New home sales continue to lag

Sales of new homes had their second-worst month on record in August, signaling that the housing market will remain a drag on the economy.

Last month’s new home sales were unchanged from a month earlier at a seasonally adjusted annual sales pace of 288,000, the Commerce Department said Friday. Sales were down by 29 percent from the same month a year earlier.

Statistics for new homes in Lee County aren’t available.

But for existing homes, a report issued Thursday by the Florida Association of Realtors said 1,193 single-family homes sold in August, down 5 percent from 1,252 in August 2009. The median price was down 1 percent to $88,400 from $89,300 in August 2009.

Permits to build new homes have been slow in recent years since the bottom fell out of the home-building industry five years ago. Contractors in Lee County pulled 72 permits for single-family homes in August — down from 90 in July.

Nationally, the building industry normally powers economic recoveries. Each new home built creates, on average, the equivalent of three jobs for a year and generates about $90,000 in taxes, according to the National Association of Home Builders.

But housing has been at the center of this downturn and it shows no signs of recovering quickly.

The only time new home sales were slower was in May, when the sales pace was 282,000. That’s the worst pace on records dating back to 1963. July’s results had been the worst on record, but were adjusted upward.


High unemployment, tight credit and uncertainty about home prices have kept people from buying homes. Government tax credits boosted the market earlier in the year, but those expired in April.

The median sales price in August was $204,700. That was down 1.2 percent from a year earlier and the lowest since December 2003.

Gains in Western and Northeastern states canceled out losses in the Midwest and South. Sales grew by more than 54 percent in the West and by 17 percent in the Northeast. They fell 26 percent in the Midwest and 11 percent in the South.

Builders are competing with millions of foreclosures and other distressed properties that show no signs of abating. They are unlikely to ramp up construction until those are cleared away and demand for new homes picks up.

The number of unsold new homes on the market fell to 206,000, the lowest since August 1968. At the current sales pace, it would take about 8.6 months to exhaust that supply.

The industry is suffering the repercussions of a massive building boom, in which many homes were sold to speculators. They then resold the homes, often to borrowers who took out risky loans and then defaulted. Those unsustainable boom times aren’t coming back.

Economists at Bank of America-Merrill Lynch predict that spending on building and remodeling homes will decline in the July-September quarter and actually subtract 0.7 percentage points from overall economic activity.

Home construction is up 25 percent from the bottom in April 2009, it is still 74 percent below the peak in January 2006.
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Courtesy Fort Myers News Press

Lee County Shadow Inventory

Is Fannie Mae hording property in the Fort Myers area?

Fort Myers Real Estate Information

Rumors have been swirling in the greater Fort Myers area that the government-mortgage agency has been hoarding residential inventory it acquired in foreclosure, waiting for better times to sell. Real estate agents fear that such a large “shadow” inventory threatens to swamp the residential market and push prices down.

To get at the truth, Jeff Tumbarello, the director the Southwest Florida Real Estate Investment Association, searched Fannie Mae deeds since January 2009. “We could speculate or we could know,” he says.

Tumbarello’s conclusion: “I see no evidence of them hoarding inventory.” Indeed, Tumbarello found that in the last 18 months in Lee County, Fannie Mae has been disposing of properties at roughly the same pace it has been taking them in.

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Courtesy of the Gulf Coast Business Review.

International buyers are drawn to Florida real estate

The National Association of Realtors and the Florida Realtors recently conducted a survey of Florida agents. A total of 936 responses were received about their experiences with International buyers.According to a survey, the Sunshine State is attracting property buyers from across the globe due to plummeting prices...

Here are some of the highlights:

•Sixty-five percent said they worked with an international client in the past 12 months. One in five worked with two international clients, and 18 percent working with three or more.

•Half of the respondents said international clients accounted for 25 percent or less of their business; 15 percent said international homebuyers accounted for more than half of their business.

•One in three said that international clients were an increasing share of their customers in the past two years, while just under half noted that their share of international clients stayed about the same.

•Canada had the largest share of buyers, accounting for 36 percent of recent sales. Buyers from the United Kingdom accounted for 15 percent, and the rest of Western Europe accounted for an additional 14 percent.

•Latin America, defined for the report as Mexico, the Caribbean, Central America and South America, accounted for 16 percent. Specific countries with a small but significant share of sales included Germany (5 percent), Venezuela (3 percent), Brazil (3 percent) and France (3 percent).

•Eleven percent of foreign buyers bought a new home, while the remaining 89 percent purchased a previously owned home.

•Fifteen percent of buyers plan to use their property less than one month a year; 21 percent expect to use it one to two months; and 34 percent three to six months.

• Nineteen percent bought a home in the Orlando-Kissimmee area; 17 percent chose Miami-Ft. Lauderdale; 13 percent opted for Bradenton-Sarasota; and Tampa, Cape Coral-Fort Myers and Naples rounded out the top six with at least 5 percent of purchases.

Courtesy of  The Tampa Tribune

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GMAC Mortgage Mishandled Affidavits on Foreclosures

 

Ally Financial Inc., whose GMAC Mortgage unit halted evictions in 23 states amid allegations of mishandled affidavits, said its filings contained no false claims about home loans.

The “defect” in affidavits used to support evictions was “technical” and was discovered by the company, Gina Proia, an Ally spokeswoman, said in an e-mailed statement. Many Employees submitted affidavits containing information they didn’t personally know was true and sometimes signed without a notary present, according to the statement. Most cases will be resolved in the next few weeks and those that can’t be fixed will “require court intervention,” Proia said.

“The entire situation is unfortunate and regrettable and GMAC Mortgage is diligently working to resolve the situation,”Gina  Proia said. “There was never any intent on the part of GMAC Mortgage to bypass court rules or procedures. Nor do these failures reflect any disrespect for our courts or the judicial processes.”  ( I wouldn't bet on it)

State officials are investigating allegations of fraudulent foreclosures at the nation’s largest home lenders and loan servicers. Lawyers defending mortgage borrowers have accused GMAC and other lenders of foreclosing on homeowners without verifying that they own the loans. In foreclosure cases, companies commonly file affidavits to start court proceedings.

“All the banks are the same, GMAC is the only one who’s gotten caught,” said Patricia Parker, an attorney at Jacksonville, Florida-based law firm, Parker & DuFresne. “This could be huge.”

Aside from signing the affidavits without knowledge or a notary, “the sum and substance of the affidavits and all content were factually accurate,” Proia wrote in the e-mail. “Our internal review has revealed no evidence of any factual misstatements or inaccuracies concerning the details typically contained in these affidavits such as the loan balance, its delinquency, and the accuracy of the note and mortgage on the underlying transaction.”

Affidavits are statements written and sworn to in the presence of someone authorized to administer an oath, such as a notary public.

GMAC told brokers and agents to halt evictions tied to foreclosures on homeowners in 23 states including Florida, Connecticut and New York and said it may have to take “corrective action” on other foreclosures, according to a Sept. 17 memo. Foreclosures won’t be suspended and will continue with “no interruption,” Proia said in a statement yesterday.

In December 2009, a GMAC Mortgage employee said in a deposition that his team of 13 people signed “a round number of 10,000” affidavits and other foreclosure documents a month without verifying their accuracy. The employee said he relied on law firms sending him the affidavits to verify their accuracy instead of checking them with GMAC’s records as required. The affidavits were then used to complete the process of repossessing homes and evicting residents.

Florida Attorney General William McCollum is investigating three law firms that represent loan servicers in foreclosures, and are alleged to have submitted fraudulent documents to the courts, according to an Aug. 10 statement. The firms handled about 80 percent of foreclosure cases in the state, according to a letter from Representative Alan Grayson, a Florida Democrat.

“It appears that the actions we have taken and the attention we’ve paid to this issue could have had some impact on the actions that GMAC took today, but we can’t take full credit,” Ryan Wiggins, a spokeswoman for McCollum, said yesterday in a telephone interview.

‘Committed Fraud’

In August, Florida Circuit Court Judge Jean Johnson blocked a Jacksonville foreclosure brought by Washington Mutual Bank N.A. and JPMorgan Chase Bank, which had purchased the failed bank’s assets, and Shapiro & Fishman, the companies’ law firm. Documents eventually showed that the mortgage on the house was in fact owned by Washington-based Fannie Mae.

WaMu and the law firm “committed fraud on this court,” Johnson wrote. JPMorgan had presented a document prepared by Shapiro showing the mortgage was sold directly to WaMu in April 2008.

Tom Ice, founding partner of Ice Legal PA in Royal Palm Beach, Florida, said a fourth law firm representing GMAC in recent weeks has begun withdrawing affidavits signed by the GMAC employee.

“The banks are sitting up and taking notice that they can’t use falsified documents in the courtroom,” Ice said. “There may be others doing the same thing. They’re going to come back and say, ‘We’d better withdraw these,’” Ice said in a telephone interview.

Alejandra Arroyave, a lawyer with Lapin & Leichtling, a law firm in Coral Gables, Florida, who represented the employee at his December 2009 deposition, didn’t respond to a request for comment. A phone call to the employee wasn’t returned.

GMAC ranked fourth among U.S. home-loan originators in the first six months of this year, with $26 billion of mortgages, according to Inside Mortgage Finance, an industry newsletter. Wells Fargo & Co. ranked first, with $160 billion, and Citigroup Inc. was fifth, with $25 billion.

Iowa Assistant Attorney General Patrick Madigan said the implications of Ally’s internal review and the GMAC employee’s deposition could be “enormous.”

“It would call into question whether other servicers have engaged in similar practices,” Madigan said in a telephone interview. “It would be a major disruption to the foreclosure pipeline.” Article Courtesy of Bloomburg

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New Homes under Construction

New homes are under construction at the Pelican Preserve and Verandah communities in Fort Myers.

D.R. Horton is offering single-family detached villas in two Verandah lifestyle neighborhoods, Citrus Creek and Otter Bend, located off Palm Beach Boulevard northeast of Interstate 75.

The builder purchased 55 homesites, and started construction in late August. Home prices start in the mid-$200,000s, with community amenities including a dog park, golf and Orange River access.

WCI Communities has introduced six new home designs at Pelican Preserve, a 55-and-older lifestyle community, just south of Colonial Boulevard on Treeline Avenue. Preconstruction pricing starts in the $140,000s, with each home including upgrades such as gourmet kitchens with granite countertops and concrete tile roofs.

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Fort Myers Commercial Real Estate Purchase

Robert Johnston, Jerry Messonnier and Derek Bornhorst of Grubb & Ellis|1st Commercial represented both parties.

- Vincent Simonelli purchased a 2.5-acre industrial site from Blue Water Trust at 7100 Bucks Lane, Fort Myers, for $104,000.

Steve Wood of Woodyard & Associates Commercial Real Estate negotiated the transaction.

- SimplexGrinnell LP leased a 30,000-square-foot warehouse/office space at 6400 Metroplex Drive, Fort Myers, from Harry Lowell. Todd Holman of Woodyard & Associates Commercial Real Estate represented the lessor and Tim Schneider of CB Richard Ellis, Fort Myers-Naples, represented the lessee.

- Spirit Halloween Superstores LLC leased 11,194 square feet of retail space from Smyrna Land Co. Ltd and Tamiami North LLC at13560 Tamiami Trail N., Naples. Paige Eber of Investment Properties Corp. negotiated this transaction.

- Jackson Signs and T-Shirts renewed its 5,000-square-foot lease at 1109 Tamiami Trail, Suite 3, Port Charlotte, from Trojan Electronic Supply Co. Ron Struthers, CCIM, of CB Richard Ellis, Fort Myers/Naples, negotiated the transaction.

- Xtreme Furniture leased 4,200 square feet of industrial space in the Metro Distribution Center at 4010 Warehouse Road, Suite A, Fort Myers, from BLS Holdings LLC. Stan Stouder, CCIM, of CB Richard Ellis, Fort Myers/Naples, negotiated the lease.

Richard and Sharon Smith purchased 3,072 square feet of industrial space at 12960 Commerce Lakes Drive, Suites 10 and 11, Fort Myers, from Daniels Industrial Condo Ltd. for $184,320.

- GCM Contracting Solutions Inc. leased 2,608 square feet of industrial flex space at 16121 Lee Road, Unit 101, Fort Myers, from Alico Road Business Park. Bjorn Rosinus of Alico Commercial Group negotiated the transaction.

- R&L Building & Construction Inc. leased a 2,500-square-foot industrial space at 4240 James St., Suites 8 and 9, Port Charlotte, from Trojan Electronic Supply Co. Ron Struthers, CCIM, of CB Richard Ellis, Fort Myers/Naples, negotiated the lease.

- Searching for Solutions Institute Inc. leased 2,245 square feet of office space from Poinciana Professional Park at 2640 Golden Gate Parkway, Naples. Clint Sherwood, CCIM, of Investment Properties Corp., negotiated this transaction. Courtesy Fort Myers News Press

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Lee County Homes Sales stay firm.

August prices and sales of existing homes in Lee County kept cruising at about the levels where they’ve been for the past year, according to statistics released Thursday by the Florida Association of Realtors.

Meanwhile, in a separate report issued Thursday, the National Association of Realtors said sales of previously occupied homes rose last month, but not enough to keep this summer from being the slowest for home sales in more than a decade. And the year is not expected to finish much better.

In Lee County, there were 1,193 single-family homes sold in August, down 5 percent from 1,252 in August 2009. The median price was down 1 percent to $88,400 from $89,300 in August 2009.

The association’s numbers include homes sold with the help of a Realtor.
Will the trend continue?

Local real estate brokers said there are factors that could change the numbers for good or for bad.

Marc Joseph, owner of Fort Myers-based Marc Joseph Realty, said it’s important to remember there’s a massive “shadow inventory” of homes owned by banks that took them back in foreclosure.

What those banks do with their inventory could influence the market here, he said: So far, “The banks are not flooding the market, it’s a trickle. They don’t want to bombard the market with a whole lot of inventory.”
Things could get a lot worse fast if the lenders let go of the homes they’re holding back, Joseph said.

“My personal feeling is if they threw it all out there at once, we would see a double dip,” he said. “But I think there are enough smart bankers out there who know they’ll make more if they hold off.”

Elmer Tabor, owner of Cape Coral-based Wonderland Realty, said an unusual number of potential buyers are expressing anxiety about the future of the economy and what will happen in the November elections.

“You can almost tell how the stock market’s doing by the number of calls you get,” he said. “The market gets squirrelly, people won’t commit to buying that second home.”
Nationally, about 3.4 million previously occupied homes have been sold through August. Most experts expect roughly 5 million to be sold through the entire year. That would be in line with last year’s totals and just above sales for 2008, the worst since 1997.

The median sale price last month was $178,600, up only 0.8 percent from a year ago.
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Courtesy Fort Myers News Press

Fort Myers Foreclosures




Fort Myers Real EstateUS homes lost to foreclosure up 25 percent on year

Lenders took back more homes in August than in any month since the start of the U.S. mortgage crisis.

The increase in home repossessions came even as the number of properties entering the foreclosure process slowed for the seventh month in a row, foreclosure listing firm RealtyTrac Inc. said Thursday.
In all, banks repossessed 95,364 properties last month, up 3 percent from July and an increase of 25 percent from August 2009, RealtyTrac said. This is significant.
August makes the ninth month in a row that the pace of homes lost to foreclosure has increased on an annual basis. The previous high was in May. Banks have been stepping up repossessions to clear out their backlog of bad loans with an eye on eventually placing the foreclosed properties on the market, but they can’t afford to simply dump the properties on the market.  Concerns are growing that the housing market recovery could stumble amid stubbornly high unemployment, a sluggish economy and faltering consumer confidence. U.S. home sales have collapsed since federal homebuyer tax credits expired in April.   That’s one reason fewer than one-third of homes repossessed by lenders are on the market, said Rick Sharga, a senior vice president at RealtyTrac.“These (properties) are going to come to market, but very slowly because nobody wants to overwhelm a soft buyer’s market with too much distressed inventory for fear of what it would do for house prices,” he said.                                                                                                                        As a result, lenders are putting off initiating the foreclosure process on homeowners who have missed payments, letting borrowers stay in their homes longer.

The number of properties receiving an initial default notice — the first step in the foreclosure process — slipped 1 percent last month from July, but was down 30 percent versus August last year, RealtyTrac said.  Initial defaults have fallen on an annual basis the past seven months. They peaked in April 2009.                                                                                                                                          Still, the number of homes scheduled to be sold at auction for the first time increased 9 percent from July and rose 2 percent from August last year. If they don’t sell at auction, these homes typically end up going back to the lender.
More than 2.3 million homes have been repossessed by lenders since the recession began in December 2007, according to RealtyTrac. The firm estimates more than 1 million American households are likely to lose their homes to foreclosure this year.
In all, 338,836 properties received a foreclosure-related warning in August, up 4 percent from July, but down 5 percent from the same month last year, RealtyTrac said. That translates to one in 381 U.S. homes.                                  The firm tracks notices for defaults, scheduled home auctions and home repossessions — warnings that can lead up to a home eventually being lost to foreclosure.                                                                                                                       Among states, Nevada posted the highest foreclosure rate last month, with one in every 84 households receiving a foreclosure notice. That’s 4.5 times the national average.Rounding out the top 10 states with the highest foreclosure rate in August were: Florida, Arizona, California, Idaho, Utah, Georgia, Michigan, Illinois and Hawaii.Economic woes, such as unemployment or reduced income, are now the main catalysts for foreclosures.

Lenders are offering a variety of programs to help homeowners modify their loans, but their success rates vary. Hundreds of thousands of homeowners can’t qualify or fall back into default.The Obama administration has rolled out numerous attempts to tackle the foreclosure crisis but has made only a small dent in the problem. Nearly half of the 1.3 million homeowners who enrolled in the Obama administration’s flagship mortgage-relief program have fallen out.

The program, known as Making Home Affordable, has provided permanent help to about 390,000 homeowners since March 2009.

Regardless, many troubled borrowers have seen their efforts to get a loan modification stymied.

Larry Book of Winter Garden, Fla., was one packet away from a permanent loan modification from Chase under the Obama administration’s foreclosure prevention plan after more than a year of back and forth and one failed attempt.

But his modification never went through. Instead, his loan was transferred from Chase to IBM Lender Business Process Servicers in July and he was told he owed $9,562.62 and must bring his mortgage current by Sept. 15 or foreclosure proceedings will begin.

“It just becomes too exhausting,” Book said about the modification process. “That’s why some people walk away. But I’ve invested too much and given up too much to just let it go.”
Courtesy Fort Myers News Press.




View all foreclosures in Fort Myers

US homes lost to foreclosure up 25 percent on year



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LOS ANGELES (AP) — Lenders took back more homes in August than in any month since the start of the U.S. mortgage crisis.


The increase in home repossessions came even as the number of properties entering the foreclosure process slowed for the seventh month in a row, foreclosure listing firm RealtyTrac Inc. said Thursday.


In all, banks repossessed 95,364 properties last month, up 3 percent from July and an increase of 25 percent from August 2009, RealtyTrac said.


August makes the ninth month in a row that the pace of homes lost to foreclosure has increased on an annual basis. The previous high was in May.


Banks have been stepping up repossessions to clear out their backlog of bad loans with an eye on eventually placing the foreclosed properties on the market, but they can’t afford to simply dump the properties on the market.


Concerns are growing that the housing market recovery could stumble amid stubbornly high unemployment, a sluggish economy and faltering consumer confidence. U.S. home sales have collapsed since federal homebuyer tax credits expired in April.


That’s one reason fewer than one-third of homes repossessed by lenders are on the market, said Rick Sharga, a senior vice president at RealtyTrac.


“These (properties) are going to come to market, but very slowly because nobody wants to overwhelm a soft buyer’s market with too much distressed inventory for fear of what it would do for house prices,” he said.


As a result, lenders are putting off initiating the foreclosure process on homeowners who have missed payments, letting borrowers stay in their homes longer.


The number of properties receiving an initial default notice — the first step in the foreclosure process — slipped 1 percent last month from July, but was down 30 percent versus August last year, RealtyTrac said.


Initial defaults have fallen on an annual basis the past seven months. They peaked in April 2009.


Still, the number of homes scheduled to be sold at auction for the first time increased 9 percent from July and rose 2 percent from August last year. If they don’t sell at auction, these homes typically end up going back to the lender.
More than 2.3 million homes have been repossessed by lenders since the recession began in December 2007, according to RealtyTrac. The firm estimates more than 1 million American households are likely to lose their homes to foreclosure this year.
In all, 338,836 properties received a foreclosure-related warning in August, up 4 percent from July, but down 5 percent from the same month last year, RealtyTrac said. That translates to one in 381 U.S. homes.


The firm tracks notices for defaults, scheduled home auctions and home repossessions — warnings that can lead up to a home eventually being lost to foreclosure.


Among states, Nevada posted the highest foreclosure rate last month, with one in every 84 households receiving a foreclosure notice. That’s 4.5 times the national average.


Rounding out the top 10 states with the highest foreclosure rate in August were: Florida, Arizona, California, Idaho, Utah, Georgia, Michigan, Illinois and Hawaii.


Economic woes, such as unemployment or reduced income, are now the main catalysts for foreclosures.


Lenders are offering a variety of programs to help homeowners modify their loans, but their success rates vary. Hundreds of thousands of homeowners can’t qualify or fall back into default.


The Obama administration has rolled out numerous attempts to tackle the foreclosure crisis but has made only a small dent in the problem. Nearly half of the 1.3 million homeowners who enrolled in the Obama administration’s flagship mortgage-relief program have fallen out.


The program, known as Making Home Affordable, has provided permanent help to about 390,000 homeowners since March 2009.


Regardless, many troubled borrowers have seen their efforts to get a loan modification stymied.


Larry Book of Winter Garden, Fla., was one packet away from a permanent loan modification from Chase under the Obama administration’s foreclosure prevention plan after more than a year of back and forth and one failed attempt.


But his modification never went through. Instead, his loan was transferred from Chase to IBM Lender Business Process Servicers in July and he was told he owed $9,562.62 and must bring his mortgage current by Sept. 15 or foreclosure proceedings will begin.


“It just becomes too exhausting,” Book said about the modification process. “That’s why some people walk away. But I’ve invested too much and given up too much to just let it go.”
Courtesy Fort Myers News Press.

Sales of Homes in Lee County Up

Sales of existing homes in Lee County rose 5 percent from 1,139 in July to 1,193 in August while the median price fell 5 percent from $93,500 to $88,400, according to statistics released today by the Florida Association of Realtors.
August home sales were down 5 percent from August 2009, when the number was 1,252. The median price was down 1 percent from $89,300 in August 2009.The association’s numbers are for sales of homes in which a Realtor handled the transaction.
In a separate report also released today, the National Association of Realtors said sales of previously occupied homes rose last month, but not enough to keep August from being the second-worst month for sales in more than a decade.
Sales rose 7.6 percent in August from July to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.13 million, the National Association of Realtors said today. Sales were down 19 percent from the same month a year earlier.
July was the worst month for sales in 15 years. That was unchanged by a slightly upward revision.
High unemployment and a record number of foreclosures have kept the economy from gaining strength since the recession ended. Those factors have also deterred many people from buying homes.
The housing industry received a boost this spring when the government offered home-buying tax credits. But it has struggled since those expired in April.
Low prices and the cheapest mortgage rates in decades haven’t been enough to lift the housing market.
The median sale price was $178,600, up 0.8 percent from a year ago. Courtesy Fort Myers Newspress and Associated press.
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