" " " Maine's Waterfront Real Estate News: 2009

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Home Prices Climb for 2nd Straight Quarter

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- Home prices rose for the second consecutive quarter but remained nearly 9% lower than a year earlier, according to a housing market report issued Tuesday.

Prices nationwide rose 3.1% in the three months ended Sept. 30, according to the S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price Index, a closely watched gauge of housing market direction. That followed a similar 3.1% rise during the second quarter of the year.

Prices were still below a year ago, however, down 8.9% compared with the third quarter of 2008. Nevertheless, that's an improvement from the double-digit price decreases the index had been reporting; the second quarter year-over-year decline was 14.7%. Prices had dropped 19% year-over-year during the first quarter of 2009.
0:00 /2:49Economic progress really a bust

"We have seen broad improvement in home prices for most of the past six months," says David Blitzer, Chairman of the Index Committee at Standard & Poor's.

The Case-Shiller 20-City Composite index posted its fifth monthly increase in a row in September, rising 0.3% from August levels.

The worst performing market continued to be Las Vegas, where prices have dropped for 37 consecutive months. They're now 55.4% off their highs.

Midwestern cities staged a comeback in September, with Minneapolis and Detroit prices each gaining 1.8%, the most of any of the 20-cities covered. Chicago prices jumped 1.2%; San Francisco climbed 1.3%; and Los Angeles and Phoenix both rose 0.8%.

Stopping the home price slide is an important factor in any economic recovery. Falling prices increase the number of "underwater" homeowners, those who owe more on their mortgage balances than their homes are worth.

Underwater mortgage borrowers are much more likely to lose their homes to foreclosure. Indeed, it's a crucial factor in whether people lose their homes or not, as Mark Goldman, a San Diego State University real estate professor pointed out.

"If they have a home worth $300,000 and they owe $250,000 and can't pay their mortgage, they'll just sell the house," he said.

It's when they have a house worth $200,000 and they owe $250,000 that these people default, because the sale of the house would not pay their whole debt.

A report from First American CoreLogic released Tuesday, revealed that nearly a quarter of all mortgage borrowers are underwater. That, as well as the ongoing foreclosure problem, has contributed to doubt about the staying power of the recent price trend.

"I think it's temporary," said Pat Newport, a real estate analyst with IHS Global Insight. "I can't see home prices stabilizing as long as we have that problem."

According to Newport, foreclosures could worsen over the next several months as many toxic loans go through resets, making them much less affordable for their borrowers.

A significant contributor to the improvements in the housing markets have been programs such as the tax credit for first-time homebuyers, according to Bob Walters, the chief economist for Quicken Loans.

"[But] the real driver in all of this -- from home sales to home pricing appreciation -- has been the protracted run of favorable mortgage rates," he said. "It will be interesting to see how home prices react when we see rates begin to increase, as they are sure to do over time." To top of page

Monday, November 23, 2009

Maine Real Estate Sales up 39%

SOUTH PORTLAND (November 23, 2009) — For a fifth consecutive month, sales of singlefamilyexisting homes increased dramatically in the state of Maine. Realtors sold 1,247 homesacross Maine’s 16 counties – a jump of 39.02 percent since last October. According to theMaine Real Estate Information System, the median sales price dipped 3.51 percent in the past12 months to $165,000. The median sales price indicates that half of the homes sold for moreand half sold for less.
The National Association of Realtors today reports a nationwide home sales increase of 21.4percent since October 2008. The national median existing sales price of $173,100 reflects adip of 6.8 percent. In the regional Northeast, sales rose 27.7 percent. The regional mediansales price declined 2.6 percent to $235,400.
REALTOR Sharon Millett of Coldwell Banker Millett Realty in Auburn says, “It's very
encouraging to see strong continued growth in sales for the past five months in Maine. Buyersare responding positively to the first time homebuyer tax credit of $8,000 and now that it hasjust been expanded to $6,500 for all buyers, we expect this trend to continue and grow.”
With the current uptick in activity, Millett says, “Buyers really want to find a home now,which makes it the perfect time for sellers to list their property for sale.”

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Home Sales Jump

By Renae Merle
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, October 23, 2009; 12:43 PM

Existing home sales jumped 9.4 percent in September to their highest level in two years, fueled by first-time home buyers pouncing on cheap prices and an $8,000 tax credit, according to industry data released Friday morning.

Sales of existing homes, including condos and single-family residences, reached an annual rate of 5.57 million units in September, their highest level since July 2007, according to the National Association of Realtors. That is better than what analysts were expecting and up 9.2 percent from the same period a year ago.

Sales were up throughout the country. In the South, which includes the Washington region, sales rose 9 percent last month.

"Much of the momentum is from people responding to the first-time buyer tax credit, which is freeing many sellers to make a trade and buy another home," Lawrence Yun, the group's chief economist, said in a statement.

The $8,000 tax credit expires at the end of next month, and industry lobbyists are pushing Congress to extend and expand the program. Without it, the sales momentum could be derailed before the housing sector can make a substantial recovery, the industry argues.

"We would expect higher sales levels to persist through October and into November before collapsing in December if the credit is not extended," Adam G. York, an economist for Wells Fargo, said in a research note.

But some analysts have questioned whether the pickup in sales is being fueled by the tax credit or falling home prices and low interest rates. The tax credit may be pushing some potential buyers to purchase homes earlier than they otherwise would have, rather than generating new sales, they say.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Maine's New Down Payment Assistance Program

AUGUSTA – MaineHousing current popular Gift of Green promotion ends November 30, but the agency will have a new promotion in place to help first-time homebuyers with their down payment and closing costs, MaineHousing Director Dale McCormick said.

Eligible homebuyers need to act quickly if they want to take advantage of the current Gift of Green offer before it changes, said McCormick. Borrowers must have their loan reserved with one of MaineHousing’s participating lenders by November 30 to qualify.

The current Gift of Green promotion provides MaineHousing borrowers with a grant of up to four percent of their mortgage, to a maximum of $5,000, to help pay for the down payment and closing costs on the home they are buying. It also provides them with a coupon for a home energy audit worth up to $500.

“Beginning December 1, our revised Gift of Green promotion will provide all MaineHousing borrowers with a flat amount ? $2,500 ? to help with down payment and closing costs,” said McCormick. “It also will continue providing the $500 gift coupon for home energy audits.”

McCormick noted that about 800 Maine families have used or are using the Gift of Green program to buy their first home, well over the goal of 500 homes MaineHousing set when the program started in mid-June.

She credited strong support for the program from partners such as the Maine Association of Realtors, the Maine Association of Community Banks, and the Maine Credit Union League as one reason for the program’s success.

“This has been the most successful homeownership promotion we ever have offered,” McCormick said. “It came at a very crucial time to help stimulate Maine’s housing market and get potential homebuyers off the fence.”

Thursday, September 17, 2009

U.S. Housing Starts, Permits at 9 Month High

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - New U.S. housing starts and permits rose in August to their highest level in nine months and the number of people filing of unemployment benefits fell last week, evidence a solid economic recovery was underway.

The Commerce Department said on Thursday housing starts rose 1.5 percent from July to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 598,000 units.

Groundbreaking for single-family homes, fell 3 percent in August to an annual rate of 479,000 units, after five straight monthly increases. Starts for the volatile multifamily segment jumped 25.3 percent to a 119,000 annual pace, reversing the previous month's slump.

Compared to August last year, housing starts declined 29.6 percent. The housing market, the main trigger of the worst U.S. recession in seven decades, is showing steady signs of healing and analysts expect activity in the sector to contribute to gross domestic product growth this quarter.

A survey on Wednesday showed confidence among U.S. home builders reached its highest level in 16 months in September, which bodes well for future home construction.

New building permits, which give a sense of future home construction, climbed 2.7 percent to 579,000 units in August. That compared to analysts' forecasts for 580,000 units. Compared to the same period a year-ago, building permits fell 32.4 percent.

The inventory of total houses under construction fell to a record low 595,000 units in August, the department said, while the total number of permits authorized but not yet started also hit an all-time trough of 99,000 units.

(Reporting by Lucia Mutikani and Alister Bull; Editing by Neil Stempleman)

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Home Sales Jump In July

SOUTH PORTLAND (August 21, 2009) - For a second consecutive month, Maine’s home
sales are on the rise. According to the Maine Real Estate Information System, Inc. (MREIS),
1,154 single-family existing homes sold last month - up 11.82 percent from July 2008. The
median sales price (MSP) for those homes decreased 13.8 percent to $165,500, compared
with July 2008. The median sales price indicates that half of the homes were sold for more
and half sold for less.
The National Association of Realtors (NAR) reports a five percent nationwide existing home
sales increase in July. The national MSP dropped 14.6 percent to $178,300. In the regional
Northeast, home sales rose 3.3 percent and the regional median MSP decreased 15 percent to
REALTOR® Jeff Wooster of Lynam Real Estate Agency in Bar Harbor says, “If you are
looking for the bottom of the Maine real estate market, you may have missed it. Existing
home sales are up again this month and inventory is declining. Buyers are back in the market
and real estate is climbing out.”

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Maine a Leader in Home Sales Recovery

Northeast home sales are poised for a big spring bounce

In the latest sign of a bottoming real estate market, the National Association of Realtors said June 2 that its seasonally-adjusted index of sales contracts signed jumped for the third straight month, surging 6.7% in April compared to March and 3.2% compared to April 2008. It was the biggest monthly gain since October 2001 and the first year-over-year gain since August.

Pending home sales are considered a leading indicator because sales are typically finalized a month or two after contracts are signed.

Interestingly, the Northeast appears to be heading for a big bounce in home sales. The Pending Home Sales Index in the Northeast (made up of New England, New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania) rose 32.6% from March and 0.8% from April 2008. Of course, not all of those contracts will lead to sales because mortgages can fall through and some contracts are contingent on a buyer selling a home elsewhere.

The Realtor group doesn’t breakdown the statewide pending home data but spokesman Walter Moloney told me that Maine, Rhode Island, and parts of New Jersey are beginning to “recover.”

It seems that the federal government’s $8,000 tax incentive for first-time buyers is working.

Vincent Valvo, group publisher The Warren Group, which puts out housing reports on New England, said first-time buyers are likely using the federal credit to buy foreclosed homes and other deeply-discounted properties.

But the activity does not yet constitute “such a wave that it will overcome all the housing problems we’ve had,” he said. “But it is better than it was.”

The state associations usually don’t track pending sales. But the Massachusetts Association of Realtors has just started collecting that data, though it doesn’t adjust for seasonal variations. For what it’s worth, single-family pending sales in Massachusetts increased 18.4% in April compared March but declined 8.5% compared to a year earlier.

Pending Home Sales Rise for 3rd Straight Month

By Phil Mintz

Contracts signed show a big jump, especially in the Northeast, another indicator the market may be bottoming.

Low interest rates and an $8,000 tax credit for first-time home buyers helped push pending home sales up for the third month in a row, another indication that the decline in the real estate market may be stabilizing, the National Association of Realtors reported on June 2.

The group's Pending Home Sales Index, a forward-looking indicator based on contracts signed in April, rose 6.7%, to 90.3 from a reading of 84.6 in March, and is 3.2% above April 2008, when it was 87.5, the group said. Economists surveyed by Thomson Reuters (TRI) had expected the index would edge up to 85 from a reading of 84.6 in March. It was the biggest monthly jump since October 2001.

Pending home sales activity was greatest in the Northeast, where the index increased 32.6%, to 78.9, in April, 0.8% above a year ago. The only region that showed a decrease was the South, where the index declined 0.2%, to 93.0, 3.5% higher than a year ago. In the Midwest the index rose 9.8%, to 90.4, and is 11.1% above April 2008. In the West the index rose 1.8%, to 94.8, but is 2.9% below a year ago.
Very Favorable Conditions

Lawrence Yun, the group's chief economist, said buyers are responding to very favorable market conditions, and while the total number of existing-home sales is expected to improve, there will be sharp local variations. "The market has already bottomed in some areas, but this is an unusual housing cycle with some areas improving rapidly while others languish or decline," Yun said in a news release.

Typically there is a one- to two-month lag between a contract and a done deal, so the index is a barometer for future existing-home sales.

Paul Dales, U.S. economist for Capital Economics in Toronto, said in a report that if the April increase in pending home sales is reflected fully in existing-home sales numbers, it would bring them to an annual rate of 5.1 million, a level last seen before the collapse of Lehman Brothers in September.

"The pending home sales index has now improved for three months in a row, adding to the evidence that housing activity is finding a floor," Dales wrote. Nevertheless, even if existing-home sales were to rise to 5.1 million, they would still be 30% below their peak. Accordingly, even if activity is finding a floor, it is at staggeringly low levels."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Mintz is news editor for BusinessWeek.com in New York.

Monday, April 27, 2009

A New Look (For Our Website)

We have continued to make improvements to our website, which we would invite you to take a look at if you haven’t recently…www.WaterfrontPropertiesOfMaine.com.

A major change is that we have added some outstanding photos of the state of Maine taken by Paul Vose, a well-known photographer from Cape Elizabeth. His specialty is aerial/panoramic photos taken with specialized equipment. As you will see, the results are fairly spectacular. You can order prints of his photos in several sizes -- and framed if you like. Just go to his website www.eaarts.com for a look at his images and ordering information.

Other recent improvements include “Interactive Maps” for each category of waterfront property, which lets you locate each listing on a map of Maine – and each listing now has a “Body of Water” button, which, when clicked, will give you extensive information on the lake, river or coastal area where the property is located.

Stay tuned for future improvements…

Monday, April 6, 2009

"Now" is the Time to Buy...

There is an old saying in real estate circles: “NOW is always the best time to buy”. Why? Because it is always a good time to buy a good piece of real estate, at a good price -- if it meets your needs.

Historically, real estate in the United States has always increased in value over the long run – and it is the best wealth building tool available to individuals -- plus for the majority of Americans, it ends up being the largest slice of their net worth and financial estate.

Today, given the current market conditions, many professionals think this is the best buying opportunity in decades:

1) Selection: There is an unusually large inventory of properties to choose from.
2) Prices: There has been an average decline in prices of 20-30% since the peak of the market 2 years ago.
3) Interest Rates. With decent credit, 30 year fixed mortgages at 5% (and perhaps going down to the 4% range) are historic lows, making lower priced housing even more affordable.
4) Timing: Because of real estate’s cyclical nature, sooner or later the inventory will decline (it is already starting to be absorbed by bargain hunters), prices will level off, interest rates will start to rise, sellers will become less flexible…and the bottom will be behind us. We think buyers will have this unique opportunity through the first half of 2009 before the market begins to change -- as it always does.


Sunday, March 22, 2009

Our Stimuls Program: Save Hundreds, Maybe Thousands.

Housing has always led the way out of economic downturns. To play our part in re-invigorating the real estate market, Waterfront Properties of Maine will contribute 20% of their commission to our Buyer’s closing costs on any sale completed before July 1, 2009. Depending on the size of the sale, this could amount to several hundred – to possibly several thousand dollars in savings…

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Obama's Stimulus Program: Free Money, Other Perks

With the signing of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, the federal government has made some bold and unprecedented moves to stimulate the housing market.

America’s home buyers and homeowners will soon have:

1) Lower interest rates for home mortgages, probably in the 4% range.

2) A greater ability to get financing through FHA, Fannie Mae and Feddie Mac in high cost areas.

3) Foreclosure mitigation and short sale standards.

4) A true tax credit incentive to buy a home NOW. If you are a first time home buyer or have not owned a home in the last 3 years, and you purchase a home this year of 2009, have an adjusted gross income of less than $75,000 ($150,000 on a joint return), then it is likely that you will qualify for $8000.00 tax incentive which is almost FREE money that you won’t have to repay, unless you resell your home in the next 3 years.

For more details, you can go to either http://www.federalhousingtaxcredit.com/2009/faq.php or to http://mainerealtors.com/First-TimeHomebuyerTaxCreditFAQ.pdf.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Fall In Home Prices Boost Sales

Fast-dropping interest rates and the most affordable homes in more than three decades helped prop up the staggering residential real estate market in December, according to a report released Tuesday.

The pending home sales index increased 6.3 percent to 87.7 in December, the first gain since August, according to the National Association of Realtors. The December figure is also 2.1 percent higher than the same month in 2007.

The closely watched index is a forward-looking indicator based on contracts signed in December -- or basically the number of home sales in process. The West region had a mixed report with the index declining 3.7 percent to 97.5, but was 17.5 percent better than December 2007.

“The monthly gain in pending home sales spurred by buyers responding to lower home prices and mortgage interest rates more than offset an index decline in the previous month,” NAR chief economist Lawrence Yun said in a news release. “The biggest gains were in areas with the biggest improvements in affordability.”

The NAR’s Housing Affordability Index increased 10.9 percent to 158.8, the highest since the index started in 1970.

“Significant uncertainty still clouds the housing market despite improved affordability conditions,” Yun said. “For a sustainable housing market recovery and, hence, sustainable economic recovery, we need a significant housing stimulus and mortgage availability for qualified buyers.”

February 3, 2009

San Francisco Business Times