The #Housing Market Is Experiencing ‘Dangerous Foreclosure Flare-Ups’ #realestate

Seattle skyline

February foreclosure filings increased two percent month-over-month (MoM) in February, according to the latest foreclosure report from RealtyTrac. These include default notices, auctions, and real estate owned (REOs) properties. But filings were down 25 percent from a year ago. One in every 849 homes received a foreclosure filing in February, down from a foreclosure rate of one in every 869 homes the previous month.

“The U.S. foreclosure inferno has been effectively contained,” according to Daren Blomquist, vice president at RealtyTrac. “But dangerous foreclosure flare-ups are still popping up in states where foreclosures have been delayed by a lengthy court process or by new legislation making it more difficult to foreclose outside of the court system.”

Foreclosure flare-ups

In Washington for instance, foreclosure activity was up for the 10th straight month, rising two percent MoM, and up 123 percent from a year ago. It now has the nation’s fifth-highest foreclosure rate, for the first time since RealtyTrac began reporting on foreclosures in 2005.

Maine saw an over 400 percent year-over-year (YoY) surge in foreclosure activity. Meanwhile, Maryland’s foreclosure activity was up for the eighth straight month, rising 105 percent on the year and 49 percent on the month.

 

And the rise in Maryland’s foreclosure activity was driven by a 319 percent jump in foreclosure starts – the pace at which mortgages enter the foreclosure process. 

Overall, foreclosure starts were up 10 percent in February, rising for the first time in three months. They were however down 25 percent YoY.

Rising foreclosure starts are cause for concern, because the decline in inventory supported home prices, and in large part helped drive the housing recovery.

Housing analysts have been revising up their 2013 home price forecasts, with Bank of America Merill Lynch and Capital Economics calling for an eight percent rise in home prices.

For now, Florida, Nevada and Illinois continue to have the nation’s highest foreclosure rates.

 

SOURCE: Business Insider

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There Is One Crucial Obstacle To The #Housing Recovery #realestate

Housing analysts have been turning extremely bullish and a few expect home prices to rise 8 percent this year.

Paul Diggle at Capital Economics is one of them. But the housing recovery still has some hurdles it needs to clear.

“Capacity constraints in lenders’ mortgage departments are one of the few remaining bottlenecks in the housing recovery and one of the factors contributing to the marginal role being played by mortgage- dependent buyers,” he writes.

While some people focus on the slow rise in residential construction employment, Diggle pays more attention to the slow pace of job growth in the real estate credit sector.

Between 2005 – 2009, employment in the real estate credit sector fell by 45 percent, while mortgage applications fell 75 percent. Since then however, mortgage applications have “almost doubled”, according to Diggle, while job growth in the real estate credit sector has only increased by seven percent.

Admittedly real estate credit workers tend to have a smaller role in the economy than home construction workers, but this is key to the capacity constraints among mortgage lenders, which in turn is impacting the housing recovery.

The number of mortgage applications being processed by each employee is close to a record high. And the time taken to process a loan is also at “historically high” levels.

“Lenders’ need to manage the level of mortgage applications given their constrained processing capacity is one explanation for why mortgage rates are at record highs relative to MBS yields and credit scoring criteria are very strict. All of this has helped contribute to the marginal role being played by mortgage-dependent buyers in the housing recovery.

“Either way, the bottom line is that an easing in capacity constraints is a necessary precondition to mortgage buyers playing a fuller role in the housing recovery.”

Employment in real estate credit and morgage applications chart

Capital Economics

SOURCE: Business Insider

There Are 4 Big Pieces Of #Housing Data Coming Out This Week #realestate

A full moon rises over manhattan

Economists have been getting increasingly bullish on housing, with some expecting home prices to rise 8 percent this year.To gauge the housing recovery analysts watch data points including home sales and inventory for insight into how tight the housing supply is.

They also watch for sentiment among home builders.

This week we see four important housing data points. Here’s what to expect:

  • The NAHB housing market index for March is out on Monday at 10 a.m. ET. Economists polled by Bloomberg are looking for homebuilder sentiment to rise to 47, from 46 the previous month.
  • Housing Starts for February are out 8:30 a.m. ET on Tuesday. Economists polled by Bloomberg are looking for housing starts to rise 2.8 percent month-over-month to 915,000, compared with the 8.5 percent decline in January to 890,000. Meanwhile, building permits are expected to rise 2.1 percent to 923,000, compared with a 1.8 percent rise in January to 925,000.
  • On Thursday, we get the FHFA house price index (HPI) for January at 9 a.m. ET. Economists polled by Bloomberg are looking for HPI to rise 0.7 percent month-over-month, compared with 0.6 percent the previous month.
  • Existing home sales for February are also out on Thursday, at 10 a.m. ET. Economists polled by Bloomberg are looking for existing home sales to rise 1.6 percent month-over-month to an annual rate of 5 million, compared with a 0.4 percent rise to an annual rate of 4.92 million in January. 

While monthly data tends to be volatile, it gives us insight into developing trends in the housing market.

SOURCE: Business Insider

Agents use video to personalize listings

For tech-savvy buyers, real estate agents go to the video

By Katherine Reynolds Lewis and ,
Occasionally, when real estate agent James Lisowski is at an open house, someone will approach him and say: “You’re the guy on the video!”Started about a year ago as a way to stand out, Lisowski’s online video home tours have garnered him and his fellow agents a small following and become an important tool in their marketing strategy: targeting tech-savvy buyers who increasingly are conducting much of their search through their mobile devices.

“A big piece of the puzzle . . . is loss aversion,” Humphries said. “In January, 27 percent of sales in the D.C. metro area were losses. Most sellers are loath to sell their home at a loss, and many are still anchored on the peak-level prices.”

“Essentially, the housing market has become like a game of musical chairs,” Humphries added. “People won’t get out of their seats because they’re afraid they won’t be able to find another seat to sit down in.”

As a result, sellers who aren’t underwater and want to list often are in a better bargaining position. In February, they were, on average, able to get 97.1 percent of their list price. The 10-year average for that month is 95.5 percent.

Even in a seller’s market, it’s not a given that anyone can simply put up a for-sale sign and expect a wave of offers pushing the property well above list price. Supply and demand — the biggest factors in determining sale prices — can vary dramatically from one neighborhood to another.

Still, with all things being equal, experts say, what can distinguish one house from another in popular neighborhoods are the right pricing strategy and buzz.

Pricing, listing strategies

For Rob and Debbie Seidner, getting ready has meant months of gradually clearing out the toy clutter of their 1-year-old daughter and 4-year-old son and caulking and touching up the paint on their Capitol Hill rowhouse, even though it was gutted and rebuilt two years ago.

“Our house really is move-in ready,” said Rob Seidner, expressing concern about the competition. “We do have a completely redesigned, brand-new house, but most of the ones on the market, you’d be the first ones living there.”

His real estate agent is tracking every listing and sale in the area, making sure that he knows the condition and details of each home, and staying attuned to the changing market. The Seidners have communicated three price points to their agent: the lowest they could possibly accept, the level at which they’d break even and the price at which they could move out immediately.

“We know what he thinks is a really great price, and if someone’s coming in and blowing that out of the water, it’s easy enough to put our things in storage,” said Seidner, 36, who works in human resources at the Transportation Department. The family aims to move to the suburbs, he says, so the children will have better school opportunities.

Whether to list slightly above market, exactly at the market or slightly below in hopes of attracting more interest and driving up the price are hot issues among real estate agents.

Jennifer Nangle, an agent based in the District with Re/Max Realty Services, says she prices homes about 1 percent below the market value in hopes of attracting multiple offers and moving higher.

But Traci Levine, an agent with Long and Foster in Potomac, said, “I’m pushing the envelope with my pricing.” Levine, noting that every listing since January has sold, added: “The good houses are going within a matter of hours to days. There’s just nothing on the market.”

Recently, she listed a Potomac house with an unfinished basement for $920,000 and received multiple offers, when the previous comparable sale from nearly three years ago was $880,000, with a finished basement.

In Northern Virginia, Mary Bayat, broker-owner of Bayat Realty in Alexandria, says she prices houses $5,000 to $8,000 above comparable sales to leave room for negotiation.

“We don’t do that,” Fulcrum agent Tom Kavanagh said. “We try to hit it right on. We don’t want to overprice it.”

The best day of the week to introduce a listing to the market is also a matter of debate. Redfin advised a Friday debut, to land on the top of a buyer’s mobile phone queue when he’s planning his weekend house shopping. Redfin’s historical data show that homes listed on Friday sell faster and closer to the asking price than on any other day of the week.

Other agents prefer to list on Wednesday or Thursday to leave more time to get prospective buyers’ attention.

But in terms of when the buying season will begin, agents and experts agreed that waiting until your flowers bloom may be too late. “We’re in the throes of the spring market now,” said Long and Foster’s Levine. “If you wait until late March or April, you’ll have more properties competing.”

The art of the video

“I’m hanging out in Petworth today right outside President Lincoln’s cottage. He spent over a quarter of his whole presidency here,” says Phil Di Ruggiero in his video on the District’s Petworth neighborhood.

“Let’s go ask him why,” says Di Ruggiero, a real estate agent who owns and serves as marketing director of GreenLine Real Estatein D.C., holding a microphone to the mouth of a statue of Lincoln. “No comment,” he says, then shifts the microphone to the mouth of a statue of Lincoln’s horse. “Let’s go talk to someone who actually lives here now and see what they think.”

Di Ruggiero says he strives for broadcast quality in his seven-minute videos, often employing humor to make them engaging. He says he wants to make house-hunting a fun experience for buyers, rather than drudgery in having to click through photos online.

When he began this marketing campaign in 2009, he said, he paid someone to produce the videos, adding that good ones can cost $5,000. Since then, he has purchased equipment, studied the art of video-making and now produces them himself.

He has produced about 30 videos on D.C. neighborhoods — what he calls mini-documentaries — and on individual properties. One video he produced shows people at an open house raving about a Columbia Heights condo.

He considers 1,500 page views to be a success.

“You can’t fudge with video. For people to give it any credence, they have to feel as though it has the same polish and feel as what they see on television,” he said. Familiarize yourself with “fast editing and fast cuts,” he urges other agents.

Videos are a growing segment of real estate marketing but are not yet widely used, experts say.

In a recent survey by the National Association of Realtors, 14 percent of sellers questioned said their agent used video to market their home, up from 9 percent in 2007. In that same survey, 45 percent of buyers questioned said they found video tours very useful.

“Over the last couple of years, we came from virtually no use of video,” says Paul Bishop, the association’s vice president for research. “Now sellers are looking for creative ways to market their homes. Video . . . is something I can use to really market my home over and above advertising, a mention in the paper, an open house or sign in my front yard. Technology is making it feasible to reach a broader audience.”

Finding the right buyer

Fulcrum Properties Group uses a full-time videographer to make video tours of every home the D.C. real estate firm lists, pointing out different features of the house.

The firm distributes links to the video to brokers, agents and interested buyers, as well as the homeowner’s networks, which with just-listed cards and in-person visits to neighbors will build buzz for the first open house. “That first weekend we’ll get 50 bodies through. It builds a little frenzy,” said Fulcrum’s Tom Kavanagh.

Once the offers start coming in, experts say, it is time to shift from creative thinking to critical thinking.

Remove emotions from the process and focus on your goal: a single, qualified buyer who can consummate the deal in your required time, within your price parameters. As appealing as the scenario of multiple offers and a bidding war seems, that may signal to your buyer’s lender that the home isn’t worth the purchase price — and the financing could fall through, costing you the sale.

“You want one person that’s well qualified, that has a wonderful lender and a great settlement attorney and is going to settle between 30 and 45 days,” said Kavanagh.

Be realistic. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter how hot the market is for other sellers, but for your specific circumstance.

“The market is great, but it matters how you present yourself in the market,” agent Bayat said. “The most important thing is, what is your goal, what do you want to achieve?”

Katherine Reynolds Lewis is a freelance writer.

Source: The Washington Post

Why A Bunch Of Economists Expect The US Housing Market To Go On A Huge Tear

 

Bank of America has again revised up its home price forecast to 8 percent for 2013, up from 4.7 percent.This is after a 7.3 percent rise in 2012.

In a new report titled “Someone say House Party?”, BAML’s Chris Flanagan, Michelle Meyer, and Justin Borst write that “a positive feedback loop has begun”. Basically, when people think home prices are rising, they think they will keep doing so and  credit conditions will improve, and this in increases demand for homes.

And there’s proof of this. Fannie Mae‘s latest survey shows that 48 percent of respondents believe that home prices will rise over the next 12 months, only 10 percent forecast a fall.

“It is a powerful positive relationship especially in this environment of historically low interest rates and a Federal Reserve determined to keep policy accommodative.”

Tight housing supply and affordability are likely to stoke demand and push home prices higher.

What’s more, the declining inventory isn’t being driven by demand like it was during the housing boom, but by declining supply. And the drag from shadow inventory was also a lot lower than expected.

In a note out yesterday, Capital Economics’ Paul Diggle also upwardly revised his home price forecast to 8 percent for the year, up from his previous call for a 5 percent rise.

“Prices of both new and existing homes are picking up, the latter by over 10% year-on- year. Indeed, after a couple of years during which new house prices outperformed, primarily owing to builders constructing more homes for the higher-end market, we now expect existing house prices to close the gap.

As more consumers are able to access mortgage credit, homebuilders should widen their offering, while continued investment demand will bid up existing house prices.”

 

new and exisitng home price sales chart

Capital Economics

 
And Ivy Zelman was on CNBC yesterday saying “we’re in a nirvana for housing. I’m the most bullish I’ve ever been”.

BAML’s economists expect home prices to rise despite tepid economic growth. This is because the Fed will continue to keep mortgage rates low. Only a huge jolt to the payrolls would hurt the housing recovery.

Both BAML economists and Diggle however expect the pace of home price growth to decline in 2014. BAML forecasts 6.5 percent in 2014. Diggle expects 5 percent growth in 2014 and 2015 because he thinks large gains in home prices can’t be sustained through investor demand.

Read more: http://www.businessinsider.com/baml-us-home-prices-to-rise-8-2013-3#ixzz2NO4Ljbuv

Real-estate scam are a big boomer complaint #housing

Most U.S. real-estate markets are past the worst of the housing bust, but homeowners—especially boomers—are still citing real-estate scams and mortgage frauds among their biggest complaints to federal regulators.

According to the Federal Trade Commission, real estate and mortgage issues were both in the top 25 categories of complaints for 2011 and 2012. And those in their 50s had the most to complain about, accounting for 23% of all fraud complaints.

Many boomers may be seeking to downsize from large family homes, while others are overextended or upside down in their mortgage.

Whether selling, buying or both, consumers need to beware of schemes to defraud them in what is likely one of if not the biggest asset in their portfolio: their home.

Many real estate scams just keep reinventing themselves, becoming the same old trick using a new way to get victims.

Paul Barbagelata, broker-owner of Barbagelata Real Estate in San Francisco, has worked in real estate for 23 years. His family has been in the business since 1952 and over the past 61 years they have seen some of the oldest scams come, go and come right back again.

“Forgery of documents showing someone is the owner of a property but really is not,” is one major problem, he said. “It’s been reinvented with technology as the duplicating of notary stamps and grant deeds is much easier with the use of the Internet,” he said.

He said, “selling swampland in Florida is the old-time ultimate scam.” But in recent years, he said, he’s seen scams “selling empty lots to people in rural areas who are promised utility service but never get it.”

Would-be homeowners also should not buy or rent property without seeing it first. That dream retirement home can be a nightmare if you fall for an online real estate scam.

The Internet has made it easy to research real estate, but just because something appears to be a legitimate piece of property for sale, doesn’t mean it is. Never wire or send money for a deposit without proper guidance from a trusted source such as your attorney or a Realtor.

The FTC says there are certain buzz words consumers need to be wary of when it comes to real-estate loans. If a mortgage ad offers a “fixed” rate be sure to find out how long it is fixed for. Some of these rates are as little as 30 days and consumers have a rude awakening when their loan payment goes up before they have even finished unpacking the boxes.

When you see the words “very low rates,” make sure you are clear if they are referring to a payment rate or the interest rate. This big detail may be buried in the fine print. The difference is the interest rate will be the rate used to calculate the interest owed to the lender every month. The payment rate will be the rate used to calculate the amount of the monthly payment.

And to add to the confusion and cost, if the payment rate is less than the interest rate, the interest due will not be covered. What that boils down to is “negative amortization,” whereby the loan balance increases.

Homeowners who find themselves at risk of foreclosure, or in foreclosure, face another group of scams: mortgage relief.

These scams have made it into the FTC’s top 15 complaints the past three years in a row. You will hear all the things you want to hear: your monthly payment will be reduced, a money-back guarantee offer or even that the company is affiliated with the government or your lender.

According to the FTC, companies will promise that “they’ll negotiate a deal with your lender to reduce your mortgage payments or to save your home. They may claim to be attorneys or represent a law firm. They may tell you not to contact your lender, lawyer, or credit counselor. They promise to handle all the details once you pay them a fee. Then they stop returning your calls and take off with your money.” Read more from the FTC’s Consumer Information publication on mortgage-relief scams.

The FTC’s Mortgage Assistance Relief Services Rule makes it illegal for a company to collect fees until the homeowner has received and accepted an offer of relief from the homeowner’s lender. So, even if you agree to receive the help from one of these companies, you don’t need to pay a dime until you get the results you want.

Even without mortgage schemes and real-estate scams, a legitimate real-estate transaction in an unsettled or recovering market can have its problems.

Barbegelata says one of the most common mistakes an anxious buyer makes is not taking the time to understand all the details of the loan process and fees associated with buying.

As for anxious sellers, he said their biggest mistake is “rushing a home on the market. Not putting money into staging and cosmetics can often times lead to a loss of tens of thousands of dollars.”

The more rushed you are, the more likely you will overlook something or sign a document before fully understanding it. When it comes to real estate and mortgages, knowing the people working with you is key. And if you are new to the process, ask friends for referrals, check references and make sure they are familiar with property values and the community you are buying into.

And sometimes it’s not a scam that ends up costing people more than it should. Emotions can run high when you are in bidding wars and there are delays in the mortgage approval process. Stay cool. Don’t rush, work with a team you trust and remember the adage that has been around for as long as scams: if it seems too good to be true, it usually is.

Emmy Award-winning broadcast journalist, documentarian and author Jeanette Pavini covers consumer and investigative news for numerous publications, radio and television. Jeanette is based in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Real Estate Professionals Expect Both Home #Values and Transactions to Increase in 2013 #housing

Market Leader Survey Shows 28 Percent Increase in Market Confidence vs. 2012, Highlights Several “Heartland” Markets Expected to Lead the Recovery

KIRKLAND, WA, Mar 11, 2013 (MARKETWIRE via COMTEX) — Market Leader LEDR -0.46% , a leader in online marketing and technology solutions for real estate professionals, today released results of a nationwide survey highlighting a significantly more optimistic real estate community across several key market indicators, including real estate valuations, existing-home transactions, new construction starts and more. The survey involved more than 2,400 real estate professionals, all members of ActiveRain, the real estate industry’s largest social media network with more than 330,000 real estate professional members.

A similar survey in early 2012 correctly predicted the bottom of the US real estate market, as the National Association of REALTORS (NAR) showed a 9 percent jump in existing-home sales over the previous year.

For 2013, 84 percent of surveyed real estate professionals believe that real estate values and the number of transactions will increase this year over 2012. Whereas in 2012, one-third of real estate markets were forecasted to see valuation declines, no single market is expected to see a decline in valuations or transactions in 2013.

2012 vs 2013 Real Estate Confidence*

        ----------------------------------------------------------------------------
                                                    2012        2013      Increase
        ============================================================================
        Real estate values                           3.0         3.9         28%
        Real estate transactions                     3.6         4.0         11%
        New constructions starts                     3.2         3.9         21%
        Local economy                                3.4         3.8         12%
        ----------------------------------------------------------------------------

        
(Scale of 1-5 where 1 represents a significant decline, 3 represents it to stay flat, and 5 represents a significant increase)

“The differences in how real estate professionals are seeing the market in the past 12 months is significant,” said Nikesh Parekh, CEO of ActiveRain. “Confidence in the real estate market has increased by 28 percent, and a rebound in both housing and construction this year is a great sign for the economy.”

Among the local markets expected to see the greatest activity and rebound in 2013 are several cities in the middle of the country. In fact, eight of top ten markets predicted to experience the most growth in 2013 are “heartland” states.

2013 Best Real Estate Markets

1. Austin 2. Ft. Myers – Naples 3. Kansas City 4. Salt Lake City

5. Houston 6. Portland, OR 7. Dallas-Ft. Worth 8. Nashville 9. Detroit 10. San Antonio

A full breakdown of the survey and its findings, as well as an infographic highlighting the key results, can be found at http://www.realestate.com/advice/real-estate-market-is-back/.

About Market Leader

Market Leader, founded in 1999, provides innovative online technology and marketing solutions for real estate professionals across the United States and Canada. The company serves more than 125,000 real estate agents, brokerages and franchisors, offering complete end-to-end solutions that enable them to grow and manage their businesses. Market Leader customers earn more than twice the median income of the typical NAR member. Market Leader’s subscription-based real estate marketing software — including websites, contact management, a marketing center, and lead generation services — helps customers generate a steady stream of prospects, plus provides the systems and training they need to convert those prospects into clients. In addition, the company’s national consumer real estate sites, including http://www.realestate.com, give its customers access to millions of future home buyers and sellers, while providing consumers with free access to the information they seek.

ActiveRain is the real estate market’s largest social media network, with more than 330,000 professional members, and is owned by Market Leader.

Pending Home Sales Soar Despite Rough Winter #housing #realestate

Rough winter weather across much of the nation at the start of this year apparently did not keep home buyers away.

Contracts to buy existing homes in January rose a strong 4.5 percent from the previous month, according to the National Association of Realtors, which also revised December’s numbers down. That beats expectations of a 1.8 percent gain. Volume is now 9.5 percent above January 2012 and is the highest reading since April 2010. This as closed sales of existing homes, where contracts were signed toward the end of last year, were basically flat.

“Over the near term, rising contract activity means higher home sales, but total sales for the year are expected to rise less than in 2012, while home prices are projected to rise more strongly because of inventory shortages,” wrote Lawrence Yun, chief economist for the Realtors in a release.

The existing home market is faced with a lack of supply of homes for sale, as nearly half of home sales last year were of distressed properties.

Getty Images

Banks have been slow to put foreclosed homes up for sale recently, possibly waiting for prices to improve further. While some expected a surge in inventory once home prices began to improve, that so-called “shadow supply,” has yet to emerge. Prices are rising fast, up nearly 7 percent in December from a year ago in the nation’s twenty largest real estate markets, according to the S&P/Case Shiller Index. But some would-be sellers may be waiting to see just how high prices move in the coming months, while millions of others are still trapped underwater, owing more on their mortgages than their homes are worth.

Mortgage applications to purchase a home fell 5 percent last week from the previous week and is now at its lowest level since the end of last year, according to a Mortgage Bankers Association weekly survey. Applications historically start to pick up around now, as President’s Day weekend marks the unofficial start of the usually busy spring housing season.

Regionally, the Realtors’ Pending Home Sales Index in the Northeast rose 8.2 percent in January and is 10.5 percent higher than January 2012. In the Midwest the index increased 4.5 percent and is 17.7 percent above a year ago. Pending home sales in the South rose 5.9 percent and are 11.3 percent higher January 2012. In the West the index edged up 0.1 percent in January but is 1.5 percent below a year ago. Supplies of homes for sale are most limited in the West, where investors have been buying distressed properties in bulk.

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—By CNBC’s Diana Olick; Follow her on Twitter @Diana_Olick or on Facebook atfacebook.com/DianaOlickCNBC

 

Distressed Homes Still Drive Sales

By: CNBC Real Estate Reporter

Getty Images

The housing market appears to be surging ahead suddenly on all cylinders, but that does not mean it is free of the remnants of its recent downfall.

The number of distressed home sales, either bank-owned or short sales, may be shrinking, but it is still making up a significant share of the overall housing market.

Foreclosure-related sales made up 21 percent of all U.S. sales in 2012 and short sales, when the home is sold for less than the value of the mortgage, made up 22 percent, according to a new report from RealtyTrac. Add it up and 43 percent of all 2012 sales were of distressed properties.

Banks are making more of an effort to do short sales instead of taking a home to foreclosure, and new federal guidelines are streamlining the process. That led to a 15 percent drop in sales of bank-owned homes and a 6 percent increase in short sales. This has helped home prices because short sales on average sell for a higher price than do bank-owned homes, because they are usually neither abandoned nor vandalized.

“Although foreclosure-related sales represent a shrinking share of total sales, primarily because of fewer bank-owned purchases, distressed sales are still a disproportionately high portion of the overall housing market,” said Daren Blomquist, vice president of RealtyTrac. “And while distressed properties — whether bank-owned, pre-foreclosure or short sales not in foreclosure — are still selling at a significant discount compared to non-distressed properties, average distressed property prices are increasing in many markets thanks to strong demand and limited inventory.”

Limited inventory continues to be the key in today’s housing market, driving prices higher than most analysts expected. This is surprising, as distress in the market has not simply vanished. There are currently 1.7 homes in the foreclosure process and 1.5 million more seriously delinquent loans (90 days without a payment), according to a new report from Lender Processing Services. Banks are being more aggressive with loan modifications and principal forgiveness, but many of these homes will inevitably end up going back to the banks.

“Inventories continue to be low because non-distressed sellers are largely absent from the market, apparently waiting for prices to increase even more before they decide to sell,” noted Blomquist. “I think we are seeing signs of the shadow [foreclosure] supply hitting, but more on a market-by-market basis and often in the form of short sales as opposed to REO [bank-owned] sales — although REO sales are starting to show signs of life in judicial foreclosure markets with bigger backlogs.”

Strong investor demand for these properties is pushing prices higher, even creating bubbles in some of the formerly hardest hit markets, like Phoenix and Las Vegas. If prices get too high, however, and investors can’t reap the returns they need, then supplies could grow. So far that has not happened, but home prices are rising far faster than anyone predicted.

 

Home #Buyers Are Back, but Where Are the Houses? #housing #realestate

The first official day of Spring may still be 20 days away, but the Spring housing market is already underway. Buyer traffic is rising along with home prices, but one traditional Spring phenomenon is sorely absent: rising supply. The raw number of homes for sale is now at its lowest level in over 13 years, according to the National Association of Realtors, and the numbers continue to fall.

“Some listings are vanishing from a strategic decision of waiting for an even a higher price later. Some are due to few newly built homes available to trade-up to, hence some current existing home owners are unwilling to list. Some could be related to fear of being unable to buy after selling,” says Lawrence Yun, chief economist for the National Association of Realtors.

Supplies are down across the nation, not just in the former crash markets, like Phoenix and Las Vegas, where investors decimated inventories of distressed homes in bulk purchases. Listings are down 31 percent in Seattle from a year ago, down 32 percent in Denver, down 20 percent in Houston, down 37 percent in Boston, according to local Realtor associations.

“At the moment it’s a seller’s market again,” said David Fogg, a real estate agent in Burbank, CA. “Very low inventory, very low interest rates, almost no bank inventory of homes, it’s crazy out there. Every good property I’ve listed this year has brought 10-50 offers and sales prices 10-20 percent over comps. Cash is King.”

Nearly one third of all existing home sales in January were paid for in cash, and not just by investors, who are making up a shrinking share of the market. Fierce competition is forcing buyers to use every advantage, given that so many are going after so little.

In California’s San Fernando Valley there are usually over 9,000 homes for sale this time of year, according to real estate agent Billy Wynn. Today there are just over 1,400.

“Realtors are getting so many offers they are taking the homes off the market and not accepting additional offers before any offer is even accepted,” said Wynn. “This is real estate bubble 2.0 on steroids.”

It is a puzzling situation, given all the warnings of a tsunami of so-called “shadow inventory” that was supposed to be flooding the market right now. As it stands, fewer distressed properties are coming to the market.

“The ticking time bomb of shadow supply has been diffused by a combination of foreclosure processing delays in judicial states, legislation slowing down the foreclosure process in non-judicial states, foreclosure prevention programs and initiatives encouraging short sales,” said Daren Blomquist of RealtyTrac. “Notably, in 2012, was the National Mortgage Settlement, which both encouraged foreclosure prevention and short sales as an alternative to foreclosure, and the loosening of short sale guidelines by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac in November.”

As a result, short sales, where the home is sold for less than the value of the mortgage, are rising as a share of total distressed sales, while bank-owned home sales are falling. Investors are now competing for such little supply that they are ironically pricing themselves out of the market.

“We are hearing also, that new home buyers are not really looking at the foreclosure market—the houses are either not in good neighborhoods or the house is in bad condition and needs a lot of updates,” noted Paul Miller, an analyst at FBR. “So home buyers are either going to new-builds or being very picky with the type and shape of the house. We are hearing from plenty of mortgage brokers that they are working with many couples, and they just can’t find the perfect house.”

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It is the same story in Houston, Texas, where there were 25,600 listings in January of last year and just 19,000 today. Real estate agents there doubt they will see a surge in inventory this Spring, as Houston is experiencing an employment boom. The Texas Workforce Commission reported more than 85,000 new jobs were created there in 2012. Housing starts are expected to rise by about 17 percent, but that only translates to about 28,000 new homes, according to the Houston Association of Realtors, and current homeowners are just not stepping up.

“Many of my clients are unsure about the economy and the future costs they may face that are associated with The Affordable Care Act. Many say they are nervous about the future and are just sitting back waiting for economic conditions to level out,” explained Danny Frank, Chairman of the Houston Association of Realtors. “Some sellers may be reluctant to put their homes on the market because it typically requires them, in turn, to purchase a home. They may not be financially prepared to make that commitment at this time. Another factor is that there simply isn’t a vast number of homes currently on the market in Houston because of the buying surge we experienced throughout 2012 and now into the new year.”

It may also be a case of, ‘Be careful what you wish for.’ Homeowners were crushed by falling home prices, losing trillions of dollars collectively in home equity. Now that prices are rising, and rising faster than most expected, sellers likely see no reason to rush.

“We are not seeing a flood of new listings, as I would have predicted in a rising market,” said Steve Storti of Philadelphia-based Prudential Fox & Roach. “Sellers are wary and perhaps a little shell-shocked by having listed previously and not being successful. They also may be waiting for prices to rise.”

—By CNBC’s Diana Olick; Follow her on Twitter @Diana_Olick or on Facebook atfacebook.com/DianaOlickCNBC