12,000 resident borough since 1996, when she bought the property with her then-husband. All she wants to do is sell her two-family home as the two-family home it’s been since it was built in 1949.

But the borough won’t let her, saying she lacks the necessary documents to prove her home is a two-family residence.

Why? There was a fire at the municipal building in 1999, and town officials told Wells decades of building permits were destroyed, she said. Among them, she noted, were documents that would prove the home was a two-family and grandfathered in when the area was rezoned for one-families.

And even though the home has always had two entrances, two kitchens, two electric meters, two gas meters and that according to county tax rolls, the home has always been a two-family home and has always been taxed as a two-family home, the zoning board won’t listen to reason.

Or common sense.

Or the 13 long-time local residents who always knew the home as a two-family and put in writing that they’re just fine if it remains a two-family.

“I made an investment in a two-family so I’d like to get my two-family investment back,” Wells said. “Selling as a one-family downgrades the value of the house.”

It all started when Wells put her home on the market in April 2015.

Wells’ real estate agent went to borough hall and spoke to Dorothy Bernice of the borough’s planning board to confirm the property was a two-family.

Bernice looked in a book and confirmed to the real estate agent it was a non-conforming two-family, according to an affidavit later filed with the Superior Court in Bergen County as part of Wells’ lawsuit against the borough. Even though the street later became a single family zone, older two-families were grandfathered in, the real estate agent said she was told.

So the house went on the market, and it sold for the full price that same day.

But while the sale was in attorney review, according to the affidavit, the real estate agent got a call from Bernice’s boss, Nicholas Melfi, who serves as the borough’s construction code and zoning enforcement officer.

He said Wells’ home was not a two-family and that Bernice made a mistake.

Posted in New Jersey Real Estate, Politics | 68 Comments

Blue Horseshoe loves Ben Carson

From HousingWire:

Housing industry rallies around Ben Carson for HUD secretary

Do you remember that controversy about former presidential candidate and retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson being nominated as the next secretary for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development? No? Don’t worry, you’re not the only one.

As it turns out, the conflict about his lack of experience or qualifications for the role seem to have gone down the drain as the industry now rallies in its support for Carson’s nomination.

As a reminder, President-elect Donald Trump’s choice for HUD secretary not only shocked the industry, but also divided it. Even Nancy Pelosi, minority leader of the House and the current highest ranking Democrat, chimed in on her Twitter account, criticizing the nominee.

However, the division seems to have dissipated as many now begin to stand with Carson. HousingWire Digital Reporter Brena Swanson wrote that Carson’s senate hearing was “all bark and no bite” from the senators.

But the senators aren’t the only ones who seem to now be in favor of Carson. Earlier this week, the Mortgage Bankers Association wrote a letter to the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Development Committee, urging it to confirm Carson as quickly as possible.

The National Association of Realtors also stepped up in its support of Carson by sending a letter to the committee urging it to quickly confirm Carson as HUD secretary.

“Dr. Carson has shown a clear commitment to ensuring all Americans have access to a safe and affordable place they can call home,” NAR President William Brown stated in his letter. “With that in mind, we’re urging members of the U.S. Senate to swiftly confirm him as Secretary of HUD.”

“It’s no small task setting policies that support homeownership and real estate investment, and Dr. Carson is to be commended for taking on the challenge,” Brown stated. “We look forward to working with Dr. Carson in his new capacity on behalf of that important mission.”

One expert, who worked at HUD for over 15 years, even explained that Carson brings unique experience to the position.

“Something I think he’s uniquely qualified to understand is the connection between the environment people live in and their outcomes,” said Marion McFadden, Enterprise Community Partners vice president of public policy.

Posted in Mortgages, National Real Estate, Politics | 22 Comments

Foreclosure City

From the Press of Atlantic City:

Foreclosures continue to plague housing market in Atlantic County

To Dan Boddy, a veteran real estate agent based in Galloway Township, mortgage foreclosures aren’t just a key part of the Atlantic County housing market.

“They’re the dominant factor. That’s what’s selling,” says Boddy, of Century 21 Frick Realtors in Galloway. “I was talking to a local title company a few months back, and they said that was about half their business now.”

Atlantic County ended 2016 with the distinction of leading the nation in foreclosure activity, the third straight year the county held that dreaded position, according to ATTOM Data Solution, whose RealtyTrac division publishes national foreclosure figures dating to 2006.

The company reported last week that 3.39 percent of Atlantic County’s housing units were in some stage of foreclosure activity, meaning the owners had received notices of default, auctions were scheduled or banks have taken the properties back.

That translates to one house out of every 30 in the county, according to ATTOM.

Other South Jersey counties have high foreclosure-activity rates of their own, including Cumberland, where almost 2.7 percent of homes are in some stage of the process; Ocean County, at 1.86 percent; and Cape May, at 1.3 percent.

And New Jersey itself had the highest rate in the country last year, at 1.86 percent of all homes with some foreclosure activity.

The state also led the U.S. in the number of “legacy” foreclosures, according to ATTOM, meaning the loans date to between 2004 and 2008. Plus New Jersey had the second-longest average foreclosure process in the country, at an average of 1,383 days, or almost four years from start to finish.

Posted in Foreclosures, New Jersey Real Estate, Shore Real Estate | 17 Comments

Upside for Jersey?

From Bloomberg:

Brooklyn Home Sales Soar as Buyers Flee Manhattan Price Hype

Home buyers in Brooklyn competed for a record-low number of listings in the fourth quarter, driving up prices in the New York borough that’s historically been seen as a refuge from Manhattan’s high costs.

Purchases in Brooklyn rose 22 percent from a year earlier to 2,582, while the median price of those deals climbed 15 percent to a record $750,000, according to a report Thursday by appraiser Miller Samuel Inc. and brokerage Douglas Elliman Real Estate. The number of homes for sale at the end of December tumbled 31 percent to 2,232, the fewest since the firms started keeping the data in 2008.

The sales market in Brooklyn, the city’s most populous borough, is moving in the opposite direction to Manhattan’s, where rising supply is offering buyers more choices and the option to walk away from listings they view as overpriced. Manhattan’s median home price dropped 8.7 percent in the fourth quarter to $1.05 million as sellers awakened to a slowdown after years of holding out for all they could get, the firms said last week.

“You have a disconnect with sellers in Manhattan, and Brooklyn is poaching some of that demand,” Jonathan Miller, president of Miller Samuel, said in an interview. “Overall, it’s generally a lower price point, and affordability has been a big issue the last couple of years.”

Buyers seeking lower-priced properties also turned to Queens, where deals climbed 14 percent in the fourth quarter from a year earlier to 3,917, Miller Samuel and Douglas Elliman said Thursday. The median price of those purchases rose 6 percent to $498,000, the second-highest in records dating back to 2003.

With listings in Queens plummeting 22 percent, few sellers needed to accept discounts. An average of 0.7 percent was whittled off the asking price in the quarter, compared with 2 percent a year earlier, the firms said. The absorption rate, or the amount of time it would take to sell all the listed properties at the current pace of deals, was 2.8 months, the fastest in 11 years.

“In the outer boroughs, the sentiment remains that there’s a lot more upside, that there’s still gas in the tank” for prices to rise, Miller said.

Posted in New Jersey Real Estate, NYC | 62 Comments

It’s not a problem if you ignore it

From NJ101.5:

Will NJ’s foreclosure mess get cleared in 2017?

Looking at 2016 as a whole, New Jersey performed horribly in the area of foreclosures.

These in-limbo properties can have a drastic effect on the value of your home, and the situation could get even worse in 2017.

According to statistics released Thursday by ATTOM Data Solutions, an online real estate database, New Jersey posted the highest foreclosure rate last year at 1.86 percent. In total, 66,592 properties were in the foreclosure process, from default notices to bank repossessions. More than 27,000 began the process; 19,000 reached the final stage.

But it’s New Jersey’s other worst-in-the-nation statistic that indicates the pain isn’t ending anytime soon, according to ATTOM Senior Vice President Daren Blomquist.

“We do show the state has the biggest backlog of what we call legacy loans that are in foreclosure process that haven’t been dealt with,” Blomquist told New Jersey 101.5. “These are loans that originated back in 2004 to 2008 and are in foreclosure, but have been, for whatever reason, lingering in the foreclosure process, sometimes for years.”

Sixty-four percent of New Jersey’s loans in the foreclosure process originated in the ’04-’08 range, accounting for 32,279 filings.
Properties foreclosed in New Jersey in the fourth quarter of 2016 spent an average of nearly 1,400 days in the entire foreclosure process, according to ATTOM. That lengthy timeline is second only to Utah.

According to Blomquist, New Jersey’s top foreclosure rate is the product of a “perfect storm of poor market conditions,” including economic issues in Atlantic City and foreclosures lingering from the effects of 2012’s Superstorm Sandy.

Posted in Foreclosures, New Jersey Real Estate | 48 Comments

November foreclosure inventory down 30%

From Corelogic:

CoreLogic Reports 26,000 Completed Foreclosures in November 2016

CoreLogic® (NYSE: CLGX), a leading global property information, analytics and data-enabled solutions provider, today released its November 2016 National Foreclosure Report, which shows the foreclosure inventory declined by 30 percent and completed foreclosures declined by 25.9 percent compared with November 2015. The number of completed foreclosures nationwide decreased year over year from 35,000 in November 2015 to 26,000 in November 2016, representing a decrease of 78.2 percent from the peak of 118,339 in September 2010.

The foreclosure inventory represents the number of homes at some stage of the foreclosure process and completed foreclosures reflect the total number of homes lost to foreclosure. Since the financial crisis began in September 2008, there have been approximately 6.5 million completed foreclosures nationally, and since homeownership rates peaked in the second quarter of 2004, there have been approximately 8.6 million homes lost to foreclosure.

As of November 2016, the national foreclosure inventory included approximately 325,000, or 0.8 percent, of all homes with a mortgage, compared with 465,000 homes, or 1.2 percent, in November 2015.

CoreLogic also reports that the number of mortgages in serious delinquency (defined as 90 days or more past due, including loans in foreclosure or REO) declined by 22.1 percent from November 2015 to November 2016, with 1 million mortgages, or 2.5 percent, in serious delinquency, the lowest level since August 2007. The decline was geographically broad with year-over-year decreases in serious delinquency in 48 states and the District of Columbia.

“The decline in serious delinquency has been substantial, but the default rate remains high in select markets,” said Dr. Frank Nothaft, chief economist for CoreLogic. “Serious delinquency rates were the highest in New Jersey and New York at 5.6 percent and 5 percent, respectively. In contrast, the lowest delinquency rate occurred in Colorado at 0.9 percent, where a strong job market and home-price growth have enabled more homeowners to stay current.”

“The 7 percent appreciation in home prices through November 2016 has added an average of $12,500 in home-equity wealth per homeowner across the U.S. during the last year,” said Anand Nallathambi, president and CEO of CoreLogic. “Sustained growth in home prices is clearly bolstering homeowners’ spending power and balance sheets and, as a result, spurring a continued drop in defaults.”

Posted in Foreclosures, National Real Estate | 108 Comments

As rates rise, FHA cuts premiums

From MarketWatch:

After mortgage-rate spike, FHA to cut insurance premium

The Federal Housing Administration will reduce the annual premium borrowers pay, in order to expand credit access to more Americans, the government announced Monday.

Borrowers who close on an FHA mortgage after January 27 will pay 25 basis points less for the mortgage insurance premium, the Department of Housing and Urban Development said.

Like Fannie Mae FNMA, +0.76% and Freddie Mac FMCC, +0.00% , FHA doesn’t make loans but provides a backstop for lenders. The annual premium fees fund the FHA’s Mutual Mortgage Insurance Fund, which helps the agency protect against losses incurred if borrowers run into trouble.

Congress requires that FHA have enough reserves to cover projected losses over 30 years. In 2013, it fell short on that threshold and had to receive a cash bailout of $1.7 billion. Separately, the agency must maintain the fund’s net worth of at least 2% of its loan portfolio.

In a statement, FHA noted that the reserve ratio stood at 2.32% last year, the second year in a row to exceed the 2% threshold.

“After four straight years of growth and with sufficient reserves on hand to meet future claims, it’s time for FHA to pass along some modest savings to working families,” HUD Secretary Julian Castro wrote.

But many analysts think it’s much more than the insurance premium that’s holding back lending.

“I’m not quite sure how much it actually does,” Laurie Goodman, codirector of the Urban Institute’s Housing Finance Policy Center, told MarketWatch.

“When you look at opening the credit box, there are other actions like figuring out how to break down the False Claims Act so lenders aren’t running scared of more risky loans. That seems to me would have been more effective in terms of access to credit.”

Many big banks have left the FHA program after being slapped with heavy fines for what they perceive as minor infractions of the rules of FHA’s program. One large lender, Quicken Loans, sued the government after being fined.

In the wake of the financial crisis, as mortgage lending became more stringent, FHA lending has boomed, in part because it allows borrowers to take out mortgages with down payments as small as 3.5%.

This is the second such cut in insurance premiums. FHA implemented a 50 basis point reduction in Jan. 2015. The agency estimates this cut will save borrowers an average of $500 per year, and projects approximately 1 million people will take out an FHA mortgage in 2017.

Posted in Mortgages, National Real Estate, Risky Lending | 73 Comments


Oddest thing I’ve read in a long time, from StateTech (?):

Atlantic City Aims to Revitalize by Attracting Tech Talent and Startups

How do you redefine a city? It’s a daunting question, but one that Atlantic City, long viewed as a gathering place for the gambling and casino industry, faces amidst significant contraction and major casino closures in recent years.

In an attempt to rebuild itself, Atlantic County, N.J., which is home to Atlantic City, has invested in and built an initiative to drive investments in technology. The county is hoping to draw tech-focused startups from New York City down the coast to Atlantic City through an agency called the Atlantic County Improvement Authority.

“This very well could be the computer mecca of the East Coast. Absolutely,” says Max Slusher, economic development director for the authority. “We do view Atlantic City as being the perfect place where people can come and program, right on the beach, inexpensively.”

The county is hoping to attract companies from a few key industries. One is aviation, which includes drone manufacturing and testing. Atlantic county hopes to leverage the fact that it is home to the Federal Aviation Administration’s William J. Hughes Technical Center (along with a proposed new aviation technical park) as a lure for other aviation tech companies and innovators.

The other industry targeted is computer programming and software development. New York City is a current hotbed for these companies, but Atlantic City could draw those organizations out of the Big Apple by offering a better quality of life and tax credits for high-tech firms that create at least nine jobs.

“Everybody talks about quality of life, but here in Atlantic County on the East Coast, we actually have it,” says Slusher.

The focus on aviation, startups and tech are the result of an extensive economic development strategy and plan for the county that was released in 2015. The county is also interested in drawing other advanced manufacturing and life sciences companies.

“The world economy has caught up with Atlantic County and we have the opportunity to do some amazing things when it comes to technology and research,” says Slusher.

It is notable, though, that while the county sees its future outside of the gambling industry, those glitzy casinos along the boardwalk are still by far the largest economic driver.

“Atlantic City still has seven casino hotels, employs about 21,000 casino workers, and it still exists as the largest generator of employment here in Atlantic County,” says Slusher.

Posted in Demographics, Economics, New Development, South Jersey Real Estate | 100 Comments

If you are reading this you missed the van


Are people staying in New Jersey? Study takes a look

The prevailing conventional wisdom among those in the state is that New Jersey is losing residents faster than it can keep them.

But, according to the 2016 Atlas Van Lines Migration Patterns study, the outbound and incoming migration in the state was balanced last year. In 2015, however, more people had moved out of the Garden State than the inverse.

A total of 11 U.S. states, along with the nation’s capital, experienced a shift in migration status in 2016. The company has conducted the study since 1993 to track the nation’s interstate moving patterns year to year, as reflected in moves handled by Atlas.

The study also found that 26 states registered as balanced, 15 as outbound and nine as inbound, in addition to Washington, D.C. It also found that moving, in general, was down from 2015.

From the Record:

N.J. still tops list of states losing residents

For the fifth consecutive year, New Jersey has the dubious distinction of ranking as the No. 1 state residents have left behind, according to a new survey.

The Garden State placed first as the “most-moved-from” state in the United Van Lines 40th Annual National Movers Study, released Tuesday. In 2016, 63 percent more residents were moving out of New Jersey than people moving in, according to that survey, which tracks customers’ state-to-state migration patterns over the past year.

With American retirees heading West and South, the Northeast had a large presence on the 2016 so-called “outbound list,” which behind New Jersey had Illinois, New York, Connecticut, Kansas, Kentucky, West Virginia, Ohio, Utah and Pennsylvania.

Of those moving out of New Jersey, about 40 percent said they were relocating for a job, 30 percent were exiting for their retirement, and 20 percent were going because they wanted a lifestyle change.

“There are a lot more people leaving New Jersey for retirement than some of the neighboring states: 30 percent seems to be a high number,” said Melissa Sullivan, director of marketing communications for United Van Lines. “New Jersey is really losing big segments of that population. And it’s not just a one-off. It’s been pretty consistent.”

Posted in Demographics, Economics, New Jersey Real Estate | 117 Comments