Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Home foreclosure rate soars in 2007

By ALEX VEIGA - AP Business Writer
Edition Date: 01/29/08

LOS ANGELES — The number of U.S. homes that slipped into some stage of foreclosure in 2007 was 79 percent higher than in the previous year, a real estate tracking company said Tuesday. Many homeowners started to fall behind on mortgage payments in the last three months, setting the stage for more foreclosures this year.
About 1.3 million homes received foreclosure-related warnings last year, up from 717,522 in 2006, Irvine-based RealtyTrac Inc. said. Foreclosure filings rose 75 percent from the previous year to 2.2 million.

More than 1 percent of all U.S. households were in some phase of the foreclosure process last year, up from about half a percent in 2006, RealtyTrac said.

Nevada, Florida, Michigan and California posted the highest foreclosure rates, the company said.

The filings included notices warning owners that they were in default, or that their home was slated for auction or for repossession by a bank. Some properties may have received more than one notice if the owners had multiple mortgages.

A late-year surge in the number of properties reporting foreclosure filings suggests that many are in the initial stages of the foreclosure process and could end up lost to foreclosure this year unless lenders or the government steps in, RealtyTrac said.

"It does appear that we're seeing a new batch of properties enter the process," said Rick Sharga, RealtyTrac's vice president of marketing.

RealtyTrac is forecasting that the pace of foreclosure filings will remain steady, rather than accelerate during the first half of 2008.

"Assuming nothing else bad happens economically ... we will have exhausted the bulk of the worst-performing loans by the end of June," Sharga said, referring to adjustable-rate mortgage loans made to borrowers with poor credit.

Many of these subprime loans defaulted last year, triggering a credit crisis and saddling major financial institutions with losses.

More than 1.8 million subprime mortgages are scheduled to reset to higher interest rates this year and next.

Last year's explosion in foreclosure activity came amid a worsening housing downturn, as falling home values ate into homeowners' equity, making it harder for many to refinance into more affordable loans or to find buyers. Those options had helped keep troubled homeowners from sliding into foreclosure.

"We went from a sort of buying frenzy to a foreclosure frenzy in the last two years," Sharga said.

Recent efforts by government and mortgage lenders to help homeowners at risk of falling seriously behind on mortgage payments have had a marginal impact on the U.S. foreclosure rate so far, Sharga added.

In December alone, foreclosure filings soared 97 percent from the same month a year earlier to 215,749. It was the fifth consecutive month in which foreclosure filings topped more than 200,000, RealtyTrac said.

In the fourth quarter, filings rose 86 percent from the prior-year quarter but only 1 percent from the third quarter.

Nevada had the highest foreclosure rate in the nation last year, with 3.4 percent of its households receiving foreclosure filings. That was more than three times the national average, RealtyTrac said.

The state had 66,316 filings on 34,417 properties in 2007, up more than 200 percent from 2006's total.

Florida had more than 2 percent of its properties in some stage of foreclosure last year. The state reported 279,325 filings on 165,291 homes, more than twice the previous year's total.

In Michigan, where job losses are pressuring many homeowners, 1.9 percent of all households received a foreclosure filing last year. In all, 136,205 filings were issued on 87,210 properties, up 68 percent versus filings in 2006.

California led the nation in total foreclosure filings and the number of homes in some stage of foreclosure last year.

A total of 481,392 filings were issued on 249,513 properties, more than triple the number of filings in 2006, RealtyTrac said.

In all, 1.9 percent of households in California received foreclosure filings.

Many of the homes receiving foreclosure filings in the state were in the inland markets, where new construction and more affordable prices helped fuel a spike in sales toward the end of the housing boom.

Other states in the 2007 foreclusure top 10 were Colorado, Ohio, Georgia, Arizona, Illinois and Indiana.

Boise, Nampa make list of 100 best cities for kids

Edition Date: 01/27/08

Boise has been named one of the 2008 100 Best Communities for Young People from the America's Promise Alliance, a national alliance dedicated to children and youth.
Nampa also won the award, which recognizes communities considered to be the best places for young people to grow up. More than 300 communities in 50 states applied.

Some of the youth-oriented programs listed in the report include the Mayor's Council on Children and Youth, which created an online network of after-school sites at www.after3boise.org, and construction of three new community centers to provide neighborhood-based programs for kids at schools.

For more details about the 100 Best competition, please visit www.americaspromise.org.

Why does one home sell while another doesn't?

Realistic pricing is the key in a sluggish market, experts say, and location helps, but some sellers are caught in a mortgage bind


Owners: Jesse and Christine Testa

Address: 7204 W. Tobi Court

City: Boise

Square feet: 1,500

Number of bedrooms: 3

Sale price: $214,000

Neighborhood: Palisades Addition

Time on market: 5 days

Owners: Doug and Becky Langford

Address: 95 W. Rockford St.

City: Meridian

Square feet: 1,762

Asking price: $209,000

Number of bedrooms: 3

Neighborhood: Meridian Heights

Time on market: Since February 2007

BY JOE ESTRELLA - jrestrella@idahostatesman.com
Edition Date: 01/25/08

This is the tale of two Treasure Valley homes.
One sold five days after being listed. One has languished on the market since February 2007.

It is also a story of how over-priced homes that often sold in a day during the 2005-06 housing boom are now a drag on a single-family residential home market. And it is a story about what homeowners must endure in a down market.

The stories have a moral: Price your home realistically, and it will sell.

These two homes are part of a market that was still flooded with 6,448 homes for sale at the end of 2007, though that's 1,425 homes fewer than last summer.

The one that sold within days of its listing is a 1,500-square foot, two-story, three-bedroom home at 7204 W. Tobi Court in Northwest Boise. Owners Jesse, 31, and Christine Testa, 27, listed the home the day after Thanksgiving. By the following Tuesday, they had a buyer. Sales documents were being prepared, and earnest money had changed hands.

Jesse Testa credits the quick sale to improvements like the hardwood floors he put in on the second floor. But he also credits the couple's real estate agent, Horace Smith of HMS Realty, who had been preaching that the days of selling a home in a single day were gone, replaced by a slumping market where properties must be be priced realistically.

That advice means an owner today often has to settle for less.

"Price is very important," said Smith, who has been selling real estate since 1970. "If you can get people to do the right thing (price-wise), then they have an excellent chance of selling. If not, it's just going to sit there."

Built in 2002, the Testas' home was a narrow, two-story row house near Gary and State streets. Its attractions include wood floors in the kitchen and dining area, crown molding throughout, 9-foot ceilings and stairs carpeted down the middle with white painted wood on either side.

It was also just 15 minutes away from Boise State University, where Jesse Testa is taking business courses in hopes of moving into management at Motive Power, a Boise-based manufacturer of locomotive engines where he works as a welder. His wife is a nurse at St. Luke's Regional Medical Center in Downtown Boise. They bought the home during the housing boom for just over $150,000.

When it came time to sell, they priced their house at $214,000, which was $8,000 below its assessed value. The home immediately caught the attention of a family of four that had been living in a rental home. "I knew they had bought the house the first time they saw it," Testa said. The Testas got their asking price.

He said some residents have not accepted the realities of the current Treasure Valley single-family home market.

"We just wanted to sell our home. There was no reason to be super-greedy," Testa said,

The couple now live in a $275,000, three-bedroom, 1,800-square-foot home in Eagle, where Jesse Testa has more garage space for his collection of motorcycles.

It hasn't been nearly as easy for Doug and Becky Langford, who have had their home at 95 W. Rockford St. in the Meridian Heights subdivision on the market for almost a year. The subdivision sits just off Meridian Road near Victory Road.

Doug Langford, a financial adviser with Beneficial Financial Group, admits their first mistake was wasting the first six months trying to sell their 1,762-square-foot, ranch-style home themselves.

The couple, who have since moved to Ogden, Utah, are still making mortgage payments on the property. It has not received a single offer, despite the Langfords' decision to slash the original $220,000 price to $209,000, he said.

"And there's a good chance that we're going to cut the price again," Langford said.

Meanwhile, the couple, who are expecting their first child, are renting a basement apartment while they wait for their home to sell.

But at $209,000, the house is still priced well above its assessed value of $185,000, according to the Ada County assessor's office.

Phil Hoover, an associate broker with Re/Max West who has been in the business for 35 years - including the last seven in the Treasure Valley - insists there is rarely any correlation between the seller's asking price and the 2007 assessed value. He is not the Langfords' real estate agent.

Don McFarland, another broker with Re/Max West, says a home priced below its assessed value "is going to get my attention," but argues there are many reasons why a home may be priced lower than its assessment, including poor condition, a poor location, difficulty showing a rental house because a tenant is not cooperating, or pet damage.

Ada County Assessor Bob McQuade isn't so sure. "We may have under-valued the home by $10,000," he said. "But if it's been sitting there that long, chances are we valued it right."

Langford said his real estate agent has been after the couple to drop their price to $205,000.

"He said that if we'd drop it to $200,000 it would probably sell tomorrow," Langford said.

Shaun Tracy, an associate broker with Re/Max Capital City who tracks the local market, said there could be a litany of reasons why the Langfords' home has failed to sell.

Originally, the subdivision faced a junkyard, which "got it off on the wrong foot," he said. And part of the subdivision backs up to Kuna/Meridian Road, while another part sits adjacent to a mobile home park.

At 1,762 square feet, the Langfords' home is one of the larger ones in the subdivision. That may hurt its sale prospects, too.

"People like to buy homes next to the larger homes because it makes their values go up," Tracy said. "You always want to be the small fish in the big pond."

Finally, Tracy said, the highest price for a home in Meridian Heights in 2007 was $219,000, the lowest $149,900.

"He (Langford) needs to be at about $199,900," Tracy said.

But Langford said selling the house will not end his problems.

He said the couple owe $225,000 on the home. They purchased it using an 80/20 financing plan that amounts to two mortgages, one for 80 percent of the home's value, one for 20 percent.

It is a financial mechanism designed for buyers who don't want to pay mortgage insurance or have much of a down payment. But if a buyer defaults, he is on the hook for two mortgages, not one.

So, if the Langfords sell for $200,000, they will still need to take out a $25,000 loan to pay off the second mortgage.

"That's why I listed it at the price I did," Langford said. "I didn't want to take out a $25,000 loan, and get nothing for it."

Area real estate agents say commercial vacancies not dire

BY COLLEEN LAMAY - clamay@idahostatesman.com
Edition Date: 01/20/08

Commercial development remains a bright spot in the Treasure Valley economy, especially when you compare it to ghost neighborhoods of unsold homes dotting the Valley.
To be sure, high-profile vacancies suggest the possibility of an overbuilt market. The new Gateway Center shopping center in Nampa is mostly empty, with only a J.C. Penney anchor store open. And the pace of new construction and commercial rentals is beginning to slow - at least in Boise - from the go-go pace of the past few years.

But commercial real estate agents aren't worried. 2008 promises more new stores, offices and industrial space, they said.

"Anybody in my business will tell you that Canyon County is the hot spot, and we believe that 2008 will be more of the same," said Jerry Gunstream of Gunstream Commercial Real Estate in Nampa.

George Iliff of Colliers International in Boise, which sells, leases and manages commercial properties, sees a slowdown, but not enough to worry about.

"I think tenant interest is a little slower than it's been in the past, but still is not at a standstill," he said. "Everybody is talking about how horrible it is, and it's not. People are going about their business somewhat as usual."


In Boise, developers' applications for new buildings appear to be dropping, said Jenifer Gilliland, building division manager for the city. But the market for the past few years had been red-hot, Gilliland said.

"It's certainly slower than it was last year, but as far as it relates to our department, it is slowing down to a more normal level of construction," she said.

"We'll know a lot more in March or April, because that is when a natural slowdown always occurs," she said. "If we start really tanking in March or April, then we start to get concerned."

The mall along busy Milwaukee Street where the consumer-electronics store CompUSA is closing has some empty storefronts, as do older strip malls at Cole and Ustick roads and the Hillcrest Shopping Center on Overland Road. But retailers are mall rats these days. Borders bookstore recently moved from its spot near CompUSA into Boise Towne Square mall.

"There is a lot of growth and continued interest in the mall in terms of expansion and so forth, so I think CompUSA is maybe a casualty of retailing strategy (rather) than an indication that retail is in trouble," Iliff said.

Office space also is doing all right, he said. Emerald Street near the mall once had quite a few buildings standing empty, with a vacancy rate of 12 to 13 percent. Now, it is 7 percent to 8 percent higher than Downtown Boise, but lower than vacancy rates further west, he said.

Big projects planned in Boise include a for-profit hospital along Fairview Avenue and a WinCo grocery distribution center off Interstate 84 near Micron's main plant.

"We are hoping those will (help) keep our boat afloat," Gilliland said.


Meridian's office vacancy rate is in the double digits - 13 percent - a result of rapid building as the population has grown.

Gauging vacancy rates in Eagle is misleading because the market is so small, Iliff said. One or two empty buildings will drive the numbers up. Right now, it is probably about 20 percent because of a few large empty buildings.

"It's still not in bad shape," Iliff said.

A key factor on the east side of the Valley is that not much new commercial space is being built right now. That's good because it gives the market time to get in sync with tenants' needs to lease, he said.

For home sales, that will take more time because the Valley ended up with many more homes than buyers.


In Nampa, Jerry Gunstream said his company does about 75 to 80 percent of the commercial work, "so we have a good pulse on the market."

Retail growth in Nampa has been huge in the past year, he said. The city grew without national developers realizing it existed. But "in the past two to three years, it suddenly has been discovered," he said.

Perhaps the biggest commercial growth in the entire Valley in 2007 was the 750,000-square-foot Treasure Valley Marketplace, along I-84 at the Karcher Road interchange in Nampa. It has a Costco, Target, Old Navy, Olive Garden and other stores and restaurants. More are coming, including a T.G.I. Friday's, probably within a few weeks.

"Almost everything in that project that's been built has been occupied," Gunstream said.

Karcher Mall, which never recovered after Boise Towne Square opened, is another story. But things are looking up, Gunstream said. A year ago, the vacancy rate was 40 percent, and now it is 20 percent, he said.

The Nampa Gateway Center, on the south side of the Interstate near the Idaho Center, probably is the most stressed of the retail developments in the Nampa area, Gunstream said.

The developer -DDR, or Developers Diversified Realty Corp., based in Ohio - has built 170,000 square feet of retail space that is vacant.

"It is the largest amount of vacant space anywhere within the county," he said.

"It is the one area that seems to be suffering the most, but the developer is a national developer, and they typically know what they are doing," Gunstream said.

The same developers are behind the successful Meridian Crossroads development at the corner of Eagle Road and Fairview Avenue. Company representatives could not be reached Thursday or Friday.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Idaho foreclosures have more than doubled over last year

Idaho's housing foreclosure numbers have already more than doubled the total for all of last year, with December's figures yet to be tallied, according to a report released Wednesday.
RealtyTrac, an Irvine-California-based Web site that monitors foreclosures nationwide, reported that there had been 5,338 filings in Idaho at the end of November, or 113 percent more than the 2,508 foreclosures recorded for all of 2006. Year-over-year the percentage increase is 187 percent, said RealtyTrac spokesman Daren Bloomquist.

November's 667 filings were 11 percent above the previous month. Ada and Canyon counties accounted for 393 filings or 59 percent.

Industry reaction to the news was mixed. One expert argued that the growing number of foreclosures would drive down housing prices enough to allow more people to purchase homes, while another countered that people losing their homes won't be in the market to buy another one right away.

Shaun Tracy, an associate broker with Re/Max Capital City., said that the spike in foreclosures might be just the medicine needed to cure the state's ailing single-family residential housing market.

Tracy believes that as desperate homeowners slash their asking price housing affordability will return to the Treasure Valley, where the housing boom of 2005 and 2006 priced many area residents out of the market.

According to the Intermountain Multiple Listing Service, the median price of an Ada County home has risen 43 percent since 2004, or from $169,900 to $232,900 at the end of 2006. Canyon County's median prices went from $107,0000 to $161,900, or an increase of 51 percent for the same two-year period.

"It (the rise in foreclosures) might help re-establish where the market needs to be in order to stimulate sales," Tracy said.

The 667 Idaho foreclosure numbers for November represented one filing for each 893 homes in Idaho. That was still better, however, than the 201,950 U.S. foreclosures last month that amounted to one filing for every 617 homes in the country.

Marc Lebowitz, chief executive of the Ada County Association of Realtors, wasn't convinced that higher foreclosure numbers would translate into higher housing sales.

"Usually, when a person sells a house they buy another one," he said. "But some of these people are going to be forced into the rental market, at least for a while."

Most industry watchers blame sub-prime mortgages made by lenders to consumers with shaky credit histories as the primary reason U.S. foreclosures are on a record pace. The loans initially offer a low "teaser rate." That rate jumps dramatically, however, when the interest on the loan resets, often leaving the homeowner unable to keep up with the new monthly payment.

Meridian-based homebuilder Don Hubble, of Hubble Homes, said there could be more trouble for the housing market if banks begin repossessing homes then sell them at bargain-basement prices, which would drive down housing values throughout the Valley.

Meanwhile, industry sales numbers reveal that the huge inventory of homes hanging over the Treasure Valley housing market and depressing sales continue to decline.

IMLS figures show that the inventory of homes in Ada County has fallen for the fourth straight month -from 5,192 in August to 4,587 in November - a decline of 12 percent.

Canyon County saw a 10 percent drop in its housing inventory for the same period, from 2,697 in August to 2,437 last month.

Foreclosure Auctions - Boise, Idaho

Fellow Investors:

As you can see from the previous article that foreclosures are on the rise across the country as well as in Southwest Idaho. This situation presents an incredible buying opportunity over the next 12 to 18 months. More and more properties will come up for auction. The Treasure Valley (Boise, Meridian, etc.) remains a great place to live, work and play. We are still enjoying a solid influx of people moving to our area just for those reasons. The economy is healthy and the rental market is strong as we move through the winter and into the spring.

For your benefit, I am starting a weekly email outlining properties that are coming up for auction in the following week. Bidding at the foreclosure auction is tricky but can be very rewarding. If you are interested in receiving this weekly email, please email me a request at Michael.Hon@IronEagleRE.com. I look forward to building your wealth.

Michael Hon
Iron Eagle Realty

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