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Thursday, July 31, 2008

Culminating months of intensive advocacy efforts by the entire NAHB federation, the Senate has approved a major housing stimulus package that will go to the President’s desk to be signed into law shortly.
“This landmark bill contains several provisions to help home buyers, stop the slide in home prices, provide a lifeline to borrowers facing foreclosure, improve mortgage liquidity and bolster confidence in Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac,” said NAHB President Sandy Dunn. “We commend Congress for working in a bipartisan fashion to provide much-needed relief to the American people.”
For the past year, NAHB has been in the forefront in pushing for legislation to address the turmoil in the financial and housing markets and to bolster the nation’s faltering economy.
Senate Banking Committee Chairman Chris Dodd (D-Conn.), a chief architect of the bill, calls it “the most important piece of housing legislation in a generation.”
Echoing those comments, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said that the bill “represents the most far-reaching reform of our nation’s housing finance system in a generation.”
H.R. 3221, the Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008, includes several provisions aimed at ending the current cyclical downturn in the housing industry and strengthening the housing finance system so that it will provide critical support as the marketplace gains strength.
The House on July 23 approved the legislation by a vote of 272 to 152, sending the measure back to the Senate where Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) shortly thereafter attempted to bring the bill up for immediate consideration through a unanimous consent agreement.
Reid’s effort was thwarted by Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), a long-time opponent of the bill, who used parliamentary maneuvers to delay a final vote on the bill until today when the Senate approved the measure by a solid bipartisan vote of 72 to 13.
The key elements of the bill are:
• A temporary first-time home buyer tax credit. The tax credit will stimulate home buying, reduce excess supply in housing markets and shore up home prices.
• FHA modernization. A revitalized FHA will have greater flexibility to respond to the needs of borrowers, enable more working families to become home owners and play an important role in the mortgage markets. To address the foreclosure crisis, the FHA will guarantee up to $300 billion to refinance troubled mortgages with federal insurance.
• GSE (government-sponsored enterprise) reform. The law reforms the regulation of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and permanently increases the conforming loan limit to help buyers in high-cost markets. To reassure financial and global markets, the government will temporarily expand its line of credit to Fannie and Freddie and permit the U.S. Treasury to purchase an equity stake in the companies through the end of 2009.
• Mortgage Revenue Bond Program. The measure gives states the ability to issue an additional $11 billion in mortgage revenue bonds, which will help strapped borrowers seeking to refinance their home loans.
• Low Income Housing Tax Credit. Enhancing this program will expand the supply of much-needed affordable rental housing.

Tax Credit Centerpiece of Housing Bill
The centerpiece of the housing bill is a temporary, $7,500 first-time home buyer tax credit for the purchase of any home. The tax credit can be used for a home sale closing on or after April 9, 2008 and before July 1, 2009. It is expected to provide a significant financial incentive for home buyers.
“The tax credit is the best stimulative measure,” said Dunn. “It will increase housing demand, get home buyers back into the marketplace and fight falling home prices, which threaten the economy as a whole.”
As first drafted, the tax credit was set to expire on April 1, 2009. At NAHB’s urging, Congress extended the expiration date through June 2009.
“Extending the credit an additional 90 days was important so that home buyers would have use of the credit during the critical 2009 spring and early summer buying season, when we believe the bulk of home purchases will occur,” said Dunn.
Once President Bush signs the legislation into law, NAHB will launch a new Web site — www.federalhousingtaxcredit.com — which includes a set of comprehensive questions and answers about how the credit works and how consumers can put it to their advantage.
Further resources to help NAHB members promote consumer awareness about the credit will also be available at www.nahb.org/mythbuster.
For more specifics on provisions of the housing and economic stimulus legislation, read the stories in the Government section of this special edition of Nation’s Building News.
Other Provisions
The legislation would also:
• Provide $3.9 billion in Community Development Block Grant funding for the purchase of foreclosed homes and the rehabilitation or redevelopment of residential property.
• Provide a $500 additional standard deduction ($1,000 for married couples) in tax year 2008 for taxpayers who do not itemize their deductions but pay property taxes.
• Increase the Department of Veterans Affairs home loan limit for high-cost housing areas so that veterans have more homeownership opportunities.
• Help returning soldiers to stay in their home by requiring lenders to wait nine months, instead of 90 days, before starting foreclosure proceedings. Lenders must also wait one year before raising interest rates on someone returning from the military.
• Encourage states to establish mortgage licensing and registry systems and direct the Department of Housing and Urban Development to step in if the states fail to accomplish this task.
 

Thanks to Michael Strauss of teh NAHB for this article, and for more infomation his email is (mstrauss@nahb.com) and to read the legislation go to http://thomas.loc.gov and enter H.R. 3221 in the box in the center of the page.

Posted by Michael Shumway at 7/31/2008 1:19:00 PM
Wednesday, June 25, 2008
There is a new player coming in the wireless Internet arena. Is your home office ready?
Posted by Michael Shumway at 6/26/2008 3:18:00 AM
Monday, May 19, 2008
The dire headlines coming fast and furious in the financial and popular press suggest that the housing crisis is intensifying. Yet it is very likely that April 2008 will mark the bottom of the U.S. housing market. Yes, the housing market is bottoming right now.
Posted by Jenna Englund at 5/19/2008 10:04:00 PM
Thursday, April 3, 2008

This link will take you to a feature article that appeared in the Idaho Statesman on February 25th regarding the new Galileo Math & Science Magnet School in the Meridian District.

http://www.idahostatesman.com/eyepiece/story/305199.html 

 

Posted by Jenna Englund at 4/3/2008 8:47:00 PM
Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Please don’t let me spoil a good cathartic experience for you. If you are certain the sky will fall, then by all means wear a helmet and turn elsewhere for confirmation. I enjoy amateur economics, you know, basic stuff like supply and demand. In my job, we study the real estate market in the Treasure Valleyand have been closely monitoring residential inventory since 2006 after the unfathomable sales year of 2005. At this point, you probably know there is an extreme excess supply of residential lots and, in my opinion, a much more reasonable supply of finished home inventory. I would argue that the market has been correcting itself for some time and we have made considerable progress toward equilibrium.  

One way to evaluate the trend of finished residential inventory supply is to study the change in inventory by month from one year to another. Because we live in Idaho, winter both impedes the construction process and the buying process. During the holiday period, people are otherwise focused to think about buying a home and builders know this and try to stage inventory appropriately. The real estate business is seasonal and so viewing year over year data using analysis on a month by month basis is appropriate. Figure 1 measures these variances[i]. In June of 2006, the supply of units began to outpace that of the prior year. The peak of the variance was in September of 2006 with 4,601 more housing units available than in September of 2005. Since then, this variance has steadily decreased to December 2007 where we had 471 more units than the prior year. This trend, derived from fewer home starts and a reasonable level of sales, indicates that the excess finished home inventory is eroding.   

 
Sales trend measurement is one method of gauging the demand for housing. We experienced extraordinary record sales in 2005 that spawned the large inventory in subsequent periods and we may not reach those sales levels for a few more years. However, we can study the change in sales volume numbers for the market to help us understand the direction of the market. Figure 2 is a three-month rolling average of the year over year sales variance measured in number of residential closings[ii]. In October of 2005 our number of closings began to slow until they fell below the prior years figures in August in 2006. Closings in 2006 were well below the levels of 2005, but 2005 was a fantastically, and unrealistic, robust period. Since June of 2007, we are trending back toward growth. This is in part due to the more realistic comparison to 2006.    
 
We have established that the inventory levels are correcting nicely and the number of closings is trending back toward a more normal level but if you are a buyer, you probably want to know how far prices might fall in this excess supply environment. The parts of the country particularly hard hit by falling prices are where there have been extreme levels of appreciation over the last several periods. The question then becomes how much appreciation did we experience and what has the reversal been since then?
 
The following table (Figure 3) uses the 3 month rolling average and compares the average home closing price, in both Ada and Canyon Counties[iii]. It is interesting that both counties’ average sales prices have come back down to the average established in June of 2006. This implies that today you can purchase a home in the Treasure Valley for about what you would have paid 20 months ago. Coincidently that is the time that closings fell to below the prior years 3 month average (see Figure 2).  If you look closely at the trend lines in Figure 3, you will see that both the Canyon County and Ada County average closing price attempted to rally back up again last summer. You could argue that there is a ‘floor’ developing, which would imply the average home closing price may very well start up again soon. 
 
One other variable worth studying is the foreclosure rate in the area because foreclosures will add to our already large inventory pool of finished homes. Goodness knows we have been inundated with bad news about the impending catastrophe. Much of that data we see in the media is collected by national entities that collect information on foreclosures and merely count every document filed as a foreclosure. Sometimes property owners salvage the property from foreclosure for a time and then fall back again into foreclosure. The result of this data collection technique is that instead of measuring the number of foreclosures it measures the number of filings. The following chart (Figure 4) was obtained from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC); it gauges actual property foreclosures in the state of Idaho, not the number of filings[iv].  
 
This indicates to me that our situation in Idaho is rolling within the range of the last few years and that we are in much better condition than the nation as a whole. The next graph (Figure 5), again supplied by the FDIC demonstrates the delinquency and charge-off rate for Idaho compared with the nation5. The Idaho rates have been rising but within an historic margin of variance. 
 
If you are a prospective home buyer and you think that foreclosures will add significantly to the supply of inventory I would argue that the likelihood of that is remote. History has shown that national recessions drive people to our productive, beautiful surroundings and quality life style. If you were unemployed and/or tired of bigger city crime, smog and alienation where would you look to live? Perhaps in a city with mountains, clean water and an unemployment rate of less that 3%. 
 
I submit that the fundamentals of our real estate market are correcting and by waiting to purchase you may see the home prices rise. The facts are that the excess supply of finished residential inventory is eroding. Lot inventory notwithstanding, the number of home closings is accelerating and prices appear to be ready to stabilize. When you add to these facts mortgage interest rates in the 6 % range it seems like an excellent time to buy. 
 
By David R. Player
 
Dave Player has been in the banking and commercial finance industry for 30 years. He graduated Magna Cum Laude from the Business School of the University of Utah with a degree in Economics. He is responsible for commercial lending in southern Idaho and Northern Utah, and a Senior Vice President at Mountain West Bank.


[i] Jere Webb, [http://www.jerewebb.com/charts.cfm], “Webb Charts”, January 2005-January 2008.
[ii] John L Scott Real Estate, [http://www.mls.com/], “Monthly Market Survey”, 10 Jan 2008.
[iii] Jere Webb, [http://www.jerewebb.com/charts.cfm], “Webb Charts”, January 2005-January 2008
[iv] FDIC Regional Economic Conditions, Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, http://www2.fdic.gov/recon/index.asp 21 Jan 2008.
5 FDIC Regional Economic Conditions, Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, http://www2.fdic.gov/recon/index.asp 21 Jan 2008.

 

Posted by Jenna Englund at 3/25/2008 10:00:00 PM
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