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The California Real Estate Rollercoaster

The year 2010 brings to a close one of the most volatile decades in the history of the California real estate industry. Median home prices increased at an unprecedented rate to all-time highs five years ago, while the second half of the decade witnessed the sharpest decline in home prices ever recorded. Its hard to imagine that the same ten years that saw homes being purchased sight-unseen at twenty percent above asking price also experienced widespread foreclosures and lofty inventories of properties for sale. Home builders that were once purchasing as much land as they could find were soon abandoning partially completed developments. Homebuyers that once struggled to find a home they could afford were suddenly availed to a wide array of reasonably priced houses. So now that the California real estate rollercoaster has rapidly taken us up and down, what does the future hold?

Excitement aside, it seems safe to say that market stability would be much more favorable when compared against the extreme fluctuations experienced over the previous decade. Thankfully most real estate economic indicators over the past several months do point towards a leveling out of housing values. However, the primary concern in the back of every real estate professionals mind is whether a second wave of foreclosures will negatively impact housing values in the near future. Should we be ready to pull back the safety bar and lift our arms in the air to prepare for the next plunge on the rollercoaster?

This determination should begin with an analysis of two of the most prominent real estate market statistics: housing sales and median prices. A look at California homes sales shows that between 500,000 to 600,000 single family residences have been sold each month in the state for the last year-and-a-half consistently. These stable statistics are well above the trough of 254,650 home sales that occurred in October of 2007. So given the currently high levels of affordability compared to the peak years of the housing boom, a dramatic drop in the number of homes sold seems very unlikely.

A quick examination of California median home prices during the first quarter of 2010 may initially raise fears of a potential double dip as housing values decreased from $306,820 to $279,840. However, it is important to note that the median price of $279,840 was actually 14.1% above the median from a year ago. Affordability is also more than double than the levels of a few years ago when the median home price in California exceeded $550,000. The fact that more buyers can afford to buy homes should continue to drive demand and prevent a significant decline in home prices.

When applying the law of supply and demand to housing values, one must assess the number of homes for sale in order to ensure that this supply, or housing inventory, does not exceed the current level of demand. The first quarter of 2010 revealed a housing inventory of 6.3 months the time it would take for all of the homes currently on the market to sell at the current rate of sales activity. Although this figure may seem large, Californias long-run average is 7 months of inventory. Accordingly, inventory levels below 7 months have always fueled year-to-year price gains in the past. So if inventory levels can continue to be contained, housing values should begin appreciating again in the near future.

Housing inventory is what leads us to the primary quandary as to whether record breaking loan default notices over the past year will lead to yet another wave of foreclosures that will ultimately be re-sold by lenders in bulk. In theory, this could dramatically increase housing inventories beyond demand and cause another drop in home prices. Fortunately this event seems unlikely now that both banks and the Federal Government are increasingly working hard on various levels to promote foreclosure avoidance through loan modifications and short sales. These efforts in combination with recently instituted housing tax benefits, increased affordability, low inventories and increased demand should all help to counter the effects of future foreclosures.

So even though most patrons dont enjoy a relatively slow and stable rollercoaster, it is safe to say that most Californians welcome the idea of this ride becoming a little safer and predictable.


Article Source: http://www.articlesnatch.com

About the Author:
Brian S. Icenhower, Esq, BS, JD, CRB, CRS, GRI, ABR is the CEO of Keller Williams Realty Tulare County, a real estate broker, an attorney, President-Elect of the Tulare County Association of REALTORS, a California Association of REALTORS State Director, a real estate litigation expert witness and former real estate law instructor at the College of the Sequoias.

MARS Rule and Real Estate Professionals

The Federal Trade Commission today issued a statement announcing that it will forbear from enforcing most provisions of its Mortgage Assistance Relief Services (MARS) Rule against real estate brokers and their agents who assist financially distressed consumers in obtaining short sales from their lenders or servicers.

As a result of the stay on enforcement, these real estate professionals will not have to make several disclosures required by the Rule that, in the context of assisting with short sales, could be misleading or confuse consumers. As more and more American homeowners seek short sales, it is especially important that the Rule not inadvertently discourage real estate professionals from helping consumers with these types of transactions.

The MARS Rule was issued pursuant to authority granted by Congress in 2009. The issuance of the Rule followed numerous FTC and state enforcement actions against companies that claimed to be able to obtain from consumers’ mortgage lenders or servicers a loan modification or other relief to avoid foreclosure. The Rule covers companies or individuals, among others, who assist consumers in obtaining approval of a short sale from their lender or servicer.

A short sale occurs when a home is sold for an amount less than the balance owed on the mortgage loan, and the lender or servicer agrees to accept the proceeds of the sale instead of pursuing foreclosure. Short sales can benefit consumers by allowing them to escape from a mortgage that they cannot afford, while avoiding foreclosure. Many real estate professionals assist distressed homeowners by providing both traditional services associated with selling their homes (e.g., listing the property) and working to seek lender or servicer approval of a short sale.
The MARS Rule requires companies offering mortgage assistance relief services to disclose certain information to consumers about the services they provide, bans collection of advance fees, and prohibits false or misleading claims. After the Rule went into effect, a number of real estate professionals who help consumers with short sales raised concerns about complying with the Rule. These professionals pointed out that some of the required disclosures could confuse consumers or could be inaccurate in this context.

At this time, the Commission has announced that it will not enforce most of the provisions of the MARS Rule against real estate professionals who are engaged in obtaining short sales for consumers. The stay applies only to real estate professionals who: 1) are licensed and in good standing under state licensing requirements; 2) comply with state laws governing the practices of real estate professionals; and 3) assist or attempt to assist consumers in obtaining short sales in the course of securing the sales of their homes. The stay exempts real estate professionals who meet these requirements from the obligation to make disclosures and from the ban on collecting advance fees. These professionals, however, remain subject to the Rule’s ban on misrepresentations.

The Commission stated that the stay does not apply to real estate professionals who provide other types of mortgage assistance relief, such as loan modifications. In addition, the FTC will continue to enforce the Rule and Section 5 of the FTC Act, which prohibits unfair and deceptive practices, against all other providers of mortgage assistance relief services.

The Commission vote approving the MARS Rule enforcement policy was 5-0. It can be found on the FTC’s website and as a link to this press release. More information about the Rule can be found here, and information about consumers’ mortgage rights can be found here.

The Federal Trade Commission works for consumers to prevent fraudulent, deceptive, and unfair business practices and to provide information to help spot, stop, and avoid them. To file a complaint in English or Spanish, visit the FTC’s online Complaint Assistant or call 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357). The FTC enters complaints into Consumer Sentinel, a secure, online database available to more than 2,000 civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad. The FTC’s website provides free information on a variety of consumer topics. Like the FTC on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

FTC Will Not Enforce Provisions of MARS Rule Against Real Estate Professionals Helping Consumers Obtain Short Sales

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