Entries in Real Estate (40)


Pending Homes Sales Edged Up in June, But Canceled Contracts Soar

Brand X Pictures/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Although pending home sales edged up in June, a new report found that cancelations skyrocketed, with four times as many agents reporting that would-be buyers were unable to close.

"Home sales had been trending up without a tax stimulus, but a variety of issues are weighing on the market including an unusual spike in contract cancellations in the past month," Lawrence Yun, a chief analyst for National Association of Realtors, said in a statement.

The reasons behind the spike in cancelations are unclear, but may include tight credit and low appraisals, the group said. It found that 16 percent of NAR members reported a sales contract was canceled in June, up from 4 percent in May.

Overall, gains in the South and the West helped boost pending home sales by 2.4 percent in June, according to a report by the National Association of Realtors.

The uptick comes a year after the Pending Home Sales Index, a housing measurement tool, fell to a low point following the expiration of the federal home buyer tax credit intended to stimulate the economy and shore up the housing market.

Contract signings, which take between one to two months, are used as an indicator of the market direction. The Realtors group says a growing number of buyers have canceled contracts ahead of closings after appraisals showed the homes were worth less than they bid.

Now a spokesperson for the Appraisal Institute says banks may be growing even more cautious of the lending process.

Since the start of the year, existing home sales appear to be underperforming.

The National Association of Realtors, which views existing home sales of 5.5 million homes as sustainable, says the U.S. is likely to tally five million this year, a slight increase from 2010.

The best way to ensure a more solid recovery in housing is to simply return to normal, sound credit standards so more creditworthy home buyers can get a mortgage," Yun stated.

"Washington also should not rock the boat with policy changes that would negatively impact affordable credit or otherwise increase the cost of buying or owning a home."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Housing Data Reveals New Home Sales Fell for Second Month

ABC News(NEW YORK) -- Two years into the economic recovery, the housing market is still suffering, as indicated by Commerce Department data released Tuesday in Washington.

The numbers showed that sales of new U.S. homes unexpectedly declined for a second month in June, Bloomberg News reports.

New home purchases dropped to 312,000 -- a three-month low -- as foreclosures, slow job growth, and lack of consumer optimism contributed to the weak housing sales, according to Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke.

Data revealed the median sales price of a new home rose 7.2 percent -- up from June 2010’s $235,200.

Across the country, the Northeast sales fell to an all-time low of 16 percent, in the West, 13 percent,  according to Commerce Department's findings. The Midwest saw new home purchases climb 9.5 percent, and the South saw an uptick of 3.4 percent.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Texas Man Gets Mansion for $16 with Adverse Possession Law

Creatas/Thinkstock(FLOWER MOUND, Texas) -- Kenneth Robinson lives on Waterford Drive in Flower Mound, Texas, but he doesn't own or rent the home he claims he has a right to live in.

The home was in foreclosure, and the owner abandoned the property.  That's when Robinson swooped in and, after submitting a $16 filing fee at the local courthouse, claimed the law of "adverse possession" gave him the right to occupy the home.

Adverse possession is a common law concept developed in the 1800s.  According to Lucas A. Ferrara, a partner in Newman Ferrara, a New York City real estate law firm, adverse possession was enacted to ensure that property wasn't abandoned and was "maintained and monitored."  It requires the posting of a clear, public notice that someone is at the property -- hence the court filing -- and that someone would remain there for a specific period of time, usually 10 years.

After the time requirement is satisfied, the Robinsons of the world have the opportunity to claim clear title to the property.  In the meantime, the original property owner could fight the action, but it would be costly.  And since the house has already been abandoned, it's not likely the original owner would wage an expensive legal battle to get it back.  The mortgage holder would have to fight a court action, too.

The growing number of abandoned homes brought on by the foreclosure crisis has produced a small buzz around the idea of adverse possession.  A spokesman for the National Association of Realtors, however, said adverse possession wasn't very common and wasn't on the association's radar screen.

But a quick Google search, however, turned up plenty of websites willing to show anyone how to do what Ken Robinson did.

At, for example, for a mere $39.95, "average people" can learn how to "acquire valuable real estate for free."  The site takes steps to assure potential Robinsons that adverse possession is not squatting. "Squatter," says the site, "is an unfortunate and negative term used to describe someone who unlawfully occupies a vacant property or other real estate." Nor is occupying abandoned homes for financial gain immoral, according to the site.  It's "doing the neighborhood a favor."

Robinson's new neighbors see it differently.  They told local reporters that "If he [Robinson] wants the house, buy the house like everyone else had to..."

And Ferrara said, "it's quite an un-American notion that someone can take another's property without paying for it... After all, even the government has to pay for your property if it decides to take it from you."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Will Real Estate in the Hamptons Bounce Back Faster?

Susan Wood/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Yes, places like Las Vegas and Detroit have it tough when it comes to falling home prices, but the tony Hamptons, a collection of affluent towns on New York's Long Island, is also feeling the pinch, according to reports.

Median home sale prices in Hamptons and North Fork declined by 22 percent to $622,500 in the first quarter of 2011 compared to the prior year, according to a report by Douglas Elliman. For the same period, sales of high-end market homes over $5 million declined more than 50 percent.

But the worst may be over, at least for the luxury market, experts tell ABC News.

Bobby Gianos, president of East End Properties, a development company based in Southhampton, N.Y. said the last 15 days has been particularly frenetic for sales of homes in the above $15 million range. He said the last time he has seen such activity was 2007.

The Long Island neighborhoods are still a magnet for the wealthy. In the Manhattan vacation zone, money from Russia, Germany and South America is flooding into the luxury market.

George Simpson, owner of Suffolk Research Service, explained that The Hamptons have traditionally benefited from Wall Street, which is not enjoying the kind of cash bonuses as in years before the recession. He's not optimistic about the numbers for the overall market in the second quarter. "We don't have them yet for this quarter and they're not encouraging."

Across the nation, home prices experienced what experts call a "double dip". U.S. home prices fell 4.2 percent to 2002 levels after falling for eight months in major metro areas across the nation, according to the S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price Index.

Even in the upscale area of East End, the real estate market is experiencing "disappointing results," according to Suffolk Research Service. In the first quarter, Southampton prices fell 8.4 percent, East Hampton prices swooned 30.9 percent, and Southold prices fell 18.5 percent compared with last year, according to Suffolk Research.

In another refuge for wealthy New Yorkers 30 miles from midtown Manhattan, luxury homes in Greenwich, Conn. have remained vacant as wealthy buyers receive smaller bonuses in recent months compared to previousy heady years.

However, Gianos said the second quarter looks a lot sunnier, not just for home sales but also for summer rental properties that cost as much as $400,000 for a beachfront property.

"2011 had stronger demand and better pricing for the owner. The rental prices were up," Gianos said. "The Hamptons had a very good Memorial Day weekend. The weather was fabulous, the villages and the stores were very busy. It was a strong weekend."

While real estate brokers wait for the official figures on real estate in the Hamptons, one broker said houses will continue to sell as long as the wealthy are in the market.

"There's a lot of very intelligent people with stupid money," he said. "It's not putting a dent in their wallets and they're willing to spend it."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Home Prices Drop 4.2% In First Quarter of 2011

Brand X Pictures/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- For the real estate market, 2011 feels like 2002. Nationwide home prices dropped more than 4 percent in the first few months of the year, wiping out nine years of value and, says Maureen Maitland at Standard & Poor's, pushing home prices to a new low.

"While the economy is turning around slowly, the housing market isn't," she said.

Record foreclosures force prices down and Maitland expects them to keep falling for the rest of the year.

"We had originally seen home prices hit their low in April 2009 right around the first quarter," Maitland said. "What we saw with today's that it now hit a new low, which says that the housing market is still very much in recession."

Some of the most severe declines are in cities hit hardest by foreclosures like Phoenix, Tampa, and Las Vegas, but home prices also fell in Chicago, Miami, and New York.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Home Prices Still Struggling, Despite Improving Economy

Stockbyte/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- The housing market remains flat in 20 major cities across the country. According to the latest S&P/Case-Shiller index, home prices fell 3.3 percent from February 2010. The drop in prices is the steepest since Nov. 2009, the report said.

The data shows that Phoenix, Minneapolis, Seattle, Portland, and Chicago all saw home prices drop over seven percent compared to a year ago.
“It's now more difficult to get a mortgage,” said S&P’s David Blitzer. “If it was this difficult in 2006 we might not have had a bubble,” but for now, that tight credit means homes are not selling and prices continue to drop.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Donald Trump Offered Chance to Buy the 'White House'

Mike Stobe/Getty Images(MCLEAN, Va.) -- Donald Trump's aspirations to live in the White House may come true, even if he bombs in the 2012 election. The billionaire GOP presidential hopeful has been cordially invited to live behind the pearly white columns of America's most recognized Virginia.

Just a few miles outside the beltway in McLean, Virginia, a scaled-down replica of the White House went up for sale this week, and realtor Chu Nguyen said Trump would be the perfect buyer.

Nguyen said he tried to contact Trump about the listing, but received no response. He also offered it as the Republican Party headquarters, but the GOP wasn't biting either.

The 12,000-square-foot White House replica is scaled-down from the original's 40,000, but includes the iconic Truman Balcony, Lincoln dining room, and Oval Office. The asking price for this presidential mansion is $4.65 million.

While the exterior bears a striking resemblance to the real thing, the interior has a few goodies not found at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. A climate-controlled wine cellar, a party room for 100 and a private movie theater make this house more of an elite getaway than a diplomatic meeting place.

The house was built for a New Zealand-educated Vietnamese engineer who immigrated to America after earning his PhD. The Vietnam War was still being fought at the time and it was politically unsafe for him to return to his home country, Nguyen said. The owner asked not to be named to maintain his privacy.

"He wanted to pay tribute to American history and culture. He wanted to pay tribute to his adoptive country. That's his main motive," Nguyen said.

It took seven years to create the replica house, two years for historical architect Robert Burns to scale down the blueprints of the original White House, three years to build and an additional two years after the family moved in to finish the detailing work. Nguyen said everything in the house is custom-made and every window frame is decorated with the same ornamentation of the real White House. It sits on 1.6 acres, with enough room for a helicopter to land in the yard, Nguyen said.

After a decade living in the Virginia White House, the owners are looking to downsize. Their children and extended family have all moved out and now only the owner and his wife, both approaching retirement age, live in the mansion.

"It's not easy for him to sell, but now he feels isolation. The house is too big for them. Most of the time it is dark," said Nguyen, who has been friends with the couple for decades.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio 


Empire State Building to Be Publicly Owned?

Jupiterimages/Thinkstotck(NEW YORK) -- People may soon be able to own a piece of New York's Empire State Building.

Citing people familiar with the plan, The New York Times reports that the family behind the 102-story art deco tower is considering starting a publicly traded real estate company that will include the skyscraper.  If approved, the proposal will allow people to purchase stock in the company, and, hence, become a part owner of the famous building.

The new company may also feature other buildings owned by the Malkin family, including some in New York City, Westchester County in New York and Connecticut, according to the Times.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Buy Now: Jump Start Your Savings for a House Down Payment

Stockbyte/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Despite the real estate meltdown, consumers are still being advised to buy a house as soon as possible.

Buying a house is still the only investment you can make with money you have to spend, anyway -- your monthly housing payment.  You can't buy stocks with your rent money, but you can buy a home.

It's especially a great way to save money if you plan to live in the house for at least five years; buy a house within your means and not stretch for a fancier one; and save up at least an old-fashioned 20 percent down payment.

To save up for a 20 percent down payment, you'll need to make some changes to save big.  Here are some ways to pile up savings:

-- Negotiate your rent.  Assuming you are renting now while you save up for your first home, approach your landlord and threaten to leave unless you get a reduced rate.  If you're a good tenant, they'll likely comply.

-- Never buy a new car.  Cars depreciate an average of 45 percent in the first three years.  So buy a three-year-old vehicle and you will save 45 percent.

-- Shop around for car insurance.  The same coverage at another company could be hundreds or thousands less.  While you're at it, consider raising your deductible and canceling collision and comprehensive coverage if you have an older car that is not worth repairing if you wreck it.

-- Become a creative couponer.  Fiendishly match up store sales with manufacturer coupons and you can save as much as 80 percent on groceries.  Also, if you currently shop once a week, cut out one out of every four trips to save 25 percent.

-- Set a spousal spending limit.  Resolve that you and your spouse will not spend more than X dollars without each other's permission.  This does wonders to prevent pricey impulse buys.

-- Cancel cable.  The average American household pays more than $700 a year for it!  Check out the website for ideas to see all your favorite shows without cable.

-- Right-size your cell phone plan.  Use the tremendous tools at to see if you are paying too much for cellular service.  You upload your bill and the website tells you if you should switch plans or even carriers.

-- Switch to a high-deductible health plan.  This is great advice if you are healthy.  You can save several hundreds each year, almost enough to cover the new, higher deductible itself should something go wrong.

-- Check out first-time homebuyer assistance programs.  They are offered in most every state and maybe you won't have to save up such a big down payment after all.  Some of these programs help with your down payment, others snag you a lower interest rate.  Here's a website to find your state plan: 

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Selling Your Home During a Housing Slump

Stockbyte/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- As the housing slump continues and home prices are down in many parts of the country, putting your home on the market can be a tough sell.

If you live in a neighborhood with foreclosed homes on the market it could he harder to sell yours.

"Sellers have to understand that they are competing with distressed properties that puts really a lot of pressure on sellers not to put buyers off," says Tara Nicole Nelson, a consumer educator on the housing market.

Nelson advises prospective sellers to remove clutter.

"My advice to sellers is not just to clean or stage your properties, it's to pre-pack them, act like you are moving," and leave your home when a potential buyer is there, she says.

Nelson also advises sellers to "walk out the door and walk down the street" and seek advice from local realtors.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio