June 21, 2007

Real Estate Markets May Not Be that Dire

Home Sales Projected to Fluctuate Narrowly With a Gradual Upturn

Lawrence Yun, NAR senior economist, said the market is relatively soft. “Overall housing levels are historically strong, but sales remain sluggish compared to the recent boom,” he said. “Home sales will probably fluctuate in a narrow range in the short run, but gradually trend upward with improving activity by the end of the year. It’s important to keep in mind that all real estate is local, and many markets are expected to have higher sales and strengthening prices during the second half of this year.”

Existing-home sales are projected to total 6.18 million in 2007 and 6.41 million next year, in contrast with 6.48 million in 2006. New-home sales are forecast at 860,000 this year and 901,000 in 2008, down from 1.05 million last year. Housing starts are likely to total 1.43 million units in 2007 and 1.49 million next year, below the 1.80 million recorded in 2006.

The national median existing-home price should ease by 1.3 percent to $219,100 in 2007 before rising 1.7 percent next year. The median new-home price will probably fall 2.3 percent to $240,800 this year, and then grow by 2.6 percent in 2008. “We continue to experience a temporary distortion in comparing median existing-home prices,” Yun said. “Because the sales volume has shifted from many high-cost areas to moderately priced markets, we’re not getting a true apples-to-apples comparison. When you look at other measures, such as this week’s price index from Freddie Mac which is based on repeat sales, overall home prices are rising slowly.”
National Association of Realtors

MBA Delinquency Data Not As Dire As RealtyTrac Reports

On Tuesday RealtyTrac released some pretty scary numbers relating to foreclosures. According to its data, RealtyTrac said, more than 176,000 people

got foreclosure notices in May, an increase of 90 percent since the same month one year ago and the highest figure ever recorded in their monthly report.

..."According to Doug Duncan, MBA's Chief Economist and Senior Vice President of Research and Business Development, the data is being driven by circumstances in seven states. "The percentage of loans in foreclosure would be well below the average of the last ten years were it not for Ohio, Michigan, and Indiana, and the rate of foreclosures started nationwide would have fallen were it not for the big jumps in California, Florida, Nevada, and Arizona."

Foreclosure starts set a record but most of the increase was due to events in California, Florida, Nevada, and Arizona. "Without these four states, foreclosure starts would have declined," Duncan said. In fact, 24 states did see a decline in starts. Duncan blamed a portion of the foreclosure starts in the four states on speculators who are walking away from properties in the face of declining prices and interest rate resets. The chaos in Florida's homeowner insurance market is also contributing to the problem. "

Mortgage News Daily

Utility Companies Offer New Ways To Monitor Your Energy Use

The program is part of a growing trend in which U.S. utilities are experimenting with pay-as-you-go service that is supposed to encourage energy conservation -- but also has raised fears about abrupt service shut-offs.

Mr. Price, a retired computer programmer, drops by the office of his local utility, the Sacramento Municipal Utility District, every six to eight weeks and pays enough to cover a month or two of service. The credit is loaded on a smart card that he uses to download information into his home electric meter. The couple keeps track of the credit balance with the help of a small electronic display, located in the kitchen, which talks to the meter.

On a recent June morning, Mr. Price pushed buttons to see what the display box could tell him about his energy use. It said his 1,650-square-foot stucco home was using nine cents of electricity an hour. The home, built in 1969, had used $1.02 of power so far that day, $2.61 a day earlier and $62.52 the prior month. Most importantly, it said he had enough credit remaining for about 28 days of use. "It tells you things you couldn't have known before," Mr. Price says of the box.

A half-dozen utilities are trying prepaid programs now, but that could accelerate quickly if Texas utility regulators approve rules this summer allowing it.

Experimentation with prepaid-service meters is part of a broader trend that is changing the electric meter from a dumb recorder of kilowatt hours consumed into a conservation tool capable of helping people monitor their use and which will allow utilities to talk directly to customers.

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