Matrix Blog

Posts Tagged ‘Hurricane’

Carnival Of Real Estate Enters The Matrix

September 25, 2006 | 12:01 am | |

As I watched my turn get closer and closer to hosting the Carnival of Real Estate, I thought it was amazing how much great content is being pushed into the public domain every week through the carnival. In fact, carnival participants simply ooze creativity and new ideas. Simply look at last week’s carnival post at Blog to get an idea of what I mean.

I started getting post submissions early last week and by Sunday I had a lot of reading to do. Although the carnival hosts are expected to post only their favorites, I thought to myself, how can I do that? So I decided to provide a top ten list and then everyone else. I excluded a few get rich quick posts and those who seemed to be more interested in selling something or extra posts from those who submitted more than one.

I am finding that some of the most active and insightful posts this week have been provided by real estate brokers. Its interesting to me because its been my impression that real estate brokers were somewhat late to blogosphere party as a profession but now they really get it and are rising in numbers quickly.

So its no wonder there was a lot of discussion about Redfin this week. I think that a weaker housing market sort of forces the real estate brokerage community to rethink the status quo. Thats really refreshing and I found myself adding links to my blogroll.

The Matrix Top 10 List

  1. Everybody’s Going Local [Future of Real Estate Marketing]. Joel Burslem provides a very insightful look at the trend toward local web sites to deliver real estate related information.
  2. What Housing Bubble? [The Property Monger] looks closely at population trends.
  3. 16 Words or Less [Agent CEO] reminded me of the axiom less is more. I tend to fail miserably being concise but if someone leaves me a voicemail longer than 16 seconds, I tend to delete it.
  4. Crackdown on Relisting Homes [Altos Research]. Altos crunches the numbers. Relisting is simply wrong.
  5. Kicking the Tires on Housing Futures as a Predictive Tool [True Gotham]. Doug Heddings deals with one of my favorite topics, housing futures.
  6. Google and Zillow [Real Central VA]. Jim Duncan tells us that broker _marketing will become less and less a component of a Realtor’s core competency. Representation will._
  7. Cease and Desist [Real Estate 2.X] gives us a good chuckle and a whole new way to name our blogs.
  8. Dual Agency: Using the Seller’s Agent as Your Buyer’s Agent [Searchlight Crusade] addresses awkwardness and multiple loyalties which are commonplace.
  9. Would the Founding Fathers Have Founded an MLS? [Charlottesville Area Real Estate Blog] concludes that restrictions on listings are better than an open system.
  10. For real estate promotion, the business card form factor is a tiny little workhorse [Bloodhound]. Glenn says its all in the cards.

Here are the rest of the posts submitted in no particular order but are all a good read:

Market discussion (surprisingly quiet this week)

Raising the bar on the real estate brokerage profession:

Broker ethics and “get rich quick” schemes

Mortgages and Refi Strategies

New brokerage business models

Buyer and seller advice

Defies categorization

Thanks to all of those who submitted posts. Great stuff. Don’t forget to check out YoChicago, next week’s host for the Carnival of Real Estate.

Its now 10:30pm EST on Sunday. I’ve got to get some sleep – going to be on CNBC’s Morning Call live at about 10:15am on Monday for 5 minutes with another guest. Should be fun.

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Mortgages: Wondering Where All The Delinquents Are

September 20, 2006 | 6:37 am | |
Source: Wachovia

According to the recent press release by the Mortgage Bankers Association Some Delinquency Measures Tick Upwards in Latest MBA National Delinquency Survey:

2Q 06 delinquency rates fell 2 basis points to 4.39% from 1Q 06 and were up 5 basis points from 2Q 05. The decline from the prior quarter was attributed to the surge in delinquency after Hurricane Katrina.

“In previous quarters we indicated a number of factors including the aging of the loan portfolio, increasing short-term interest rates, and high energy prices have been putting upward pressure on delinquency rates. To this point, generally healthy economic growth and labor markets have kept delinquency rates from rising. However, we are seeing increases in delinquency rates for subprime loans, particularly for subprime ARMs. It is not surprising that subprime borrowers are more susceptible to these changes.”

Foreclosure rates, the next stage of the delinquency process were 0.99% in 2Q 06 up from 0.98% in the prior quarter. The RealtyTrac foreclosure rates that are released each month infer much higher foreclosure levels which I discussed in an earlier post. Overall foreclosure rates are still considered low but a weakening economy is bringing additional concerns.

Source: Wachovia

A Wachovia Corporation Economics Group report [pdf] (via FXstreet) suggests that the delinquencies are concentrated in a few states yet the projected income growth in these states is above the national average. The article suggests that the growth in income will temper some of the problems as mortgage rates reset over the next 12-18 months. Since the delinquencies seem to correlate in markets known for investor and flipping purposes, the numbers don’t show a national problem, yet.

In David Berson’s weekly commentary post, he wonders Mortgage Delinquencies remain low, but will they stay that way? [FNMA]

First of all, the behavior of home prices is an important determinant of serious delinquency rates. If a household has enough equity in a home it could either sell the home or extract some equity, so a delinquency resulting from a negative shock to a household (e.g., job loss, serious illness, etc.) should not lead to a foreclosure. The rapid home price growth seen over the past few years in much of the country should mitigate the risk of foreclosure. However, we expect national home price appreciation to slow this year and next, and some areas of the country could see declines. In those areas, a decline in home prices could leave some households with a mortgage balance significantly in excess of the value of the home. Increases in interest rates that would cause payments on adjustable-rate mortgages (ARMs) to rise sharply relative to incomes could also lead to increases in the serious delinquency rate. While only about 30 percent of prime conventional mortgage originations last year were ARMs, the ARM share was significantly higher in the subprime market. Many of these subprime ARMs have short fixed-rate periods and will be adjusting in the next year, which could lead to rising serious delinquency rates.

Note: Berson’s link lasts one week. After 9/24/06, go here and search for his 9/18/06 post.

I think the overall problems related to the mortgage delinquency rate will be strongly influenced by how quickly mortgage rates move upward. Right now mortgage rates are projected to be stable as the economy continues to weaken and inflation is held in check. However, mortgage rates are already higher than when many adjustable rate mortgages (approximately 30% of the all mortgages) were issued.

Rising personal incomes may serve to contain the problem since the areas with the highest real estate investor concentrations are located in areas with the largest personal income upside. I wonder if good job prospects in these areas helped fuel the speculative characteristics of local markets.

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[Matrix Zeppelin Series: Readers Write] House & Home, Hurricanes, Naivete Of Buyers And Junk Bond Analogies

September 1, 2006 | 6:10 am |

Real estate commentary seemed to dwell on language this week: what they say and what they read into what others say. Matrix readers attempt to clarify the hurricane of terminology and still not get wet.

Trying to bridge the buyer-seller gap, here’s a few notable comments from the Matrix Zeppelin:

  • I use the term house when talking to a seller, and the term home when talking to a buyer…

  • I agree that there is a difference between “house” and “home” in terms of the underlying meaning they imply. I think “house” (or “apartment” in NYC) refers more to the property, while “home” is a warmer and much more emotional term to describe the place you live. The difference is most obvious when you compare a family looking to buy primary residence with an investor looking for property to flip or rent out. As a real estate broker, I would use the word “home” for the first, and “house” (or “apartment”) for the latter (not due to marketing concerns, but because I believe purchasing primary residence is the most personal and emotional transaction of one’s lifetime, and should be addressed appropriately).

  • Aren’t there some stats that do only track single-family residences, i.e. “houses”, which if you’re getting into median or average prices, makes a BIG difference in NYC, where only the highest-end real estate falls into that category, as most “homes” are much smaller, cheaper apartments?

  • I use the term house when talking to a seller, and the term home when talking to a buyer…

  • The only thing that could turn the media coverage right now would be if hurricane JonBennet were to devastate Miami.

  • The spike in media coverage reflects an overall anxed about the economy – and housing is an easy way to contextualize things. Housing experienced an amazing growth that nobody can really explain, and is expected to experience a significant reduction that nobody can really size. The economy is in a similar state. All indicators say that we’ve got harder times coming, but nobody really knows how much harder and for how long. In many markets, there’s currently such a wide gap between buyers and seller that there really is NO housing market to speak of; and that standstill is seen as a bellweather for the rest of the economy. It’s like watching a showdown: where housing goes (trend wise) the economy will follow.

  • If they are still on the sidelines, they either have the nerves of successful poker players or the naiveté of buyers who tell their seller’s agents how much they can afford to spend.

  • Unfortunately (for sellers, and for real estate agents on commission), I don’t see this improvement as bringing in many more buyers. Which is both obvious and strange. As prices go down, potential buyers will be afraid that prices will drop more, and that 1) they are paying too much and 2) they won’t be able to sell their home, further down the line. Therefore, they’ll continue to wait on the sidelines until … well, until I don’t know when.

  • But I don’t buy the junk bond analogy, at least as applied to Manhattan coop or condo purchases. Seems to me that the junk bond abuse was about issuing high rate debt to finance the purchase of an entity whose operating cash could not support the debt service, so (formerly healthy) entity cratered.


Slow News Cycle = More Housing Coverage = More Confusion

August 31, 2006 | 6:26 am |

With the dog days of summer wrapping up (my kids start school today), I looked back over the month of August and concluded that the housing market coverage seemed to be over blown relative to what change actually occurred, especially in the last few weeks.

As a simple test, I used Nielsen’s BuzzPulse to search on the word “housing” and sure enough, we have a spike in “housing” discussion. This of course doesn’t capture big media’s coverage but since quite often blog content is an off-shoot of big media content, my gut seems to be right.

In other words, while the housing market has weakened nationally, the media coverage of the weakening conditions seemed currently seems disproportionate. This happened last year at this time as well, when including the word “bubble” was an automatic heavy does of eyeballs on the article. This is not in any way to suggest that housing is not experiencing difficulties.

Nationally, inventory is rising, demand is falling, appreciation is waning, yet nothing significant or new really new happened this summer other than the fact that mortgage rates have fallen since July.

Mathew Hougan of Index Universe concludes just the opposite in his article Worse Than It Seems?

The housing market feels like its falling apart. The newspapers are full of stories about falling prices and rising inventories. Where I live, “price reduced” signs are popping up, and some houses have been on the market for more than a year.

Yet housing statistics are more rosy than his first hand experience. He cites a quirk in statistics of seller concessions or incentives that is not captured in sales prices that may be the cause national stats to appear better than they really are.

Here’s the problem with all of this. Local impressions may or may not correlate with national statistics.

Real estate is local.

Last year at this time we had the hurricane devastation. At least this year, thankfully, so far we don’t.


30-Year 6.59% degrees of Kevin Bacon

May 8, 2006 | 12:05 am | |

Well, not really, but please read on.

Rising fixed and ARM mortgage rates are expected to slow the housing market [] The nearly always pessimistic UCLA Anderson Forecast, confirms this line of thinking but goes a step further, by saying that the rising rates are not the only factor in the slowdown, saying:

Rising interest rates “are just one tiny little (impact), like a guy standing in the middle of a hurricane throwing a bucket of water.”

Actually, I strongly disagree. Rising mortgage rates are the catalyst for other problems. Thats were the problems started. Low rates fueled optimism that caused many to spend beyond their means with the understanding that things can only get better. The wealth effect of housing was the elixor.

Mortgage rates climbed this week with 30-year fixed-rate mortgages hitting their highest point in almost four years, an increase that could dampen home sales and refinancing. This illustrates the compounded problem facing many homeowners. From my favorite personal finance blog: My Open Wallet, she espouses upon her new favorite quote

People who are living beyond their means are going to have a harder time making ends meet than ever in history.

She found quote by Rick Sharga of RealtyTrac Inc., who is a refrequent commentor in Matrix, in the article by one of my favorite New York Times writers Jennifer Steinhauer: Statistics Aside, Many Feel Pinch of Daily Costs [NYT]

I just had to laugh and see it as a sign of the times. To me, anyway, it would seem that “living beyond their means” and “making ends meet” are mutually exclusive things by definition. Therefore, for people who are living beyond their means, making ends meet is impossible, not just something that may be more or less difficult depending on economic conditions.

[There’s a certain element of six degrees of Kevin Bacon going on here. -ed]


These Days, Expect The Unexpected, Rather Than Existing

January 30, 2006 | 12:01 am |

The Commerce Department released their new home sale data on Friday and it showed an unexpected increase of 2.9% []. This was unexpected because December existing home sales information released by the NAR the day before had shown a 5.7% decline over the prior month.

However, existing home sales data is 45-60 days behind the market since it is based on closed sales data and new home data is based on units currently under contract. The December existing market data was influenced by rising mortgage rates, the effects of the two hurricanes, rising gasoline prices among other negative economic conditions back in October, and is not necessarily reflective of the current market.

It seems like every month these two statistical releases contradict each other, but perhaps that largley because they are based on different points in time and the market is in transition.

NAR Existing Home Sales [pdf]
Commerce Department New Home Sales [pdf]

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The US and Mexico Cement Agreement On Imports

January 23, 2006 | 12:01 am | |

The U.S., Mexico End Dispute Over Cement [LA Times].

“Under the pact, Washington would slash punitive tariffs on Mexican cement while Mexico would grant U.S. firms access to its market, now dominated by a few companies that charge consumers here some of the highest prices in the world.”

“Thursday’s deal appears to resolve a trade spat that dates to 1990, when a group of 31 U.S.-based cement makers brought a successful anti-dumping case against Mexican producers that sold their product at prices far below those paid in Mexico.”

In an article by the New York Times, U.S. Cuts Duty on Cement From Mexico which is aimed at easing cement shortages caused by a building boom in Asia and rising demand for cement to rebuild after Hurricane Katrina.

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Beige Turns Orange: Economy Expands at the end of 2005

January 20, 2006 | 10:15 am | |

Despite signals by the Federal Reserve that we may be nearing the end of their pattern of measured rate increases [Bloomberg], the economy expanded at the end of 2005.

Economic expansion, can prompt the start of inflation, which could mortgage rates to rise. Its not clear yet whether this should be a concern. There has been some speculation that the economic data in November/December is inflationary only because the economy played catch-up after the two hurricanes caused extensive damage to Gulf states.

The Beige Book is an anecdotal analysis of the economy by 12 regions [Fed]

Here’s the national overview for real estate. There is more detailed discussion in each regional analysis:

Many Districts reported moderation in residential real estate activity, although from a high level. Boston, New York, Cleveland, Richmond, Atlanta, Chicago, and Minneapolis reported some cooling in real estate markets. While some of the hottest markets in the San Francisco District have cooled–for example, Southern California and the San Francisco Bay Area–other areas, such as Oregon and especially Hawaii, have reportedly heated up further. Kansas City and Dallas continued to see strong housing markets. And construction and repair work remained brisk in Louisiana and Mississippi.

Conditions in Districts’ commercial real estate markets generally continued to improve. Vacancy rates fell in the San Francisco, Minneapolis, New York, Dallas, Richmond, and Kansas City Districts. Chicago reported a more mixed picture, with some areas of the District expanding but activity in the city of Chicago flat. Largely because of lower vacancy rates, rents rose in San Francisco and New York, while previous concessions were reduced or eliminated in Dallas. New construction activity was reported to be increasing in the San Francisco, Minneapolis, St. Louis, Atlanta, and Cleveland Districts, and many contacts expect this trend to continue in 2006.

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In Good Times and Bad, Negative Milestones Often Define The Real Estate Market

January 11, 2006 | 9:48 am | | Favorites |

Theory of Negative Milestones


I was writing another post about the housing situation in New Orleans and I kept coming across the phrase “post-Katrina” as in “post-Katrina policy landscape” [NYT] and it struck me how much negative economic or natural disasters help define a new period for the real estate market.

It gives people the ability to sweep away everything that occurred prior to the event and see things in the current market with a little more clarity. At that moment, history plays a lesser roll in defining how the current market is behaving.

It can also be a stressful period because, like most markets, buyers don’t like the unknown. When economic parameters change or are likely to change because of an event, it takes a while for participants to get used to the new rules. Its a delicate moment in time when buyer/seller psychology is at its weakest or most raw and the potential for misinformation is most high.

I find this whole concept this akin not to asking when it comes to real estate, “what were you doing when Neil Armstrong stepped on the moon?” but rather “where were you when the plane hit the north tower on 9/11?”

The irony is that the whole idea of real estate exudes optimism, hope, success, growth, shelter, safety and opportunity, but the events that define it are most often negative.

Here’s a list that helps define my interpretation of the real estate market after 20 years in the business. Some are more specific to New York City because that is where I work and there are certainly other milestones to consider. It also seems to me that the milestones are getting closer together, but that might just be only because they are fresher in my thinking.

Negative Milestones

  • October 19, 1987 stock market crash
  • 1990-1991 recession
  • August 1998 stock market correction
  • February – March 2000 NASDAQ correction
  • June 2001 entering the recession
  • 9/11
  • March 2003 – start of the Iraq War
  • June 2004 – Fed starts raising federal funds rate
  • August – September 2005 – Hurricane Katrina and Rita

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Paper Or Plastic? Fannie Mae Projections For 2006 May Leave Us Holding The Bag

January 4, 2006 | 12:01 am |

In Berson’s Weekly Commentary [Fannie Mae] he looks ahead to 2006. These are fairly general predictions.

* 5th consecutive year of record home sales
* 2nd consecutive year of double-digit home price gains.

* the economy grew at just above a trend rate despite skyrocketing energy prices, the devastation caused by hurricanes in the Gulf region, and higher interest rates.

* modest gains in mortgage rates
* investors will pullout from market
* solid job market
* decline in housing sales but still near record
* investors will pullout from market
* decline in mortgage volume

Of course Fannie Mae caveats the heck out of these predictions but they all sound reasonable. The caveats are what intrigued me and include: “another jump in energy prices (particularly one that is sustained), a flu pandemic, significant terrorist activity in the U.S., and a sharp reduction in the demand for dollar-denominated assets on the part of foreign investors.” Does he know something we don’t know?


Home Owners: Too Big To Fail

December 27, 2005 | 12:01 am |

If there is one thing that mortgage servicers learned from the last downturn in the housing cycle (1989-1995) was that foreclosure were expensive and had the potential to be a public relations nightmare. In the today’s market, Ken Harney’s article Mortgage Servicers Help Avoid Foreclosures [Washington Post] discusses how mortgage servicers do everything they can to avoid foreclosures.

In the 1990-91 market downturn, lenders had to maintain large in-house departments to manage inventory as well as manage vendors that were needed in the process such as lawyers, brokers and appraisers. As an appraiser, I stood with many a broker and locksmith in the early 1990’s, getting into a foreclosed apartment, only to find the interior was picked clean.

Daniel Gross, in his article Didn’t Pay Your Mortgage? Don’t Worry. Why banks are so afraid to foreclose on you [Slate] he discusses why this is happening. Lightening up on those who fell victim to the hurricanes is understandable and would be a public relations disaster. But what about everyone else?

In the process of raising the percentage of home ownership [Census], the lending industry is trying to avoid the expense of foreclosure. The delinquency rate as of the 2nd quarter, according to the MBA was 4.34%, but less than half of those are in excess fo 90 days. [MBA]

Gross notes that the delinquincy rates of ARM mortgages is 10.04% and subprime loans is 9.06%, which means that the rate for conventional loans is barely on the radar, clearly a pattern related to the pressure to expand the base of customers to those who are a higher risk.

He concludes that when borrowers get behind in their payments, lenders prefer to do workouts and these often can come into the form of another refinance, with the homeowner getting deeper in debt. They have in effect, like lenders 20 years ago, become too big to fail.

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Fannie Mae: Regional Variations In Mortgage Delinquencies Will Make The Overall Numbers Edge Up A Bit

December 20, 2005 | 12:01 am |

In David Berson’s weekly column Berson’s Weekly Commentary [FNMA] he asks the question:

Mortgage delinquencies rise in the third quarter — special factors or a trend?

“According to data just released by the Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA), mortgage delinquency rates climbed by 10 basis points to 4.44 percent in the third quarter — the highest level in a year. Since peaking in the third quarter of 2001, delinquency rates had been trending downward. Does this increase suggest that the downward trend in mortgage delinquencies is over, or is it simply a blip on the way to even lower rates?”

Fannie Mae looks at 3 factors that play an important role on these rates:

  • Unemployment rates: relates to jobs and incomes
  • Age of the mortgage stock: – as time passes, there is a greater chance of some sort of interruption of income.
  • Mortgage characteristics: The type of mortgage influences delinquency rates. ARM’s are more risky than fixed, etc.

The job market is expected to expand, the age of the mortgage stock is unusually low but the type of mortgages have been more risky than in years past.

FNMA thinks that these factors suggest that delinquencies will edge up but it is highly dependent on what home prices do. The current rise in delinquincy are largely attributable to the after-affects of Hurricane Katrina and may keep delinquency rates slightly higher than they otherwise would have been for a while.

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