UCLA: O.C. home prices to rise 35%

UCLA-Anderson-Fcst4-Nov11If you bought a home during housing’s price peak in 2006 or 2007, don’t expect to see its value to get back to what you paid for it by 2017.

But if you buy this year, you could see your home’s value rise around 34.6% within the next six years — a gain of about $149,000 on a median priced home.

That’s the forecast for Orange County home prices unveiled this week by the UCLA Anderson Forecast.

According to the forecast, the median price of an Orange County home still won’t get back to the peak reached in the housing bubble in 2017, a decade later.

This latest outlook is more pessimistic than past forecasts. This time last year, UCLA economists predicted that home prices would get back to peak levels in Orange County by 2016, when the median home price would reach nearly $640,000.

Overall, Orange County is doing better than most California counties in pulling out of the recession, according to UCLA’s 2012 economic forecast. But O.C. residents won’t see significant job growth until 2013.

Although consumer confidence remains dampened, the outlook for housing and commercial real estate is projected to be an upward trend over the next six years.

UCLA’s real estate outlook found that the median O.C. home price peaked at $627,548 in 2006, then fell 34.1% — or $214,000 — to the slump’s price bottom in 2009.

By 2017, the forecast states, O.C. home prices should rise 39.6% from the 2009 bottom to $577,574 — up $164,000 from 2009, but still shy of the 2006-07 price peaks.

“Home sales and prices have backtracked slightly in Orange County over the past year. After recovering from the lows observed in early 2009 the housing market has struggled to build any momentum,” the forecast said. ” … But as the economy improves and foreclosures are resolved we expect to see a gradual rise in sales and prices.”


In addition, the forecast says:

  • Orange County home sales are projected to begin rising after three years of stagnation, climbing through 2015. Sales — which sank to a low of 24,476 in 2007 — are expected to stabilize in the range of 34,000 to 38,000 sales a year from 2012 through 2017.
  • Orange County homebuilding, which jumped 60% in recent years, is projected to continue climbing through 2015, when 10,855 homes are projected to be built (compared to a projected total of 5,224 units this year). That’s up from a low of 2,200 housing units built in 2009.
  • However, the nature of construction is shifting from single-family homes to apartments and condos. Over the next 5 years, the forecast has 17,600 single-family homes and condos being started, while multi-family construction will total 26,400 units.
  • The uptick in default notices filed in August is not projected to signal a relapse into higher foreclosure rates, which would be a drag on the market. Foreclosures, which have been in a slow decline over the past two years, are not projected to flood the market again.
  • All commercial real estate markets will remain fragile over the next year, due in large part to slow employment growth and an environment of high unemployment.
  • But commercial and industrial construction is projected to rise 47.9% over the next six years to $1.8 billion in 2011 dollars, up from $1.2 billion this year. Commercial and industrial construction fell to a low of $987 million in 2009.
  • Occupancy has already turned and will continue improving for all office space in Orange County in 2012 and 2013. Use of existing office space will rise gradually through 2013 because office job creation will continue, accelerating by the second half of 2012.

To read Register writer Mary Ann Milbourn’s full report on the UCLA 2012 forecast, CLICK HERE!

WS Journal & Forbes: It’s Time to Buy A Home

WS journal photoWe believe very strongly that now is the time to buy a home. Some will say we are just saying this to create real estate transactions and commissions. Because of that, today we will quote what those outside the real estate profession are saying to the people who look to them for financial advice.

The Wall Street Journal

Last week, in an article entitled It’s Time to Buy That House, the WSJ told their subscribers:

“It’s an excellent time to buy a house, either to live in for the long term or for investment income…Houses aren’t the magic wealth creators they were made out to be during the bubble. But when prices are low, loans are cheap and plump investment yields are scarce, buyers should jump.”

In an article two weeks ago, MarketWatch.com (the on-line blog for WSJ) told their readers:

“Now could be the best time in history to buy a home.”


In a report to their subscribers, Capital Economics reported that:

“The previous declines in house prices and the more recent drop in mortgage rates to record lows have created an unusual situation in which the median monthly mortgage payment is more or less the same as the median rental payment.”

Why is this important? Last week, Forbes explained to their readers:

“If rents simply kept up with inflation at a 3.2% annual increase, a $1,500 rent payment would cost that renter nearly $900,000 over the next 30 years. The same $1,500 payment made to their mortgage would be only $540,000 (because the payments don’t increase with inflation).”

They went on to explain the advantages of homeownership during retirement:

“Even with a dismal 1% growth rate over 30 years, a $300,000 property would appreciate well over $100,000 giving the homeowner an additional nest egg for retirement…

At a time when retirement is becoming much more challenging, an extra $400,000 (or likely more) can make a major difference not to mention the impact of NOT having to pay a mortgage.  How much less would you have to save for retirement if you didn’t pay the mortgage?

Bottom Line

When the iconic financial newspaper and the iconic financial magazine say that it now makes financial sense to purchase a house, perhaps it’s time to buy a home.

Mortgage Rates: Impact of the Credit Rating Downgrade

We want to discuss the impact the downgrade of the U.S. credit rating will have on mortgage interest rates. In these times of uncertainty and volatility, no one knows for sure what will happen next. However, we want to talk about possible scenarios.

Mortgage rates normally run parallel to the country’s Treasury bonds. If many people are buying Treasury bonds the return on those bonds decrease. If less people are interested in buying bonds, then the return on those bonds must increase in order to draw more buyers. If bond returns increase or decrease, mortgage rates normally follow.

Many experts feel that the downgrade in the country’s credit rating will cause people to see greater risk and therefore be less likely to invest in our Treasury bonds. That would necessitate returns to push upward as any investor would seek higher returns as compensation for the perceived greater risk. If that happens, mortgage rates will probably increase. Many experts believe this scenario will take place.

However, others believe the exact opposite could happen. If people think the U.S. is struggling financially, they may question the entire world economy. If they do, they might still trust the U.S. bonds over other investments. Then, Treasury bond returns would decrease as demand increases. Mortgage interest rates may actually soften in this scenario.

Bottom Line
Again, no one knows for sure what will happen. Rates could go up, go down or stay relatively unchanged. We will keep you current on any movements in rates.

Why Do People Actually Buy a Home?

It seems that every time we talk about real estate today the conversation immediately goes to the financial aspects of buying a home. Where are prices headed? Where are interest rates headed? Should I wait to try and get a ‘better buy’? Should I wait until I can get a ‘steal’?

The odd thing about all these questions is that survey after survey keeps telling us that price is not the reason families actually buy a home. When money is considered at all, it is in light of not paying rent to a landlord. Let’s look at two recent surveys as examples:

National Housing Survey

The top five reasons given in the survey for buying a home, in order, are:

1.) It means having a good place to raise children and provide them with a good education
2). You have a physical structure where you and your family feel safe
3). It allows you to have more space for your family
4). It gives you control of what you do with your living space (renovations and updates)
5). Paying rent is not a good investment

The Myers Research and Strategic Services Survey
The top five reasons given in the survey for buying a home, in order, are:

1). Home ownership provides a stable and safe environment for children and other family members
2). Home ownership means the money you spend on housing goes towards building equity, rather than to a landlord
3). Home ownership creates the opportunity to pay off a mortgage and own your home by the time you retire
4). Home ownership creates the opportunity to live in a neighborhood that you enjoy
5). Home ownership allows you the right to decorate, modify and renovate your home as you see fit

Bottom Line

Price dominates conversation when we talk about buying a home. However, when it comes down to it, we actually buy for the same reasons our parents and grandparents did – we want a better lifestyle for ourselves and our families.

Despite Fears, Owning Home Retains Allure, Poll Shows

Owning a house remains central to Americans’ sense of well-being, even as many doubt their home is a good investment after a punishing recession.Nearly nine in 10 Americans say homeownership is an important part of the American dream, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News poll. And they are keen on making sure it stays that way, for themselves and everyone else.

Support for helping people in financial distress over housing is higher than support for helping those without a job for many months.

Forty-five percent of the respondents say the government should be doing more to improve the housing market, while 16 percent say it should be doing less. On the politically contentious issue of direct financial assistance to those having trouble paying their mortgages, slightly more than half of those polled, 53 percent, say the government should help. And almost no one favors discontinuing the mortgage tax deduction, a prized middle-class benefit that has been featured on some budget-cutting proposals.

President Obama, who has been criticized for both doing too much to help the housing market and for not doing enough, was given poor marks. Only 36 percent of those polled approve of what Mr. Obama has done, while 45 percent disapprove.

In assessing blame for the housing crash, people are increasingly seeing financial institutions as the central culprit. Amid the swirl of recent disclosures about banks following improper and illegal procedures in pursuing foreclosures, 42 percent blame lenders, while 29 percent blame regulators. When the question was asked in early 2008, as the crisis was still building, the numbers were reversed, with 40 percent blaming regulators and 28 percent blaming lenders. Only a handful of respondents at either moment blamed the borrowers themselves for taking loans they could not afford.

“I believe the financial institutions willingly and knowingly allowed people to apply and receive credit at a rate higher than they could afford and this has degraded our economy,” said Steven Goode, an environmental health manager in Las Vegas, in a follow-up interview.

Making an offer for a house, something often done in past generations with little apprehension, is now riddled with worry. Only 49 percent call it a safe investment, while 45 percent feel it is risky. In a market where prices are consistently dropping, there is no easy exit.

“For the average person, it might not be a good idea today to buy,” said another respondent, Beth Lovcy of Troutdale, Ore., who bought a year ago. The value has already shrunk, but Mrs. Lovcy is unfazed. “It works out better financially than renting now because we can claim the interest on the mortgage.”

As the housing market slumped over the last few years with a speed and magnitude not seen since the Great Depression, aspects of homeownership have been debated as never before. There are tough questions about the role the government should take. These include how much of a down payment lenders should demand, whether lenders should be restrictive or expansive in granting new loans, how much assistance to give those on the verge of foreclosure, and whether real estate will ever again be the retirement savings vehicle it once was.

While the debate has been loud, there was little evidence of people’s views that went beyond the anecdotal. This poll offers a window onto widespread opinions at a critical juncture.

Before the crash, housing was widely deemed one of the safest possible investments. Few experts thought there was the possibility of a nationwide downturn. But after it happened, the effects were widespread and painful.

Diane Sherrell, a substitute teacher in North Carolina who retired on disability, traded up to a bigger house four years ago to accommodate an adopted son. “It’s been very difficult since then and we’re barely making it,” she said.

Half of those surveyed say the market’s continuing downward spiral has affected their long-term plans. One in five people say the crisis has prevented them from moving to another city or taking a different job. Nearly one-quarter of homeowners say their home is now worth less than what they owe on their mortgage, a condition known as being underwater. Families in this predicament are much more prone to foreclosure if they suffer job losses or other setbacks.

Over all, people are bleaker about the economic outlook than those surveyed in October. While most still think the current downturn is temporary, those saying it is permanent rose to 39 percent, up from 28 percent.

In the last two years, the stock market has recovered strongly while house prices have gone sideways at best. Yet those polled dismissed stocks as a long-term savings vehicle in favor of a savings or money market account (22 percent), a house (26 percent) or a 401(k) or individual retirement account (41 percent).

Who should be helped to buy is another contentious issue. Whether buyers need to come up with a 20 percent down payment — the standard for decades, but beyond the reach of many families now — is hotly debated. Fifty-eight percent of respondents say lenders should require this, while 36 percent say they should not.

People who cannot pay their mortgage are foreclosed upon. If they can pay but feel that doing so is pointless on a property that has lost so much of its value, it is called strategic default. While two-thirds of Americans say strategic default is not justified, 28 percent think that it is.

When houses are abandoned for any reason, it causes trouble for the neighbors. Three-quarters of those surveyed say foreclosures are a problem in their communities.

“Our home is worth much less now because houses are foreclosing around us,” said William Mack, an assembly line worker in Taylor, Mich.

Beyond all these ills, however, a persistent belief endures that the market will eventually improve and housing will regain its traditional importance.

Donna Boyd, a transportation supervisor in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, acknowledged “it might take a long time” for property values to go back up.

“But I don’t think I’m throwing my money away,” she said in a follow-up interview. “I rented for years when I was younger, and I just don’t like the idea of putting money in someone else’s pocket for something I will never own.”

The nationwide telephone poll was conducted June 24-28 with 979 adults and has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus three percentage points for all adults.

Why they are saying, “buy a home now”!

Despite what appears to be a non-stop wave of tough news regarding real estate, four major media players have come out this month with the same advice: It Is Time to Buy a Home! Here are the four articles and a breakdown as to why the advice makes sense.

The Wall Street Journal: Why It’s Time to Buy

CBS Money Watch: Why the Time to Buy is Now

Forbes Magazine: 9 Reasons to Buy a House Now

National Public Radio: For Many, It’s Still a Good Time to Buy a Home

With prices continuing to depreciate in most regions of the country, some may wonder why these four entities are suggesting to their readership that now is the time to buy. Each organization realizes that PRICE is not as important as COST. The cost of a home can go up even if prices continue to fall. Unless you are an all cash buyer, you must take into consideration the expense of mortgaging when calculating the full cost of a home. Here is some information to consider.

Interest Rates

Currently, interest rates sit at historic lows. However, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, PMI and the National Association of Realtors are all projecting approximately a 1% increase in mortgage rates over the next year. A one percent increase in rate negates a ten percent fall in prices.

Lending Standards

The government has proposed a tightening of lending standards called Quality Residential Mortgage (QRM). If accepted as proposed two things will happen:

  1. The qualification process for loans will become more difficult
  2. The cost of a loan will increase

Bottom Line

There is a reason more and more financial organizations are suggesting to their followers that now is the time to buy a home: because the cost of purchasing a home is about to increase (even if prices continue to fall).

Almost 14,000 Houses Sold Yesterday

One of the biggest misconceptions in today’s housing market is that homes are not selling. That is simply not true. Last month’s Existing Sales Report from the National Association of Realtors (NAR) showed that homes were selling at an “annual rate of 5.10 million”. That’s an average of 13,973 every day – 365 days a year!

And the monthly Pending Sales Report, which measures the number of houses going into contract each month, has showed increases in six of the last nine months prompting Lawrence Yun, NAR’s chief economist to say:

“Since reaching a cyclical bottom last June, pending home sales have posted an overall gain of 24 percent and demonstrate the market is recovering on its own. The index means modest near-term gains in existing-home sales are likely.”

We realize that 40% of the sales are distressed properties and that 22% of buyers are investors. Yet, that still doesn’t negate the fact that homes are in fact selling… and 60% of them are NOT foreclosures or short sales.

And Yun believes this uptick will continue:

“Based on the current uptrend with very favorable affordability conditions, rising apartment rents and ongoing job creation, existing-home sales should rise around 5 to 10 percent this year.”

Bottom Line

Homes are selling. You probably will need to offer a compelling price if you put your house on the market. But if you do, it will sell.

NEWSFLASH: There Is NO Inventory!!!

I was in a conversation with one of the most productive agents in our area recently and he told me that there were “no homes for him to sell”. I thought he had a brain cramp. Look at all the ‘For Sale’ signs, all the homes on MLS, all the short sales and foreclosures plus all the shadow inventory on its way. Had this respected agent lost his mind?

As he saw the puzzled expression on my face (which was his intent), he began to explain that every home that is priced correctly is being gobbled up by buyers right away. The only homes that remain on the market for more than 30 days are the ones where the price doesn’t COMPEL a buyer (even multiple buyers) to make an offer.

I pondered his assertion for a while and his premise began to make more and more sense because I am witnessing:

1. Increased attendance at Open Houses. Buyers are coming out to look because they know now is the time to buy(great interest rates with higher rates around the bend, huge inventory available, etc.)
2. Realistic sellers (in terms of asking price) are getting significantly more traffic. This results in an increase in interested buyers; more interested buyers push prices higher. By adjusting prices, many sellers are getting higher offers. By remaining overpriced (and hoping to negotiate down), other sellers are seeing no traffic and no offers.
Why are there record numbers of homes on the market when the properly priced homes are being gobbled up (some at even higher than the listing price)? Because there is a huge difference between a home ‘being on the market’ and a home that is seriously ‘for sale’. Sellers who are serious about selling are aggressive with pricing because that is how you gain the highest price. A little counter-intuitive maybe; but, it’s very true.

Pricing is the centerpiece of your real estate agents marketing plan (although not the only component). The marketing plan should be designed to drive as many qualified buyers to see your home because THAT is the single most important factor in getting the most money – the number of people bidding. My advice is to give yourself the best chance for highest bids by pricing the home at a compelling number.

Where Have All the Foreclosures Gone?

The inventory of foreclosed homes for sale has been dwindling for almost six months. Everyone is wondering if the worst of our challenges with distressed properties are behind us. We are sorry to report that isn’t the case. We must realize that the problems banks have experienced with their paperwork on these properties has done nothing but delay them from coming onto the market.

The robo-signing blunders and then the MERS mess have caused the banks to slow down the foreclosure process dramatically.  Just last week, the Office of Thrift Supervision released their Mortgage Metrics Report covering the 4th Quarter of 2010. In that report, they showed how foreclosure completions fell sharply because of these paperwork complications. Here are the numbers:


Foreclosures are not disappearing. They are just being delayed.

Bottom Line

If you think that waiting to sell your home makes sense, you may not be correct. Check with a local real estate professional to see how this will impact your market.

Why the Housing Market is Three Times Worse Than You Think

Between the recent report that sales of new homes hit a record low in February and this week’s news that 19 of the 20 largest metro areas tracked by the Standard & Poor’s/Case-Shiller home price index saw a price slump in January, it hasn’t exactly been a stellar few weeks for the housing market. And yet another data dump tracking foreclosed and distressed homes that have yet to hit the markets – what’s known as “shadow inventory” – suggests things are not likely to get a whole lot better for a long time.

Supply Sigh Economics

More robust economic growth, a pickup in job creation (and wage growth), and a renewed desire by banks to actually write mortgages are all central pieces of any housing rebound. Job growth last month was indeed stronger than in past months, and a new survey of CEOs finds them increasingly upbeat about hiring. But even if those green shoots emerge, it may take a whole lot longer to see any pickup in home values given the alarming backlog of homes currently on the market, as well as homes that may soon be for sale.

Sign of the times in some markets

In terms of homes for sale, we have three inventorytracks to keep an eye on:

* The official inventory: 3.5 million homes. The National Association of Realtors says the current inventory of existing homes that are listed for sale would take 8.6 months to work down at the current sales pace. In “normal” times, the inventory backlog is more in the vicinity of six months.

* The unofficial shadow inventory: 1.8 million homes. According to research firm CoreLogic, there’s another 1.8 million homes sitting in shadow inventory. These are homes that don’t yet show up in NAR’s Multiple Listing Service as being for sale, but that are likely to hit the market at some point. They include homes that banks have already foreclosed on but have yet to put up for sale, homes that are somewhere in the foreclosure process, and homes in which owners are at least 90 days late on their mortgage payments. CoreLogic estimates that those 1.8 million homes represents an additional 9 months of potential supply given the pace of how bank-owned property and pending foreclosures make their way to market.

* The severely underwater inventory: 2 million. CoreLogic uses this category to refer to homeowners that are at least 50 percent underwater on their mortgages. Now there’s nothing that says homeowners with negative equity will in fact walk away from their mortgages. But it’s reasonable to presume that short of a quick turnaround in home values or a settlement between the state attorneys general and lenders that leads to substantial loan modifications, a significant chunk of these homes will end up on the market in the coming months or years.

Add it all up, and NAR’s 8.6 month official backlog triples to about two years or so.

Distress Points

To get a sense of where your housing market stands, take a look at CoreLogic’s comparison of each state’s tally of mortgages that are at least 90 days late to its current sales rate. The states with the most distressed housing inventory are New Jersey, Illinois, Maryland, and Florida, while those with the least distressed inventory are North Dakota, Alaska, Wyoming, and Montana.

Of course, even state-level data doesn’t capture what’s going on in your local area. If you’re looking to buy or sell, one important step at this juncture is to look beyond the official sales and inventory data, and try to get a sense of local shadow inventory. This is where a solid and straight-up real estate agent is going to be crucial. You don’t want sugarcoating; you need an honest assessment of what’s in your local pipeline.

The fact that your local market has a large shadow inventory doesn’t necessarily mean more steep price declines. But if there is indeed a big backlog of shadow inventory, it’s hard to make a case that home values will rebound any time soon given the large supply that needs to come to market and be absorbed.

If you’re looking to buy, a high shadow inventory is seemingly an argument to take your time looking, but keep all the moving pieces of this in mind. For example, even if you don’t have to worry about rising prices, what about mortgage rates? No one can predict where mortgage rates will be in six months or a year, but we do know that current rates are at historic lows. As for sellers, well, if you really want to sell and you find you are in an area with a lot of shadow inventory, waiting might not be in your best interests. Even if prices stabilize, working through that backlog could make it a while before prices start to climb again. 

States with the most distressed properties are expressed in red