Posts Tagged ‘real estate’

Clever Small Home Architecture Derived From Site Restrictions in Tokyo

November 22, 2011

By Amazing Architecture | Joseph Rossi

River Side House 5 Clever Small Home Architecture Derived From Site Restrictions in Tokyo

The River Side House is an impressive project designed by Mizuishi Architect Atelier and located in Tokyo, Japan. The small home was constructed on a triangle site and occupies a building area of 29.07 square meters. According to the architects, the structure of the residence includes functionally separate areas, as follows. The first is the dining & kitchen area, situated up the stairs and having high ceilings with a feeling of rise towards the roof top. The living space is low ceilinged and has full-opening windows on both sides of the bay, ensuring a feeling of floating. There is also a generous spare room to the east, for having guests over. The interior arrangements of this residence are minimalist and tasteful. The walls are painted entirely in white, inspiring openness and tidiness. Wooden accents and splashes of color here and there add a happy tone to the design. Do you find this project as intriguing as we do?

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Strange Houses & Weird Homes

October 20, 2011

A Home Can Be So Much More Than A House

via You Live Where

house507a

This house sure is a doozy, or at least the fall from it is. The archway at the bottom, while sacrificing some stability, is a nice touch. Do you think that the designer of this house likes roofs? As if this house needed to be more top-heavy. My real question is: Where is the electricity coming from to operate that lift? I imagine that it would be a little windy all the way up there. A great little detail that just proves the amazing things people can do with Photoshop these days.

 

 

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FDIC Expects Fewer Bank Losses than Originally Estimated

October 20, 2011

Appraiser News Online

The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation lowered its projections on estimated bank-failure losses in the coming years, the FDIC announced Oct. 11. Bank failures are now estimated to cost the Deposit Insurance Fund $19 billion through 2015 compared to the estimated $23 billion in losses in 2010 alone.

Acting FDIC Chairman Martin J. Gruenberg said the fund is on track to recover and will meet the goals established by Congress, including a requirement that the fund reserve ratio reach 1.35 percent by Sept. 30, 2020.

The Deposit Insurance Fund’s balance has climbed for six consecutive quarters following seven previous quarterly declines, reaching a balance of $3.9 billion in the second quarter of 2011. That’s an increase of nearly $25 billion from its negative balance of $20.9 billion at the close of 2009.

Responding to the FDIC’s announcement, Jim Chessen, chief economist at the American Bankers Association, noted in American Banker Oct. 16 that the data “reaffirms the fact that the banking industry is rapidly returning to health and the losses once expected were overstated.” Chessen reported that the FDIC had set aside $17.7 billion for bank-failure losses in 2011, twice what is estimated to actually be needed for the year.

The American Bankers Association reported that banks pay $13.5 billion in annual premiums to the FDIC, which is well above the yearly costs the agency expected over the next few years and showed that the fund is rebuilding much faster than anticipated.

 

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The Newest Threat to Home Price

October 18, 2011

Janice Revell, Fortune Magazine

FORTUNE — The rancorous debate about how to address our escalating national debt has dominated the conversation in Washington lately. What isn’t getting much attention inside the Beltway — but should — is a looming event that could have major consequences not only for your home’s value but also for the overall economic recovery. Barring last-minute action by Congress, upscale housing is about to take another punch to the solar plexus — just as it’s struggling to stabilize.

At issue are the limits for so-called conforming mortgage loans that can be bought or guaranteed by Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and the Federal Housing Administration. These mortgages have the implied backing of the U.S. government, which lowers their interest rates and down payment requirements. Back in 2008, at the height of the financial crisis, Congress temporarily hiked the conforming loan limit from $417,000 to $729,750 in affluent areas to boost the flailing housing market.

On Oct. 1, those higher limits are slated to drop back down again in expensive markets nationwide — ranging anywhere from $483,000 in counties like Monterey, Calif., to $625,500 in cities like New York and Washington. As a result, about 1.4 million homes will be pushed out of eligibility for lower-rate conforming loans, according to the National Association of Home Builders. Homeowners looking to buy or refinance those properties will instead have to take out "jumbo" mortgages," which require a much larger down payment — generally 20% to 30%, compared with the typical 10% for conforming loans — and carry interest rates that are typically half to three-quarters of a percentage point higher.

The upshot? More downward pressure on prices in high-end markets. The new loan limits will affect approximately 8% of the total U.S. housing market, according to industry estimates, with particularly significant impact across the Northeast and California, as well as parts of Florida and Illinois. (You can find local market specifics at fhfa.gov.) But everyone should take heed: If expensive homes stop selling, then prices for the houses under them will feel the pressure too.

Indeed, while many experts support the idea of weaning the jumbo mortgage market off government financing, they worry about making the move while the housing sector is still trying to clear excess inventory. "Reducing the conforming loan limits will test whether private lenders are willing and able to step up, but doing so this year may be premature," says Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics. "The cost to the housing market and economy of a misjudgment would be high."

There’s speculation that President Obama will propose a major housing-related stimulus in the coming weeks as part of a broader economic plan. Whether that involves extending the conforming loan limits is anyone’s guess at this point. But stay tuned: You’ll feel the impact of this high-end housing issue either way.

The Newest Threat to Home Price

October 18, 2011

Janice Revell, Fortune Magazine

FORTUNE — The rancorous debate about how to address our escalating national debt has dominated the conversation in Washington lately. What isn’t getting much attention inside the Beltway — but should — is a looming event that could have major consequences not only for your home’s value but also for the overall economic recovery. Barring last-minute action by Congress, upscale housing is about to take another punch to the solar plexus — just as it’s struggling to stabilize.

At issue are the limits for so-called conforming mortgage loans that can be bought or guaranteed by Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and the Federal Housing Administration. These mortgages have the implied backing of the U.S. government, which lowers their interest rates and down payment requirements. Back in 2008, at the height of the financial crisis, Congress temporarily hiked the conforming loan limit from $417,000 to $729,750 in affluent areas to boost the flailing housing market.

On Oct. 1, those higher limits are slated to drop back down again in expensive markets nationwide — ranging anywhere from $483,000 in counties like Monterey, Calif., to $625,500 in cities like New York and Washington. As a result, about 1.4 million homes will be pushed out of eligibility for lower-rate conforming loans, according to the National Association of Home Builders. Homeowners looking to buy or refinance those properties will instead have to take out "jumbo" mortgages," which require a much larger down payment — generally 20% to 30%, compared with the typical 10% for conforming loans — and carry interest rates that are typically half to three-quarters of a percentage point higher.

The upshot? More downward pressure on prices in high-end markets. The new loan limits will affect approximately 8% of the total U.S. housing market, according to industry estimates, with particularly significant impact across the Northeast and California, as well as parts of Florida and Illinois. (You can find local market specifics at fhfa.gov.) But everyone should take heed: If expensive homes stop selling, then prices for the houses under them will feel the pressure too.

Indeed, while many experts support the idea of weaning the jumbo mortgage market off government financing, they worry about making the move while the housing sector is still trying to clear excess inventory. "Reducing the conforming loan limits will test whether private lenders are willing and able to step up, but doing so this year may be premature," says Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics. "The cost to the housing market and economy of a misjudgment would be high."

There’s speculation that President Obama will propose a major housing-related stimulus in the coming weeks as part of a broader economic plan. Whether that involves extending the conforming loan limits is anyone’s guess at this point. But stay tuned: You’ll feel the impact of this high-end housing issue either way.

Quiz: Am I Ready to Buy?

October 18, 2011

Carla Hill, Yahoo Real Estate

There are lots of eager would-be buyers out there. It’s no wonder why! The market currently offers many ideal buying conditions. Interest rates are still at historic lows (for those with excellent credit). Home prices are extremely affordable when compared to area median incomes. There is a large supply of homes available in most markets (more homes to choose from and buyer advantage at negotiations).

Yet, the questions remains. Are you ready to buy? Take a moment to answer this ten question quiz: Am I Ready to Buy?

1. What is your credit score? (a) less than 620; (b) between 730 and 850; (c) between 620 and 730.

2. Do you have cash for a 20 percent down payment? (a) how much?; (b) yes; (c) not yet, but we’re working on it.

3. Do you have cash totaling an 8-month emergency fund? (a) I live month to month; (b) we have funds to cover 8 months of expenses; (c) we only have savings to cover a few months.

4. Have you been pre-approved for a mortgage? (a) I figured I’d find the house I like first; (b) Yes, and I have a copy of the letter; (c) I played around with forms online.

5. Is your job: (a) temporary, part-time; (b) full-time and secure; (c) full-time, but our company is experiencing lay-offs.

6. Do you plan on staying in your current city for the next 3 to 5 years? (a) I won’t be here for that long; (b) Yes, most definitely; (c) I’m not sure.

7. Have you worked on buyer budgets? (a) I don’t have time to do frivolous budgets; (b) I have a spreadsheet showing different scenarios; (c) I’ve worked up a few, but haven’t spent much time.

8. How much space do you need? (a) I want a mansion. I’ll take nothing less. (b) We know within about 500 square feet; (c) we’ve given it some thought, but aren’t sure.

9. Are you and your spouse or partner on the same page? (a) it’s my way or the highway; (b) we’ve had several lengthy discussions and agree on most points; (c) we’ve talked, but have very different ideas.

10. Why do you want to buy? (a) I want a place i can show off; (b) I want stability for my family; (c) I want to be able to decorate like I want!

If you answered mostly a’s, then our experts recommend you take some time to get your finances in squeaky clean order before proceeding. Homeownership is a big financial responsibility, and with an unemployment rate over 9.0 across much of the country, it’s important that you have funds in place to take care of yourself and your family before you you buy.

If you answered mostly b’c, congratulations! You sound like a prime candidate for homeownership. Be sure to contact your local Realtor for advice on the next step.

If you answered mostly c’s, you are very close to being ready to buy. Take the next few months to check over your credit report and fix any errors. Talk to banks and lenders and see what rates you qualify for. Start putting buying at the forefront of your mind and your future planning. Make it a priority and it’ll happen!

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Persevere, Don’t Abandon Your Dream

October 18, 2011

PJ Wade, Yahoo Real Estate

Are you letting global uncertainty extinguish your real estate dreams without full consideration because money is an issue? Sometimes balancing livable compromises against researched options can help you achieve more than you may have believed possible.

Your future should not be entirely defined by what is affordable. When it comes to where you’ll live and how, concentrating on finances alone may short-change you in the long run.

One long-time reader is living proof that adapting your finances to achieve your dreams is a powerful alternative to designing your life around a lack of money.

When two people close to Tina Lowe (identity protected) died prematurely, Lowe promised herself she would not to spend her life sitting at a desk. She wanted to retire at 60 and start enjoying life.

“Friends and family couldn’t understand how I was doing it, but I did it anyway because that is what I wanted to do,” said Lowe, explaining how she achieved home ownership and early retirement without the million dollars that pundits say is essential to a successful future.

Lowe was almost 50 when her 30-year marriage ended, leaving her financially vulnerable. For a few years, Lowe held down two jobs to make ends meet. Eventually, a move to a small, less expensive apartment on the outskirts of town allowed her to quit the part-time weekend job.

Lowe invested time and effort in learning about money. She took advantage of her employer’s shared-contribution program and a loan from a friend to build up her Registered Retirement Savings Plan (RRSP). She also invested time in learning all she could about pensions, indexing, RRSPs, and, later, Tax-Free Savings Accounts (TFSA). From company seminars to reading anything she could find on the principles of investing, Lowe made sure she fully understood how money made money. By the time Lowe left work at 60, her RRSP fund totaled almost C$50,000.

Economic volatility did not shake Lowe’s determination to leave work on schedule. Meticulous planning and appreciation of the rewards of a simple lifestyle maintained her commitment. Creative back-up plans added security.

When Lowe noticed an advertisement for a condominium that could be carried for about what she was paying in rent, she revived the dream of home ownership that had been abandoned in favour of early retirement. Once again Lowes began researching diligently. She learned how condominiums work and what gave them sustainable value. When she discovered that prices increase with the number of amenities, square footage, and the higher in the building you are, she decided to buy at a smaller unit on a lower floor and in a less “lux” building. Lowe bought the location and neighborhood she loved and saved thousands of dollars. Lowe discovered a south-facing, self-contained fifth-floor, 344-square-foot unit with a balcony. Since the small building was free of fancy amenities, monthly maintenance fees remain affordable. The unit increased in value over her pre-construction purchase even before she moved in.

“It will be tight because it has been since day one, but I’m doing it,” said Lowe emphasizing that not smoking or owning a car stretches her income further. “It is important not to let anyone put you down or discourage you. When I first found this place, I had been to [a] real estate seminar and they got me going. Then I had one family member really put me down. Finally, a friend who is an accountant thought it was a good idea and encouraged me, and I thought, ‘I can do this.’ You must use knowledge to survive. It is very tight—I am not going to kid anyone, but I am still very happy I retired at 60.”

Knowledge is power. Take the time to understand which costs may become a challenge in the future. You may decide a part-time job will supplement investment or pension income. Consider housing like co-operatives where contributing skills and “sweat equity” may make the important affordable difference. Perhaps teaming up with friends or relatives will increase your buying power.

Continuing with income-generating projects will be increasingly commonplace, both out of interest and necessity.

Developers realize that they are creating new communities within the subdivision or high-rise they build. Some perceptive developers create work-live options that will provide services for residents while creating income streams for owners.

Churches, legions and other non-profit organizations have become community-builders in a “bricks and mortar” sense of the word by developing housing for their congregations, members and neighbors. Often this housing is below market value.

Communities involve varying numbers of people, but their strength lies in individual resilience, self-actualization and freedom. Property ownership is one outward symbol of these marks of individuality since no two properties – even condominiums, row houses etc. – are identical.

Over the past 20 years, the national home ownership rate has risen steadily. Although low interest rates, increasing disposable incomes, and stable employment conditions are credited with that improvement, the future still holds potential for growth. The wish for continued control over one’s home and life keeps increasing numbers of Canadians intent on investigating their all their options.

Waiting for great times to return is not a strategy, it’s a tragedy. Put your money to work for you in even the smallest ways. Think before you spend—“What else could I do with that money?—so you keep more of what you earn and continually move dreams closer to reality.

Remember, the impossible may take a little longer, but you can make it happen with perseverance. Today’s Local Market Conditions Report.

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Lawsuit Claims Banks Bilked Veterans During Refinancing Transactions

October 18, 2011

Evan Nemeroff, National Mortgage News

A whistleblower lawsuit filed by two mortgage brokers has been unsealed in Federal District Court in Atlanta claiming that 13 banks and mortgage companies have cheated veterans out of hundreds of millions of dollars.

According to the lawsuit, lenders allegedly hid illegal fees in veterans’ home mortgage refinancing transactions related to the Interest Rate Reduction Refinancing Loans program. This program was created to allow veterans to take advantage of low interest rates and protect them from paying excessive fees and charges in the refinancing transaction.

The lawsuit claims that the lenders repeatedly violated the rules of the IRRRL program by charging veterans unallowable fees and then deliberately concealing this information from the VA to obtain taxpayer-backed guarantees for the loans. The lenders also allegedly falsely certified to the VA, in writing, that they were not charging unallowable fees.

In the lawsuit, the brokers are claiming that the lenders have been fraudulently reporting on HUD-1 statement forms undisclosed attorneys fees and other unallowable fees on the line for the actual cost of title examination and title search. The lawsuit says that lenders are reportedly charging $525 to $1,200 for title examination and title search fees, when the total cost should only amount to $125 to $200.

Lenders are permitted to charge veterans for recording fees and taxes, fees for a credit report and other “reasonable and customary amounts,” according to VA rules, but cannot charge attorneys’ fees or settlement closing fees in refinancing transactions involving VA loans.

“The false statements and fraudulent conduct are blatant,” said Marlan Wilbanks, co-lead counsel in this whistleblower case. “The banks simply reduced the charges for unallowable fees to zero, and then added those fees in the spaces where allowable fees were to be shown. Veterans don’t know what the usual and customary charges for those allowable fees are, and the VA understandably relied upon the banks to comply with VA regulations, rather than digging into every loan transaction. The banks took advantage of that reliance to cheat veterans and taxpayers.”

Since 2001, the VA has guaranteed over 1.1 million IRRRL loans. According to the Office of Inspector General for the Department of Veterans Affairs, the nationwide default rate for IRRRLs is 18% or more, with approximately more than 100,000 loans going into default every year. Nearly half of the VA loans that default result in foreclosure proceedings, costing the VA about $22,000 for each loan and also massive damages for American taxpayers and veterans.

Under the False Claims Act, the lenders would be liable for all damages resulting from those fraudulently induced guarantees of IRRRL loans, as well as penalties of up to $11,000 for each violation of the act.

The defendants in this case include Wells Fargo, Countrywide Home Loans, Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, Mortgage Investors Corp., PNC Bank, First Tennessee Bank National Association, Irwin Mortgage Corp., SunTrust Mortgage, New Freedom Mortgage Corp., GMAC Mortgage and Citimortgage,

“This is a massive fraud on the American taxpayers and American veterans,” said James Butler Jr., co-lead counsel of the Atlanta law firm Butler, Wooten and Fryhofer. “Knowing they weren’t allowed to charge the fees, the banks and mortgage companies inflated allowable charges to hide these illegal without telling the veterans who were the borrowers or the VA they were doing so.”

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Homes of the Future!

October 13, 2011
A Look Ahead at New Homes of 2015

By Erika Riggs, Zillow

If you had asked someone in the 1960s what the home of 2015 would look like, chances are they imagined something akin to The Jetsons’ home complete with Rosie the Robot and other space-age appliances that dressed and fed the family.

But, rather than space-age technology, the biggest thing that is expected to change in future single-family homes is the size.

“Homes will get smaller,” says Stephen Melman, Director of Economic Services at the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) in Washington D.C. “We asked builders, ‘what do you anticipate the new home size would be by 2015?’ ”

According to the results of the study, surveyed home builders expect new single-family homes to check in at an average of 2,150 square feet. Current single family homes measure around 2,400 square feet, which is already a decrease from the peak home size in 2007 of 2,521.

While the decrease in home size has a lot to do with the recession, many believe that the real estate changes will stick around even after the economy and home values get back on solid ground.

z_greatroom_v2

This Sherman Oaks, CA home has a great room, encompassing dining, living and family rooms.
Photo: Zillow

“Although affordability is driving these decisions, smaller homes are a positive for builders,” said Melman. “It allows for more creative design, more amenities, better flow. It’s an opportunity to deliver a better home.”

z_control4-7-screen_v2

Home digital control panels can help manage security and energy consumption.
Photo: Control4

Other things that make up the home of 2015? No more living room. According to the survey, 52 percent of builders expect the living room to merge with other spaces and 30 percent believe that it will vanish completely to save on square footage. Instead, expect to see great rooms — a space that combines the family and living room and flows into the kitchen.

Expect to see more:

  • spacious laundry rooms
  • master suite walk-in closets
  • porches
  • eat-in kitchens
  • two-car garages
  • ceiling fans

Expect to see less:

  • mudrooms
  • formal dining rooms
  • four bedrooms or more
  • media or hobby rooms
  • skylights

Many of these changes reflect a desire for builders and consumers going green. Smaller space means more efficient heating and cooling. Ceiling fans distribute heat evenly while skylights, on the other hand, release heat.

However, as builders look to go green, they’ll be installing energy-efficient windows and compact fluorescent and LED lighting, as well as water-efficient appliances and plumbing.

Additionally, many new homes will have the baby boomer population in mind with walk-in showers, ground-floor master bedrooms and grab bars.

“A bigger share of the new homes will be purchased by people 55 or 65 and older,” said Melman. “They’re more likely to have more cash for a down payment, but they’re empty nesters, so they don’t need five bedrooms.”

 

 

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Buying Distressed Properties

October 13, 2011

By Matt Sailor, How Stuff Works

After huge upheavals in the housing market throughout the 2000s, the market showed signs of leveling off by late 2010 and early 2011. Still, despite hopeful economic indicators, as of 2011 a full third of all houses on the market were distressed properties — those whose owners have defaulted or are about to default on their mortgages . Largely because of desperation on the part of the owners of these properties, and their lenders, distressed homes can be much cheaper than comparable homes for sale. There are a few basic types of distressed properties.

In a short sale, a property is headed for foreclosure, and the owner of the home tries to sell the house for lower than what is owed on the mortgage. The lender takes a hit on the price to avoid foreclosure and cut its losses. When prices in the area have plummeted so far that it would be nearly impossible to sell the house for the value of the mortgage, short sales give lenders and homeowners a way out of the loan agreement.

At a foreclosure auction, banks and other lenders auction off properties that have been repossessed from owners who defaulted on their mortgage loans. Auctions are held at public facilities like courthouses and are best left to investors with large amounts of cash to spend. Individual buyers should usually steer clear, since all bids have to be backed up with a check in-hand for the entire sale price . Even more frightening is the fact that houses at auction are usually purchased site unseen.

An REO (real estate owned) foreclosure is what people are usually talking about when they describe a property as a "foreclosure." This is a bank- or lender-owned home that you purchase directly from the lender in a process similar to typical home sales.

All distressed properties have the same basic advantages and disadvantages. On the plus side, a distressed home will typically be priced significantly lower than it would be sold for if it weren’t distressed . But these houses won’t necessarily be dirt cheap. Widespread foreclosures drive down prices of non-distressed homes, so you might not need to seek out distressed homes to get a bargain . On the down side, distressed homes take more time and effort at virtually every stage of the process, require a large amount of paperwork and frequently need major repairs . Read on to learn when you should go for it, and when you shouldn’t, when it comes to distressed property purchases.

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