Housing Bubble and Real Estate Market Tracker

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Includes: BZH, CFC, CTX, EBAY, HOV, JOE, KBH, LEN, MSN, MTG, PHHMQ, PHM, RDN, WMIH
by: Judy Weil

Here's our summary of articles and data points on the housing market. It's part of Seeking Alpha's coverage of the real estate market and homebuilder stocks. Like all other topics and stock coverage from Seeking Alpha, you can have this sent to your Blackberry or desktop email by signing up for our no-spam free email subscription service.

Quote of the Day- "From the House's Mouth"

"If you look back five or six years from now, people will say, 'Wow, those are great stocks to own.' And if you explain to them [the price at which] you bought, people will think you're lying."- John Bollinger, Southern California money manager, is telling his clients to buy housing stocks now. (LA Times, Sept. 24th)

Real Estate Sales and House Prices

  • August Home Sales Rise in Chattanooga Area (News Channel 9, Sept. 25th): "Chattanooga Association of Realtors: Sales in the residential real estate market increased over the previous month. With 721 sales recorded through the organization’s Multiple Listing Service, the August figure represents an 8% increase over July. Compared to the 2006 record setting sales year the August 2007 report represents an 11% decline from the same time last year… For the month of August, the median was $141,000, a nearly 7% increase over August 2006. Down from the previous month by less than 3%, the August price still remains below the $224,500 national median figure released by the National Association of Realtors."

  • Damned Lies And Median House Prices (Inman News, Sept. 24th): "NAR: The median San Francisco home price in Q1'07 was $748,100. In Q2'07 it was $846,800 -- a jump of more than 13%... [But] from April-June 2007, the S&P Case Shiller Home Price Index showed a decline of just less than 1%, not an increase of 13%. Likewise the OFHEO home-price index… The S&P Case Shiller index covers only resale transactions while the OFHEO data covers multiple sale types but only for conforming loans. FIS Data Services: Sale transactions increased about 25% between the first and second quarters... Altos Research [reported] market inventory levels increased almost 40% during Q2 and the percentage of houses listed with a price reduction increased from about 33% to 43%... [So] there appears to have been little actual appreciation as evidenced by the Case Shiller/ OFHEO numbers, while inventory increased and prices of many listed properties were reduced."

  • In The City, A Widespread Increase In Median Price (Philly.com, Sept. 23rd): "The Graduate Hospital neighborhood last Sunday [had] 13 open houses… Most prices were in the $350,000-to-$550,000 range, the target of many Center City buyers, especially first-timers… In [Philadelphia], home sales have decreased by about 1,000 each of the last two years, and the average days for a house to sell rose to 64, from 54 last September, according to The Inquirer's analysis of [MLS data and] 275,000+ transactions in the eight-county metropolitan area and at the Shore in 2005-2006… Prudential Fox & Roach's HomExpert Report: As of Sept. 10, the median sale price in Philadelphia was $145,000."

  • Less Than Encouraging Housing, Inflation News (Tim Iacono in Seeking Alpha, Sept. 20th): "The long-term chart below, swiped from the always-excellent Calculated Risk blog, shows that there is room [for housing prices] to run to the downside. Taking into account an almost 20% increase in the U.S. population since 1991 puts a back-of-the-envelope calculation at perhaps another 25% reduction in home construction to match the 1991 low. [Admittedly, simply adjusting for inflation may not be fair - back in 1991, most people only owned one house.]"

Affordability Impact

  • So Much For That Theory (Chad Brand in Seeking Alpha, Sept. 20th): "What will really help the ailing housing market? Reasonable pricing. Not only can most people still get loans, but another myth out there is that you can't sell your house. Well, you can't get top dollar for your house or always make a profit on every property that you purchase. However, if you price your home competitively, you will find buyers… Hovnanian Enterprises (NYSE:HOV) just completed a 3-day sale… where they slashed prices by up to 25% or $100,000 in an effort to get rid of inventory… Hovnanian either sold or received deposits on 2,100 homes in just 72 hours [vs.] 2,539 homes sold in the entire quarter ending July 31st!"

Real Estate Investing and Sentiment

  • Builders Use Splashy Campaigns, Auctions, To Clear Out Inventory (CNN Money, Sept. 21st): " National Auctioneers Association: Revenue from housing auctions grew 12.5% to $16 billion last year. That's a small fraction of the $1.74 trillion annual housing market, but residential real estate auctions were the fastest-growing auction sector from 2003 to 2006… Max Spann, president of Max Spann Real Estate & Auction Co.: "The advent of eBay (NASDAQ:EBAY) and people understanding bidding as a way of purchasing things" has helped the real estate auction business… In fact, eBay lists more than 1,400 homes for sale, about a fifth of them in Florida, one of the states hardest hit by the subprime lending crisis."

Mortgates and Real Estate Lending

  • Fed's Rate Cut May Give Little Relief to Homeowners (Bloomberg, Sept. 24th): "Americans may be disappointed that the Federal Reserve's interest rate cut won't translate into lower monthly mortgage payments and a revival of the housing market. "Mortgage rates won't stimulate demand,'' said Scott Anderson, senior economist at Wells Fargo & Co. in Minneapolis. "The Fed may be a little impotent here because what caused this housing crash was overpriced housing, not mortgages.'' Bankrate.com survey of banks and lenders in 50 U.S. states: The average 30-year fixed mortgage rose 0.10 of a percentage point to 6.08% Monday… It peaked this year at 6.42% on June 14."

  • Radian, MGIC Sell Sherman Investments (Philadelphia Inquirer, Sept. 20th): "Mortgage insurers MGIC Investment Corp.(NYSE:MTG) and Radian Group Inc.(NYSE:RDN) said yesterday that they had sold investments in Sherman Financial Group L.L.C. MGIC, the biggest U.S. mortgage insurer, received $240.8 million for the sale of its 16% stake to Sherman's management. MGIC has a 24.2% stake remaining… Radian Group (RDN), which MGIC had been in talks to buy for $2.4 billion until earlier this month, said yesterday that it also sold Sherman shares. Radian, the third-largest U.S. mortgage insurer, sold all of its preferred units and about 43% of its common units for about $278 million in cash."

Global Subprime Fallout

  • Commercial Real Estate In Europe Takes Hit (Wall St. Journal, Sept. 20th): "S&P/Citigroup Global Property index: European commercial real-estate share prices fell 11% in Q2, leaving them… at a discount to the actual real-estate assets that exceeded 20%… Spreads on commercial-backed mortgage securities have trebled to 0.63 percentage point. Five-year swaps -- the benchmark for property borrowing costs -- rose to 6.1% against average U.K. yields of 4.5%... Deutsche Bank's Rreef real-estate arm… said Ireland, Spain and the U.K. were close to the peak of their cycle… Rreef said the global property-investment market would grow by 40% over the next five years to $13.7 trillion with the help of valuation increases, developments and leaseback deals."

Subprime Fallout

  • Banks Reduce Backlog of Unsold Debt to $370 Billion (Bloomberg, Sept. 24th): "Bank of America Corp.: Banks reduced the backlog of unsold corporate debt by 2% in the past two weeks to $370 billion as investor demand for leveraged loans and bonds improved. Credit Suisse Group last week led banks selling $5B of loans to finance Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co.'s buyout of credit card-processor First Data Corp. Citigroup Inc. found buyers for $1B of loans to Allison Transmission Inc., the auto-parts supplier… Banks returned to the market as investor confidence in high- risk, high-yield loans climbed to the highest in two months, according the benchmark iTraxx LevX Index of credit-default swaps on European loans."

  • Credit Crisis Could Hit Google (Susan Lerner in Seeking Alpha, Sept 23rd): "Barron's: Google's advertising revenues are likely to be impacted [by the subprime crisis] next quarter. Yahoo! and AOL, which rely more heavily on banner ads, are likely to take even harder hits than Google… Google executives last week admitted mortgage-related advertisers were cutting their budgets, but argued that Web search ads was the last area to be cut rather than the first. One analyst, who believes the stock, which is around $560, could climb to $625, says in a "worst case" scenario Google's cash flows would only drop 10%. Another analyst notes that mortgage business accounts for about 3.3% of Google's on-line revenue."

  • Barclays Risks Loss In Sale Of Sub-Prime Arm (UK Telegraph, Sept. 23rd): "Barclays has been running an auction of FirstPlus, one of its sub-prime consumer loan businesses … for several weeks. General Electric, the US conglomerate, and AIG, the US insurance giant, remain [interested.] FirstPlus is now expected to change hands for less than the £4.5bn value of its loans portfolio, with no premium paid for the business itself. In the summer it was expected to fetch as much as £4.9bn... Some industry sources say the bids on the table are at a discount of… almost 10% to the value of the loan book… Barclays sold Monument, its sub-prime credit card business, to US card firm CompuCredit earlier this year."

  • Rate Cut Good News For ARM Holders (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Sept. 22nd): "Last week's half-percentage-point cut in the Federal Funds rate might translate to a shot in the ARM for some homeowners. The overall impact on housing financing is likely to be muted... But those with adjustable rate mortgages that are about to reset and those with revolving home equity lines of credit might see immediate savings from the rate cut… The multitude of homeowners facing big resets this fall still will see their mortgage rates rise, but not by quite as much… last Tuesday when rates for 30 year fixed rate mortgages dropped immediately by 1/8 of a point, to 6.25%."

  • Partial Sherman Sale A Potential Credit Positive For Radian – Fitch (CNN Money, Sept. 21st): "Fitch Ratings said the announced sale of a partial interest in debt recovery solutions provider Sherman Financial Group LLC improves the financial flexibility and capital position of Radian Group Inc's (RDN) mortgage insurance company, Radian Guaranty Inc. The outlook remains negative on the 'A-' long-term debt of Radian and the 'AA-' insurer financial strength (IFS) ratings of its mortgage insurance subsidiaries, though the stake sale announcement relieves some of the pressure on the rating. The rating watch evolving on the 'A+' IFS rating of Radian Asset Assurance Inc, Radian's financial guaranty subsidiary, is also unaffected."

  • Sam Zell On The Credit Crisis: It's Not That Bad (Forbes, Sept. 21st): "Master real estate investor Sam Zell… said current markets are spooked by problems with U.S. subprime lending. However, they still have capital to deploy, unlike during other real estate busts, when financing could not be arranged at any price. "We're not really in a 'credit crunch.' I think we're in a 'confidence crunch,'" said Zell, funder of the Samuel Zell and Robert Lurie Real Estate Center at Wharton. "I would argue the excess liquidity that existed eight weeks ago still exists today. It has a different risk premium on it, but the actual amount of liquidity has not changed."

  • Cold Calculations: Countrywide's Exit Strategy Leaves Subprime Borrowers In The Lurch (Computer World, Sept. 21st): "It's one thing for Countrywide (CFC) to try to rebalance its portfolio in the short term by focusing on prime loans. It's another to exit the business entirely and eliminate financing for low-income borrowers because of mistakes made by Countrywide and the industry… Countrywide is now struggling to remain solvent, while many of its subprime customers are struggling to hold onto their homes. In exiting the subprime business Countrywide is sealing off the exits for borrowers trapped by those resets, leaving even fewer alternatives to foreclosure for struggling subprime borrowers."

Foreclosure Impact

  • State Proposes Sweeping Mortgage Reform (The Morning Call, Sept. 24th): "Pennsylvania's Q2 delinquency rates on residential mortgages rose to 5.58% from 4.85% in Q1 and 5.20% a year ago, excluding loans already in foreclosure. That's higher than the national delinquency rate of 5.12%. Delinquencies on subprime loans (those given to borrowers with weak credit histories) rose to 15% from 13.37% in 2006. RealtyTrac: In August, foreclosures in Pennsylvania rose by 9.3% to 3,108 from a year ago… Counties with the highest number of foreclosures in August were Philadelphia, Allegheny, Bucks, Chester, Delaware and Luzerne."

  • Bernanke's Bullet Misses the Mark (Michael Shedlock in Seeking Alpha, Sept. 24th): "The number of borrowers whose mortgage payments jump in the next three months will be the second-highest ever for a quarter, according to Credit Suisse Group, Switzerland's second-biggest bank. First American LoanPerformance, which owns the largest database of U.S. mortgages, said 27% have already missed a payment. That makes them ineligible for the Federal Housing Administration bailout proposed last month by President George W. Bush. There's no lifeline in sight for subprime borrowers, who face an average increase of 26%, or $400/month, according to CoreLogic."

  • August Foreclosures Rise 115% YoY (Markham Lee, Sept. 21st): "RealtyTrac said banks repossessed 42,789 homes in August, compared with 26,842 in July… A given month’s foreclosures reflect the financial weakness various households begin dealing with roughly 4-8 months prior… [So] we’re only seeing housing market troubles that started somewhere between January-April of this year… Since [then], it has gotten significantly more difficult to buy, sell or refinance a home…If the foreclosure rate increased 10% on a m/m basis through the end of January, we would be looking at nearly 400k foreclosures for the month of January… It’s a practically a given that we’ll see over 300k foreclosures during September."

Global Impact and Alternatives To The Housing Slump

  • International Real Estate Buyers & US Housing Market (HomesGoFast, Sept. 24th): "Overseas property portal Homesgofast.com and National Association of Realtors report that overseas investors are increasingly in search of US real estate bargains. UK and European buyers are spoilt for choice when searching to buy property abroad from a range of emerging property regions such as Brazil, India, and Eastern Europe to the more established regions such as France and Spain… Nicholas Marr, CEO of Homesgofast.com: "Investors have been sizing up the US market and are finding some real bargains. Florida properties for example are low priced and being offered with a host of incentives."

Macro Impact, And Will The Housing Slump Cause A Recession?

  • Housing Takes Another Header (Motley Fool, Sept. 25th): "The latest S&P/Case-Shiller Home Prices Index shows that home prices are not only [decreasing], but in many places, the rate of drop is increasing. The figures, which cover the period ending July, 2007, detail a 4.5% year-over-year drop in the index's 10-city composite, and a 3.9% drop in the 20-city composite. That's the worst performance since 1991… Previously hot markets like Phoenix and Tampa were among the worst tracked, but areas that sat out the bubble, like Detroit, are also suffering. The argument I often hear about home prices never falling (because there's reliable government spending, big influx of population, blah, blah...) is shown to be a complete fiction, as D.C. area prices tumbled 7.2% y/y."

  • Surviving The Housing Bust: Economic Models vs. Reality (Roger Ehrenberg in Seeking Alpha, Sept. 24th): "[The] November 2001 Quarterly Journal of Economics study, “Loss Aversion and Seller Behavior: Evidence From the Housing Market: "Data on almost 6,000 Boston condominium listings from 1991-1997 showed that for essentially identical condominiums, people who had bought at the peak and were facing a loss generally listed their properties for significantly more than those who had bought at a time when prices were lower. Properties listed above the market price just sat there… People held out for unreasonable market prices... So by being hung up about whether your condominium will sell for what you paid for it… you may be threatening the very performance of the economy."

  • Housing Slump Hits Microsoft In Wallet (Seattle Times, Sept. 24th): "Microsoft's proxy statement: When Microsoft (NYSEMKT:MSN) hired Chief Financial Officer Chris Liddell in 2005, it bought Liddell's East Coast home — he lived in Connecticut — for a price based on independent appraisals, Reuters said. The company sold the house in the past fiscal year — for what's described as a significant, unspecified loss. The amount was included in a $2 million relocation expense. A Microsoft spokesman would not give Reuters more details, but did say the bulk of the expense consisted of the loss on the sale."

  • Sea Change at the Fed (John Mauldin's Newsletter, Sept. 21st): "Fed Governor Fred Mishkin: Central bankers should ease monetary policy quickly and aggressively in response to a big fall in housing prices… Policymakers should not wait until output falls, but should 'react immediately to the house price decline when they see it.' Optimal policy response was both quicker and more aggressive than that suggested by a standard policy rule, in which policymakers respond only to deviations in output and inflation… Simulations show that this approach 'can be very successful at counteracting the real effects' of even a large house price slump, because of the long lags from changes in housing wealth to changes in consumer spending."

Homebuilders And Housing Stocks

Lennar to Continue Discount Strategy (MSNBC, Sept. 25th): "Lennar, the second-largest US housebuilder… reported a net loss of $513.9 million in the three months to August 31 [vs.] $206.7m in the year-ago period. The loss included another $303M in writedowns… Lennar [had] booked a large loss in the prior quarter. Revenues from home sales fell 44% in the quarter, gross margins dipped to 14% as the average selling price fell to $296,000 and incentives climbed from $35,900-$46,000 per home. Lennar cut 35% of its workforce, expects further trimming in Q4… [and] provided [no] outlook for the full year… Liquidity remains relatively strong as banks have continued to extend credit lines… reducing concern of a bankruptcy among the major companies."

  • Bad Loans On Houses Are Being Negotiated (News Press, Sept. 24th) Florida: "Hovnanian Enterprises (HOV), is negotiating with a federal agency about what to do with a slew of shaky loans by Norlarco, a credit union that made numerous construction loans in Lee County — some of them for houses to be built by First Home, a subsidiary of Hovnanian… Norlarco, run by the National Credit Union Administration… collapsed earlier this year, mainly because loans they made to build houses [in Lee County] ran into problems when property values plummeted… Norlarco has loans totaling $238.4 million on 1,035 homes in Lee County… Hovnanian CFO: Hovnanian has a backlog in Lee County of 1,787 homes worth $496M."

  • Housing Woes Knock Down Stocks Of Builders (LA Times, Sept. 24th): "California money manager John Bollinger… recommends shares of home-building companies right now… Bollinger: A company's shares usually recover long before its business or financial results do. By the time a recovery is widely apparent, the best bargains are gone. "The news is going to remain negative long after the bottom [for the stocks] has been seen," said Paul Desmond, president of Lowry Research Corp., a stock research firm… Desmond estimates that earnings reports and industry news won't show improvement for 6-9 months after a recovery is underway."

  • Mispriced REITs: The St. Joe Company, Forest City Enterprises (Value Investor Insight in Seeking Alpha, Sept. 24th): "Third Avenue Management's Michael Winer: Banks valu[e] St. Joe's holdings [at a] net asset value [NAV] of about $3.1 billion, or $41/share… Compared with a stock price of $31… If you give the company any credit for creating future value and assume the real estate market in Florida recovers… we obviously think the current stock price is ridiculously low... Forest City Enterprises: If we ascribe no value to new projects, we come up with a range of NAVs – from conservative to aggressive – of $55-$70/share [shares are currently below $56]… At today's price you're paying NAV for in-place assets and getting the pipeline for nothing. [Forest] has increased NAV at nearly 20%/year for 15 years."

  • Win Some, Lose Some (Morris County Record, Sept. 24th) New Jersey: "Development and redevelopment in Morristown continue feverishly. There are the big projects such as the Epstein's redevelopment, the transit village and the Vail Mansion renovation… Development and redevelopment in Morristown continue feverishly. There are the big projects such as the Epstein's redevelopment, the transit village and the Vail Mansion renovation… A plan to build 66 residential units on a steep slope on Court Street has stalled… The mayor said that the developer, Pulte Homes, was looking to sell the project. But a spokesman for the developer said that's not the case. He said Pulte still wants to build on the site."

  • Land Trust Homes Go Modular (Orlando Sentinel, Sept. 23rd): "Providing affordable housing amid overheated real estate is a challenge in any city, but particularly vexing in one of Central Florida's most desired ZIP codes. The successful redevelopment of Winter Park's historically black west side has made that problem more acute as property values outpace the incomes of many of its residents… To help keep costs down the land trust turned this time to modular home builder Palm Harbor Homes (PHHM). The Comstock houses will be built at Palm Harbor's factory in Plant City, tested, disassembled, transported to Winter Park and reassembled on land the city gave to the trust."

  • An Interview With Housing Index Guru Robert Shiller (Index Universe in Seeking Alpha, Sept. 23rd): "Housing is so illiquid… In the housing futures contracts trading on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange [CME]… prices move on their own without a lot of relation to the prices in the cash market. So we’re seeing price discovery of a fundamental nature… [Real estate futures] are going to change the structure of pricing in the cash market... Eventually, people will be watching these futures prices when they set the price they ask for their home… Right now if somebody is pessimistic about the home market, there’s no way to short [it]… If you can provide an instrument to allow people to short the home market, then it ought to stabilize booms."

  • The Roof Is Caving In On The Housing Market (Index Universe in Seeking Alpha, Sept. 23rd): "[Housing] futures traders on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange [CME]… are putting real money on a major pullback in real estate prices. CME data [from the] November 2007 contract and runs annually through November 2011… By November 2009, prices will be down more than 10% in every city save Chicago. By November 2010, prices will be down 20% in Miami and San Francisco, and 15%+ in San Diego, Las Vegas and Washington, D.C. It gets worse in 2011... Factor in 3% annual inflation and the real value of these homes falls a further 11.5% by 2011, putting prices in Miami and San Francisco down 37% and 36% respectively on a real-dollar basis."

  • A Place For Everything And ... (Columbus Dispatch, Sept. 23rd): "Builders and professional organizers are [making] designs that help people stay ordered, from cubbyholes and hooks in mudrooms to charging stations in the kitchen that accommodate multiple electronic devices… Beazer Homes (NYSE:BZH)… has begun working with professional organizers to offer options to home buyers: "This is about saving time and being better organized," said Kim Whitler, chief marketing officer for Beazer Homes. The company's new program is called SmartDesign, for which it hired Atlanta professional organizer Monica Ricci. A Beazer survey revealed that Americans average 10 minutes a day looking for something that has been misplaced."

  • Host Of Builders Bleeding Greenbacks (Tampa Bay.com, Sept. 23rd): "KB Home (NYSE:KBH) chopped average [Florida] prices by about a third since the start of the year, Florida spokeswoman Cara Kane said. Some prices are approaching levels not seen since 2004… In some cases the price declines reflect a reduction in the size of the house. Since its entry into Tampa in 2001, KB made its mark selling homes in the 1,800-3,000-sf range, but now offers starter homes as small as 1,200-sf…Hovnanian Enterprises (HOV), [is] also toying with shrinking home sizes in an attempt to lure cash-pressed buyers. Windward's offerings in [some] neighborhoods… start at 1,046-sf and cost as little as $170,000… Centex (CTX) Home's west Florida division said cancellation rates are declining as the builder attracts more serious live-in buyers and fewer fast-flipping investors."

  • Hovnanian's Housing Hoedown (Motley Fool, Sept. 21st): "I draw two conclusions from Hovnanian's blowout: First, the approach seems to make sense for all builders looking to cut fat inventories. If they're going to cut land ruthlessly -- and appropriately -- it's ludicrous to maintain bloated inventories of unsold homes. It's clearly better to pare all parts of the business amid the current conditions than to chug along hoping for an overnight miracle. At the same time… I think we should wait until we see ear-to-ear smiles on the faces of the folks at mortgage lenders such as Countrywide (CFC) and Washington Mutual (NYSE:WM) before we place any buy orders on the builders."

  • Home Builders' Ads Bombard Buyers (Baltimore Business Journal, Sept. 21st): "In Baltimore City, Pulte Homes (NYSE:PHM) has reduced prices at its McHenry Pointe townhome development in South Baltimore, with three-bedroom townhouses cut back from $618,485 to $549,990... Metropolitan Regional Information Systems Inc.: The number of homes sold last month in the Baltimore region fell to 2,868, down 17% from August 2006... Beazer Homes (BZH) is well into its third development phase of about 156 homes in the Parke at Mount Washington … David L. Carney, head of Beazer Homes' Maryland region, said… it has been modestly increasing prices… [which] are averaging in the high $600,000 range, and Beazer hopes to start on a fourth phase of the Mount Washington project… with about 51 lots."

  • City Holding Bond Until Developer Makes Upgrades (Maryland Gazette, Sept. 20th): "Laurel city officials have held the bond of builder Beazer Homes pending completion of improvements to Contee Crossing subdivision… Contee Crossing homeowners say builder Beazer (BZH) has failed to address ongoing drainage and stormwater management problems. Laurel Mayor Craig Moe said the city is holding Beazer’s bonds pending completion of improvements… in the development, a new community of 37 colonial-style, single-family homes off Contee Road.. Jack Brock, Laurel’s deputy director of community planning and business services: It is rare for the city to call, or redeem, a developer’s bond, which the city could do if Beazer fails to deliver the improvements."

  • Downey Predicts Demise Of Another Centex Project (ZWire, Sept. 19th): "Fauquier County Supervisor Bill Downey [said] the 298-home Arrington Knolls proposal [was likely] dead. Centex Homes (CTX) wants annexation approval from Warrenton and Fauquier to incorporate a portion of the development site into town so that it could be served with municipal water and sewer… Luxury homebuilder Centex Corp. has promised to give Warrenton more than $15 million in exchange for town council support for the annexation plan. Last year, Centex agreed to give the town $22M and Fauquier $1.2M to annex the residential portion of Arrington Knolls but abruptly withdrew the offer… Three weeks ago, Centex abandoned its 358-home Freedom Place project in Bealeton, also without notice. It guaranteed Fauquier tens of million of dollars to improve public schools, roads and other infrastructure."

  • Centex Homes to Build BEST Homes in Roseville (Roseville & Rocklin Today, Sept. 19th) California: "Centex Homes (CTX) is partnering with Roseville Electric to include high energy efficiency measures, integrated rooftop solar technology and shade trees in approximately 450 new homes slated for the West Roseville Specific Plan Area... BEST Home builders receive generous rebates for an estimated 2.3 kW integrated rooftop solar electric generation system, as well as other energy saving features… Building 450 BEST Homes is equivalent to planting more than 6.2 million trees and avoids about 17.5 million pounds of greenhouse gas emissions over the next 25 years… With the BEST Homes measures, homeowners can save up to 50% on their electric energy costs."

Commercial Real Estate and Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs)

  • A Real-Estate Investment That Still Pays Off (Int'l Herald Tribune, Sept. 20th): "There was the initial severe reaction when all shares, including REITs, were down due to overall weakness in stock market sentiment and receding liquidity," said Wen Khai Meng, chief executive of Capitaland Commercial, which runs several REITs including Capitamall Trust, the largest REIT listed in Singapore. Wen is still bullish on REITs, and on markets generally. "Funds flow into Asia has resumed in September, and investors still have confidence in Asia and the REIT market." Sam Lieber, founder and lead portfolio manager of Alpine Woods Capital, a global real estate investment manager in New York: "We thought REIT valuation was stretched, so we pulled back and looked for other areas."

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