Friday, August 28, 2009

New York's 'skinniest' house on sale

A pedestrian takes a picture of the narrowest house in New York City, located at 75 1/2 Bedford Street in Greenwich Village, New York, Wednesday, Aug. 26, 2009. It is 9 1/2 feet wide and 42 feet long and its asking price is $2.7 million. (THE ASSOCIATED PRESS/Yanina Manolova)

NEW YORK - It's 9.5 feet wide and 42 feet long (2.9 metres wide by 12.8 metres long) and is billed as the narrowest house in New York City. But there's nothing small about its asking price: $2.7 million.

Located in Greenwich Village, the red brick building was built in 1873 and sandwiched between two larger structures.

It's famous for other reasons, too. Corcoran real estate broker Alex Nicholas says anthropologist Margaret Mead and poet Edna St. Vincent Millay once called it home.

The three-story structure boasts plenty of light with large windows in the front and back, and a skylight. The current owner bought it in 2000 for $1.6 million. Nicholas says it's a place for someone who wants a little history.

- - - - - - -

Emphasis on "little". Imagine what that could get you here on Staten Island instead!

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Thursday, August 27, 2009

Home Prices in Major U.S. Cities Rise for a Second Month

From the Wall Street Journal:

Home prices

Home prices in major U.S. cities rose for the second straight month
in June in the latest sign the housing market may be steadying after
years of declines.

The S&P/Case-Shiller index for home prices in 20 major cities in
the three months ended June 30 was up 1.4% from its level in the three
months ended May 31. It was the first time the index rose two months in
a row since mid-2006. Prices gained in 18 of 20 markets, but were still
down 31% from their July 2006 peak.

"Momentum matters," said Robert Shiller, the Yale University
economist who helped create the index. "This is a sudden break in

hint of improvement in housing and the broader economy was underscored
in a separate report Tuesday showing consumer attitudes improved in
August after two months of decline. The Conference Board's
consumer-confidence index rose to a level of 54.1 in August, just shy
of the 54.8 level reached in May.

One component of the index, consumer expectations of where the
economy will be in six months, rose to 75.8, its highest since the
recession began in December 2007. Consumers' assessment of present
conditions also improved, along with stepped-up plans for buying homes,
autos and several major appliances.

Economists and real-estate professionals warn that a recovery in
housing is likely to be bumpy: Home prices could drop again as job
losses drive foreclosures higher. "It really is too soon to call this
as a turning point," Mr. Shiller said, recalling a slowdown in price
declines in early 2008 before the deteriorating economy sent housing
back into a tailspin.

[US home prices]

narrower Case-Shiller index of home prices in 10 major metropolitan
areas is down 15.1% for the last 12 months and down 5.5% so far this
year. Government officials used that measure when modeling their
assumptions for stress tests to gauge the health of U.S. banks earlier
this year. Under a baseline scenario, officials predicted declines of
14% for 2009, while an adverse scenario forecast a 22% drop.

A separate price gauge calculated by the Federal Housing Finance
Agency, which uses sales price information on mortgages owned or backed
by government-backed mortgage investors Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac,
showed that prices increased 0.5% in June from May.

Meanwhile, sales of existing single-family homes in California
increased 12% in July from the same time a year ago, the California
Association of Realtors said.

Recent home-price gains have been driven, in part, by competition
between first-time buyers and investors offering to pay cash for
distressed properties. Demand also has been boosted by government
intervention that helped drive mortgage rates to half-century lows in
the spring and a tax credit of up to $8,000 for first-time home buyers.

Stefan Nissen, a 34-year-old emergency-room nurse, and his wife, a
schoolteacher, are buying a three-bedroom home in Novato, Calif., a San
Francisco suburb. The home is selling for around $500,000 in a short
sale -- a transaction in which the sales price falls short of the
mortgage balance owed by the seller. "We actually looked to buy two
years ago and could not get into anything in the area," said Mr. Nissen.

headwinds remain. Mortgage defaults and foreclosures aren't likely to
peak until unemployment ebbs. The rate of 90-day delinquencies on loans
owned or guaranteed by Freddie Mac rose to nearly 3% in July from 2.8%
in June and 1% in July 2008. While rising demand has helped soak up
foreclosure inventory in several hard-hit markets, rising mortgage
defaults have fueled concerns among real-estate professionals that the
supply of new foreclosures could jump later this year.

"The government has not yet handled the foreclosure problem," said
Mr. Shiller. The success of efforts to stave off foreclosures by
modifying mortgages and the firming of demand for homes will determine
whether the gains in home prices last.

Las Vegas and Detroit were the only markets that saw monthly price
declines in June. Home prices in Las Vegas have dropped by 54.3% from
the August 2006 peak, moving ahead of Phoenix, which is down by 53.9%
from its June 2006 peak.

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Friday, August 21, 2009

Existing homes selling fast - record fast

Homes sales set a record

Sales of existing homes rose in July for the fourth consecutive month, lending support to economists who argue a recovery is near.

Sales of previously owned single-family homes were up 7.2% compared with June and 5% from July 2008, The National Association of Realtors (NAR) reported Friday. The monthly gain was the largest on record for existing-home sales, which NAR has tracked since 1999.

"The housing market has decisively turned for the better," said Lawrence Yun, NAR's chief economist. "A combination of first-time buyers taking advantage of the housing stimulus tax credit and greatly improved affordability conditions are contributing to higher sales."

July home sales hit an annualized rate of 5.24 million proprieties, marking the first breach of the 5 million annualized rate mark since last September, when they hit 5.1 million. Since then, they have stayed in a very narrow range, bouncing between between January's low of 4.49 million and October's high of 4.94 million.

The July performance far exceeded expectations: A consensus of real estate experts had forecast sales of 5 million.

Low prices

Of course, homes should be selling. Prices have fallen more than 32% from their peaks, set in the summer of 2006. Plus, mortgage rates near historic lows makes the cost of purchasing a home lower than they've been in nearly 20 years.