Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Calls to Renew Home Buyer Tax Credit. . .

The drumbeat is growing in Washington for extending -- even expanding -- the popular $8,000 tax credit for first-time home buyers, a soon-expiring benefit that some experts estimate is on its way to spurring as many as 400,000 additional sales this year.

The program has been a component in the federal effort to resuscitate the devastated real estate market. Reversing falling housing prices by stimulating sales is a key to halting the tide of foreclosures that have helped drag down the economy.

Realtors and home builders, along with many members of Congress, are pushing hard for an extension of the program. They argue that although the housing market has shown signs of recovery, it still needs the help. In fact, they are pushing to increase the tax credit to $15,000.

Full article from the LA Times: Calls to renew home buyer tax credit get louder in Washington

Santa Monica and Beverly Hills in top 10 of Nation's Most Expensive

California is home to eight of the 10 most expensive housing markets in the U.S., according to the 2009 Home Price Comparison Index produced by Coldwell Banker.

The annual survey compares the average sale prices of similar 2,200-square-foot houses in 310 markets nationwide.
Making the top 10 for 2009 were:

1. La Jolla, at $2,125,000 2. Beverly Hills, $1,981,750 3. Greenwich, Conn., $1,519,250 4. Palo Alto, $1,489,726 5. Santa Monica, $1,460,912 6. San Francisco, $1,363,250 7. Boston, $1,337,578 8. Newport Beach, $1,315,505 9. Palos Verdes, $1,237,041 10. San Mateo, Calif., $1,090,000

(*Source: LA Times)

Friday, September 25, 2009

Interest Rates at Historic Lows. . .

The home mortgage market, propped up by more than $1 trillion in government money, is flashing a strong "buy" sign to house hunters.

Extending a summer-long slide, the average interest rate on new 30-year fixed-rate loans nationwide has broken through the 5% barrier to 4.97%, nearing the lowest level in decades, the Mortgage Bankers Assn. reported this week.

And mortgage finance giant Freddie Mac, which separately tracks rates, reported Thursday that the average fixed rate on a 15-year home loan had dropped to 4.46%, the lowest level on record.Borrowers are taking notice. Loan applications jumped 13% last week and are up 50% from late June, the bankers group said. (Source: LA Times)

Please see full article: Borrowers Rush in as Mortgage Rates Slip below 5%

**Not a bad time to buy if you can take advantage of this historic situation (low interest rates and declining home prices) and plan on owning the property for at least 5 years. Please call 310-486-5962 or e-mail me john@skinnerestates.com if you would like to discuss your situation.

Quick Summer Recap. . .

The Westside/South Bay residential real estate market finally showed some life after being dormant for close to 18 months. Buyer's started to come off the sidelines this summer as the panic over the overall economy eased and seller's finally started to except a price decline of 20-30%.

The market below $1 million has stabilized and even shown some signs of slight appreciation but the market above $1 million (especially above $3 million) still has hurdles to navigate despite some faint signs of life this summer.

The Westside/South Bay Market Below $1 Million

If a Westside/South Bay seller of a non-tear down type property properly figured the correct price decline in a listing price, they didn't have a problem selling this summer. Record low interest rates for conforming loans up to $710,000, an $8,000 first time homebuyer tax credit (if they qualified), a foreclosure moratorium and FHA loans (also up to $710,000) that only require the buyer to put as little as 3 to 5% down helped fuel a stabilization and even a small uptick in the median price.

In fact, quite a few multiple offer situations popped up in areas like Mar Vista, Culver City, Westchester and South Torrance where homes selling for around $1 million two years ago were being listed for $750K-800K.

Typically, the spring and summer selling season is the busiest time of the year so I don't think people should think we are on track for a full recovery. Despite all of the incentives, sales activity is still off normal levels. For example, In August of 2005 (near the height of sales activity) 65 homes sold in the 90230 zip code of Culver City. Fast forward to August of 2008, only 25 sold and this year we have seen a jump to 38 sales. However, this number is still off the average sales number for the 90230 zip code and the activity seems very strong because we are coming off one of the slowest periods of sales growth Westside/South Bay real estate history.

The Westside/South Bay Market Above $1 Million

The high end home market is still declining in both volume and price but not nearly at the level it was in the 1st and 2nd quarter of the year. Despite a recent uptick in activity and a flock of foreign investors purchasing property sales activity is still miserable.

This segment of the market still deals with issues the conforming market does not. Very few banks are lending jumbo money and if they are a borrower's credit has to be excellent along with requiring them to put more than 25% down in most cases. The lending standards are so tight that more than 50% of the higher end deals are all cash.

In the 90402 zip code of Santa Monica where most homes sell for over $2.5 million dollars, only 4 homes sold in August compared to 13 sales in August of 2008 and 26 sales in 2005. The lot value (tear-down) for an 8,900 square foot home north of Montana has gone from about $2.45 million in 2007 to around $1.8 million today. A 7,500 square foot lot which was going for around 2.25 million is trending towards $1.6 million.

The high end Westside market is tough to categorize since it operates on more of a micro level based on superior location and schools. For example, some parts of Bel-Air and Brentwood have dropped 40% in price while other parts are only down 20-25%.

Overall, the market is definitely healthier than the 1st and 2nd quarter but I don't think we are at the bottom yet in terms of the South Bay/Westside. The drastic price drop we saw at the beginning of the year has definitely subsided and those days should be over. However, affluent areas are typically the last to recover and the California economy still needs to clear some hurdles before true price stabilization can begin.

The Skinny on Real Estate is back. . .

After taking a break to recharge the batteries and fortunately being very busy with clients and transactions, The Skinny on Real Estate is back and will provide you with statistics and important pertinent information regardng Westside Real Estate. . .