Home Affordable Modification Program Lacking Success

September 6, 2010

The government's plan to help struggling home owners seems to be a flop for many.When the Obama Administration announced the Home Affordable Modification Program, it was touted as the solution to the crisis that distressed home owners were in. It was supposed to stabilize the housing market, reduce foreclosures, and help home owners get back on their feet without losing their homes.

Here we are a year and a half after the program started and not even half a million people are currently participating in the program. It’s not that more haven’t tried; banks simply don’t want to cooperate. The program claims to have helped 1 million homeowners, but half who started in the program have dropped out, or been kicked out.

Some banks have said that the plan is unrealistic, and many just don’t want to follow more government rules than they have to. Fortunately most of the same banks have created their own solutions, which are helping far more homeowners than the government’s plan.

The foreclosure problem is still huge, though, even bigger than it was in January 2009 when the program was announced. Nearly 2 ½ million homes have been foreclosed upon since December 2007, with 900,000 of those in 2009 alone. Foreclosures in 2010 are on track to break that record and top out over 1 million. Compare that to the “normal” number of foreclosures prior to the mortgage crisis of 100,000 per year.

To be honest, many of these homes have been in trouble for years. The banks are just now getting caught up with their foreclosure paperwork. But many of these homes could be salvaged for their owners if banks were more willing to cooperate.

The Home Affordable Modification Program will probably end up helping only about 500,000 people get back on and stay on track with their mortgages. Some of this is the fault of the banks for not doing their part, some of it is the fault of the government for not creating a better plan, and some of it is the fault of the homeowners themselves. Many homeowners find themselves in increasingly worse financial situations even after altering their mortgage, and end up losing it anyway, whether due to job loss, health problems, or simply poor financial choices.

Banks have claimed that the Obama administration has pressured them to accept people who have not yet proven their qualifications. The Obama administration denies these claims. Home owners claim they have sent in the required paperwork, but the banks claim they never received it. It seems to be a nightmare of finger pointing and disorganization is to blame for much of the problem.

Whatever the cause, if you find yourself with a distressed mortgage and need immediate help to sell your home, give The Curtis Johnson Team a call. We help sellers get quick sales, and we help buyers find what they are looking for. Check out what our happy clients have had to say about The Curtis Johnson Team.

Go to www.CurtisJohnsonRealty.comor call 1-888-Curtis-J.


Homeowner Confidence Still Low

September 1, 2010

Home Owner Confidence in the Housing Market is still lowThe media tells us that the housing market has stabilized, but homeowners aren’t so sure. A recent report by Zillow.com shows that homeowner confidence has dropped in the second quarter of 2010. One-third of homeowners believe that home prices can still go lower.

Nationwide, only 24 percent of homeowners think their home has increased in value in the past year, even though 34 percent of homes are actually worth more than a few months ago.

Perhaps some of the reason is because many believe that the economic recovery is temporary. The nation as a whole is indeed teetering on the brink, with the national debt closing in on the gross domestic product for the first time since the Great Depression. Many economists are predicting a second dip, and even a full-blown depression, as early as 2011.

On the other hand, history shows that significant economic recessions and depressions tend to result in American’s feeling less secure for decades to come. How many of us recall the oddly frugal habits of our parents or grandparents that were a direct result of the Great Depression? Many of their generation didn’t even trust banks to hold their money and instead invested their savings in jars buried in the backyard.

Zillow’s report also showed that “27 percent of homeowners believed their own homes’ values would increase in the next 12 months, 35 percent believed they will stay the same, 12 percent expected a decrease and 26 percent did not know.”

Western homeowners, including those here in Arizona, who do expect a rise in home values, are hoping for a 10 percent jump. Northeastern homeowners also expect that 10 percent, but the rest of the nation is coming in closer at a hopeful 5 percent.

There are also many homeowners who want to sell their house, but have not had any success or just haven’t bothered. They are waiting for sure signs of stability and rising prices to put their homes on the market.

Unfortunately, the potential of 3.8 million new homes on the market could cause those rising home prices to slow or even stop. The higher the inventory, the more homes buyers have to choose from and the more sellers have to lower their prices. It’s a buyer’s market, but most homeowners want to see a seller’s market.

What can we expect? The housing market is sure to recover eventually, but that recovery may not be as fast as many would like to see. Zillow suggests for three to five years after “the bottom” that the housing market will grow at a very slow rate until the inventory levels out.

If you are in worried about the housing market, give the Curtis Johnson team a call. The Curtis Johnson Team is helping individuals who are facing foreclosure and those who are seeking their dream homes.

Go to www.CurtisJohnsonRealty.com or call 1-888-Curtis-J.

International Buyers of Arizona Properties Increasing

August 24, 2010

International buyers increasing in ArizonaMany interesting people walk through the doors of the Curtis Johnson Realty office, including an increasing number of international buyers. We have seen it, the Phoenix area culture is being influenced by it, and now the National Association of Realtors has confirmed it: Arizona is one of the top places that international buyers go when searching for their American dream home.

We mentioned the other day about the increasing number of Canadian buyers in the Phoenix market, but there are house hunters from other countries as well. Citizens of 53 other countries have purchased homes in the United States recently, with the largest numbers being from Canada, Mexico, the U.K., and China or Hong Kong.

Whether vacation homes, investment properties, temporary residences for holders of student or work visas, or permanent homes for new immigrants, 7% of the United States housing market is owned by a non-U.S. citizen. About 2/3 of their recent purchases have been single-family detached homes, most of which are being purchased to live in themselves or for a family member. The other 1/3 are probably investment properties and the owner may or may not reside in the United States.

International buyers are looking for bargains, as are many American buyers these days, but their buying power is greater on average. International buyers paid an average $219,400 for a home this year, compared to the overall price of $172,500.

Whether you are an American or a citizen of another country looking to settle in Phoenix or to invest in some choice properties, the Realtors with the Curtis Johnson Team can probably find you what you need. Contact the Curtis Johnson team, go to CurtisJohnsonRealty.com or call 1-888-Curtis-J.

From Snow-Bunnies to Sun-Lovers: More Canadians Buying Homes in Arizona

August 19, 2010

From snow boots to flip flops, more Canadians are buying in ArizonaWhether Canadians are flocking to purchase homes in Arizona because it’s a buyer’s market, or simply because they are tired of snow, the effect is the same: 1/4 of all out-of-state buyers in the Phoenix area recently are Canadian citizens!

It’s true that you don’t have to “shovel sunshine” – and this alone could be the original source of Canadians who are buying homes in Phoenix. However, as we all know, the real estate market in Arizona is struggling, the United States dollar isn’t as strong as it could be, and the fear of loss of jobs or loss of retirement income is at nearly every American’s doorstep. But Canada’s dollar is stronger, and they are not as affected by the recession.

Canada’s retirees, who may have decided another winter of shoveling several feet of snow is just not possible for their aging bodies, younger people, and even investors are looking to the struggling US real estate market for bargains. The warmer the area the better;we sure have plenty of warmth here in Phoenix!

Is this good or bad for the Phoenix area? Well, it will certainly bring non-US dollars into the area, which is a good thing for our economy. It will mean fewer foreclosures and other empty homes on the market, which will eventually increase and stabilize home prices again. Since many of the Canadian buyers are retired, it’s quite possible that these new residents will have independent sources of income, so will not decrease the pool of available jobs. Many may even increase the job market if they are small business owners or even just need to hire some domestic help -not to mention the increase in services and places to shop that will be needed with an increase in population.

This trend is not new; even before the recession we were seeing more and more Canadians heading to the sunny city of Phoenix. Now we see fewer Californians purchasing in Phoenix, a population that has traditionally been the leader in out-of-state buyers. We are also seeing an increase in buyers from northern United States regions and the Midwest.

Quite possibly, the best thing that these new buyers will bring is more stability. Those who are looking to invest and live in Phoenix these days are a population group that typically stays put for a long time.

If you are ready to trade in your snow-bunny gear for shorts and sandals, give the Curtis Johnson team a call. We know the Phoenix area and can help you find the home of your dreams or a great investment property. Contact the Curtis Johnson team, go to CurtisJohnsonRealty.com or call 1-888-Curtis-J.

One of America’s Top 100 Cities–Scottsdale, Arizona

August 9, 2010

Downtown Scottsdale Arizona WaterfrontIf you are looking for a home in one of the best places to live in Arizona, then you should look at Scottsdale. Located within the greater Phoenix, Arizona metro area, it has landed on the list of MONEY Magazine’s 2010 top 100 Best Places to Live in the United States!

Scottsdale wins the 71st spot out of 100 best cities nation-wide. MONEY Magazine mentions the many golf courses (there are over 170!), the PGA tour, shopping, restaurants, and resort spas as some of the better amenities Scottsdale has to offer.

Those who call Scottsdale home know that there are even more outstanding features to this great town.

Scottsdale is considered a small city in itself, but keep in mind that it sits within the Phoenix metro area. While it can have a small-city feel, it is well within the bounds of one of the largest cities in the nation.

Whether wanting to relocate or just needing a place to spend your winters, Scottsdale has much of what you are looking for.

With the Sonoran Desert and McDowell Mountains nearby the hiking is great. The hot dry climate makes it attractive to those who are just plain tired of winter chills. Many people suffering from allergies and breathing problems find the climate conducive to better health.

If you are looking for a bargain in housing, Scottsdale is a great place to invest. The real estate market’s crash took a big toll on Scottsdale and many other parts of Phoenix, but it is sure to rebound. Right now there are foreclosures and short sales in nearly every neighborhood and you can easily find your dream home for a fraction of what it normally would cost. Now is a great time to invest in a vacation property, a winter home, or a permanent desert oasis right here in Scottsdale.

Check out another great Phoenix-area city that is also on MONEY’s top 100 list—Gilbert, Arizona!

When you are ready to buy or sell in one of the best cities in the nation, contact the Curtis Johnson team for help. We know Scottsdale and the greater Phoenix area and can help you find the home of your dreams or a great investment property. Contact the Curtis Johnson team, go to http://www.CurtisJohnsonRealty.com or call 1-888-Curtis-J.

August 5, 2010

One of America’s Top 100 Cities—Gilbert, Arizona

August 3, 2010

Gilbert, ArizonaThe Phoenix area has no shortage of great places to live! Gilbert, Arizona was recently named one of the 100 Best Places to Live in the United States by MONEY Magazine! Those of us at Curtis Johnson Realty can only agree with them—Gilbert is a great city!

According the Gilbert Chamber of Commerce, most people who choose to make Gilbert their home do so because of its “small-town friendliness, great schools, pristine neighborhoods and a thriving business community.”

Many people have been discovering all that and more about Gilbert. It is recognized as one of the fastest growing cities in the nation, with the population topping 200,000 in recent years. Don’t think that is very impressive? The population was only 5,000 a mere 30 years ago!
Located within the greater Phoenix metro area and with easy access to all that Phoenix has to offer, Gilbert retains its small town roots and sense of community.

MONEY Magazine’s editors noted that some of Gilbert’s best features include Joe’s Real BBQ restaurant, the Downtown Heritage District, Trilogy Golf Club and the three-day-long Gilbert Days festival.

Like most of Arizona, Gilbert suffered when the real estate market crashed, but today Gilbert is rebounding with the rest of the Phoenix area. There are bargains to be had for sure in the foreclosure and short sale listings. But with the increasing popularity of Gilbert the time to buy is now.

Check out another great Phoenix-area city that is also on MONEY’s top 100 list—Scottsdale, Arizona!

Let the Curtis Johnson team show you the best real estate in Gilbert today. From foreclosed single family homes to top of the line mansions, older homes or even horse ranches…somewhere in or near Gilbert is the home you have been dreaming of. We know Gilbert and the greater Phoenix area and can help you find the home or investment property you are looking for. Contact the Curtis Johnson team, go to http://www.CurtisJohnsonRealty.com or call 1-888-Curtis-J.

New Home Starts Up and Down in June; Builder Confidence Dropping

July 22, 2010

There was good news and bad news released this week for home builders in Phoenix, Arizona and the nation. The good news is that the expected drop in June’s single-family new home starts didn’t really happen. In fact it was essentially unchanged from a month before, which could indicate that the plunge in new home construction has reached the bottom and is leveling off.

Perhaps this news will perk up the confidence of Arizona home builders. The National Association of Home Builders released the July Housing Market Index showing a drop in builder confidence from previous months. This reflects the slow market that builders are seeing and shows that their perception of the market is very bad. Anything below 50 is considered low.

There is more bad news about what else has dropped. A steep plunge of over 21% in multi-family housing starts pulled the overall rate down to a lower-than-predicted level. Many economists forecasted combined June housing starts would drop to 550,000. Actual numbers came in about 10,000 below that estimate, for an overall drop of 5%.

Graph of New Home Starts

This drop was expected after the end of the home buyer tax credit, however economists are now hoping that the slight drop of only 0.7% in single family home starts is a sign of better things to come.

On the flip side, permits for new housing starts increased just over 2% in June. This number reflects a drop in single family housing permits but a 19% increase in multi-family permits. The Northeast and the West saw healthy increases in combined permits while the Midwest and the South both saw significant drops.

June housing permits could be an indicator of July’s housing starts, although many are reflected in June’s numbers.

According to the NAHB, “about half of single family homes are started the same month that the permit is issued” and nearly all are started within two months. About one-third of multi-family units are started in the same month. A housing start is defined as the beginning of excavation for the footings or foundation of both single family and multi-family buildings. This is commonly referred to as “ground breaking.”

If you are hunting for a new home or even the perfect patch of land to build on, the Curtis Johnson team can help. Contact the Curtis Johnson team, go to www.CurtisJohnsonRealty.com or call 1-888-Curtis-J.

Housing Prices Continue to Drop in Phoenix and Nation-wide

June 30, 2010

The Phoenix real estate market has been up and down, but its more down than up now.There is good news for home buyers in the Phoenix area—home prices are continuing to decrease, down half a percent from February. Of course, this sounds like terrible news if you are trying to sell your home, especially if you bought it when home prices were at or near their peak. No matter what shoes you are in, you should take time to look at the current housing market before making your next real estate move.

Sales jumped during the past several months, partially due to the lower prices of homes and partially due to the home buyer tax credit. Now that the credit has ended, home sales have plummeted and sellers are dropping prices in an attempt to catch the eyes of the prospective home buyers still out there. Eventually the market will right itself if left alone, but it will take time.

In the meantime, foreclosures and short sales are increasing. Combine that with slow job growth, increasing unemployment in many areas and fields, and increasingly tight credit requirements. This combination is going to further drive down the value of homes in Arizona and other states. It’s a bargain hunter’s paradise, for sure.

What can you do if you are trying to sell your home in this frustrating market? How do you compete with the foreclosed house down the block? The same tips are tried and true no matter what state the market is in: good staging, fresh paint, decrease clutter, clean, clean, clean, and fix all those issues that might come up. Have someone with a fresh eye take a walk through your house as if they were a home buyer, then write down—and complete—everything they suggest.

If the continuing downturn of the Phoenix housing market has you in a sweat, or if you’re looking to take advantage of lower prices, call the Curtis Johnson team to help you. The Curtis Johnson Team is here to help when you are looking to buy or sell a home. You don’t need to go to the government for help. Instead, go to www.CurtisJohnsonRealty.com or call 1-888-Curtis-J.

On the Brink of a New Housing Crisis? Foreclosure at Record High for Second Month

June 24, 2010

This beautiful Scottsdale home is a current bank-owned foreclosure. Interested in purchasing a home like this? Call the Curtis Johnson team!

The second plunge of the real estate market is beginning to rear its ugly head. For 2 months in a row, April and May, bank repossessions have hit a record monthly high. Nearly 94,000 properties in the United States were repossessed in May alone. Arizona foreclosures are the second highest in the nation. These numbers are an increase of 44 percent over a year ago.

These are not newly distressed properties, and many have been sitting empty for months—abandoned by their financially troubled owners—but the fact that these REO homes will soon cram the real estate listings is the real problem. When normal listings are placed side by side with bank owned repo’s the only way they can compete is by dropping their prices. If you are in no rush to sell your home, that’s probably not too troubling, but if you’re heading towards foreclosure yourself, or even just being relocated for your job, then you want a quick efficient sale. If your price can’t meet those of other homes, chances are that sale will be slow in coming.

Sure, Bob and Mary could walk into your home and immediately fall in love, realizing it’s the dream home they have always wanted, and after a little bit of haggling about the sales price you could be packing for your big move—but in reality this is a pretty rare event these days. You may have to drop the price of your home by $20,000 or more just to get some interested buyers, with offers coming in well below that.

What this means is that all homes will have their prices driven down again, more and more homes will go into foreclosure as financially distressed home owners are unable to sell them, relocated homeowners will be forced to rent out their home in order to carry two housing payments, and distressed neighborhoods could continue to become more and more blighted.

I’m afraid that the government’s attempt to salvage some of the housing market in the past has only increased the problem now. The Home Buyer Tax Credit kicked the market into action, but since it has stopped so has the market. Slow home buying activity combined with an increase in bank repossessions is combining for what will soon be a very unpleasant situation.

Want to get your home sold quickly before the market plunges deeply? Contact the Curtis Johnson team to learn more about our Quick Cash Options. Looking to invest? It’s an investor’s dream right now and we have many properties to suit you. Call the Curtis Johnson team today!

Go to CurtisJohnsonRealty.com or call 1-888-Curtis-J.