Housing Market Tracker - Affordable Housing Hasn't Enabled Affordability

by: Judy Weil

Quote of the Day

March numbers "will be up again, I can promise you, based on what we are seeing. They are up all over the state." - Dusty Sutton, Florida broker-owner of Sutton and Sutton Realty in Orlando, said about the rising pace of sales in Florida this past month. (Orlando Sentinel, Mar. 31st)

House Sales and Price Data

Signs of an Upturn in Luxury Market? “Toll Brothers CEO Bob Toll: “In the Naples-Fort Myers market, sales activity is definitely up for new homes on the market at reduced prices. That’s a definite contrast to late 2007, when you couldn’t give away a home regardless of price. In Orlando… it takes a real bargain to interest buyers. Many buyers are walking away from deposits — a trend that’s prompted the company to require additional funds as its new homes move toward completion. The luxury Jacksonville market “is in the doldrums in a serious way… While the demographics are different in Palm Beach County and the Treasure Coast — far more snowbirds and preretirees — the sales pace is also slow.” (Florida Trends, Apr. 1st)

Pending Sales is Lone Bright Spot in Struggling Market. “Orlando Regional Realtor Association: New pending contracts rose from 1,239 in January to 1,537 in February… Housing prices are off anywhere from 10%-30% from a year ago in many locations… Lee County saw a 33% [pending sales] increase to 1,088 by mid-February, compared with mid-January. The average number of months it was taking to sell a home there dropped to 12, from 22.98 months in December. Broward County was looking at an increase of 65% from January-February, including condos and town homes... The Naples Board of Realtors in hard-hit Collier County reported 513 pending sales in February, up 24% from January and actually 10% higher than in February 2007.” (Orlando Sentinel, Mar. 31st)

Rutland Real Estate Sales Plunge in ’07. “Vermont: Single-family home sales in Rutland County fell 15% last year, according to state property transfer tax data. Statewide, sales fell 16%. There were 612 single-family homes sold in the county in 2007 compared to 717 the previous year. Statewide, there were 5,820 homes sold last year compared to 6,919 the prior year. MLS: There were 582 homes sold in Rutland County last year, a decline from 2006 when there were 684 sales… Economist and University of Vermont professor Arthur Woolf: Home sales statewide will continue to decline again this year, following an 18% decline last year and a 16% drop in 2006.” (Rutland Herald, Mar. 31st)

Housing Downturn Hits All. “Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke lives in Washington's Capitol Hill area in a four-bedroom, 2,600-square-foot house he bought new in May 2004 for $839,000… William Wheaton, an MIT economist: The value of Bernanke's home "probably went up to $1.1 million and it's probably back down to $840,000," because prices in Washington just a couple years ago "got out of control…” Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight: Home values in the U.S. capital were up 96% in the five-year period to Q3’07. [But] the median home price on Capitol Hill last year fell to $545,000, from $550,000 a year earlier.” (Bloomberg via Chicago Tribune, Mar. 30th)

Bargains: The Sunny Side of the Housing Slump. "Houses too burdensome for their previous owners have become ways for new owners to build nest eggs for retirement and college. While the market for foreclosed and distressed homes is tough to master, rock-bottom prices in some areas have tempted renters and investors out of the woodwork. Some buy a single house and flip it for a profit. Some buy in hopes of becoming a landlord. And some buy because it's now cheaper than renting.” (MSN Real Estate, Mar. 30th)

Rethinking Real Estate. “In more than 300 cities and counties across the U.S., residential developers [must] include affordable housing in their projects. Critics say that such “inclusionary zoning” policies reduce the number of homes built and drive up prices. The Furman Center for Real Estate and Urban Policy, which studied how the programs affected housing in San Francisco, Boston and Washington [says] if there are jumps in prices, they are minimal… In suburban Boston, the policy “seems to have resulted in small decreases in production and slight increases in the prices of single-family houses…” [But] inclusionary zoning by itself does not do all that much to create affordable housing.” (NY Times, Mar. 29th)

Vacation Home Sales and Prices Tumble as Buyers Wait. “NAR: Vacation home sales in the U.S. tumbled 31% last year and real estate bought for speculation dropped 18% as mortgage lenders tightened standards. Sales dropped to 740,000 from a record 1.07 million in 2006, the Chicago-based Realtors said Friday. Sales of investment properties, which typically are resold without the buyers ever living in them, fell to 1.35 million from 1.65 million a year earlier. Even as Baby Boomers, the 76 million Americans born between 1946-1964, approach their peak earning years they are holding back on purchasing a vacation home.” (Bloomberg, Mar. 28th)

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