Arizona Real Estate News Access
All the real estate and mortgage news you need to know in Arizona

March 2009
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Expert: Housing nearing low
Filed under: General, Real Estate
Posted by: Lillian Wong @ 11:07 am

The Valley housing market may be nearing its bottom, analyst RL Brown believes. In what he termed “a doomsday scenario,” Brown said it’s possible a second tsunami similar to the housing meltdown that started in 2006 could devastate the market in the next few years, bringing even more serious troubles than the current downturn. But that won’t happen if the federal government continues along the path it’s undertaken, he said.  more…

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Loan brokers, appraisers dreading May 1 rule change
Filed under: General, Real Estate, Mortgages
Posted by: Lillian Wong @ 10:40 am

Appraisers and mortgage brokers are complaining that changes in the way appraisals are conducted, set to take effect May 1, will have a negative effect on their businesses and on consumers. Known collectively as the Appraisal Code of Conduct, the new rules stem from an investigation by New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo into alleged corruption in the way home appraisals are conducted.  more…

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Community bankers say lending is ‘extremely difficult’
Filed under: General, Business, Mortgages
Posted by: Lillian Wong @ 2:07 pm

As Arizona community banks continue to feel pressure from policy­makers, consumers and small businesses to lend, qualified borrowers and sound deals are hard to find in a market dominated by real estate.

“There’s only a finite number of good customers in the Valley,” said Asian Bank of Arizona President Les Gin during a March 23 roundtable at the Phoenix Business Journal’s downtown office.

The Valley’s banking industry, like other sectors, has relied on real estate loans for economic growth — but that dependence comes with a price.

And in the past two years, it has been costly. Thousands of jobs have been eliminated, dozens of companies have gone out of business, and banks still are reeling from soured loans and write-offs tied to the battered real estate market.

Doug Hile, Meridian Bank chairman and CEO, said it’s “extremely difficult” to underwrite under these conditions. He said loan demand has shriveled in the recession.

“We need the economy to get better,” he said during the roundtable.

The two-hour conversation with local community bankers came just days after Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke told a national convention of their brethren in Phoenix that fear should not guide lending decisions.

In some cases it is a factor, but reality is playing a bigger role.

Gin said his community bank stopped lending to gas stations because of slower consumer demand and the real estate fallout. Many gas station owners relied on residential developments to spur businesses. Some of those projects are in limbo, while others have low occupancy rates.

Steve Curley, president of Community Bank of Arizona, said his bank is so heavily leveraged with real estate loans, it could be years before it lends to that sector again.

Bernanke, speaking March 20 to hundreds at the Independent Community Bankers of America convention and Techworld at the Phoenix Convention Center, emphasized that community banks play a “critical” role in the U.S. economy and are far from being immune to market conditions.

During his 20-minute address, Bernanke touched on numerous measures the Fed has enacted since the market collapsed last fall, including cutting the Fed rate nearly to zero, buying up to $300 billion in longer-term U.S. Treasury bills, and purchasing up to $1.5 trillion in debt and securities issued by mortgage finance agencies, up from $850 billion.

“We can’t have a vigorous recovery unless we restore financial stability,” Bernanke said.

He said the long-term outlook for community banks is positive, despite a tough 2008, when U.S. community banks earned a combined $4.6 billion — less than half the 2007 total. One-third of community banks lost money last year.

In Phoenix, numerous community banks failed to turn profits in 2008 as nonperforming assets climbed in the wake of the real estate crash.

Nevada-based Silver State Bank and First National Bank of Arizona, the largest private bank in the state, failed last year and were taken over by federal regulators because of their exposure to real estate loans. Their secured deposits were sold to National Bank of Arizona and Mutual of Omaha, respectively.

Many other community banks in the Valley are facing a similar fate unless they can capitalize their operations and build stronger balance sheets.

According to bank analyst Bauer Financial Inc., 14 troubled banks are operating in Arizona. Union Bank of Arizona, Valley Capital Bank, Mesa Bank and Arrowhead Community Bank received zero-star ratings from the Florida firm.

Five stars is the highest ranking, and only Commerce Bank of Arizona, Country Bank, Foothills Bank, Nordstrom FSB received that grade in the state.

Banks with two stars or fewer are considered troubled.

“Loan quality at community banks may decline further,” Bernanke said.

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Two communities combat foreclosures, depreciating values
Filed under: General, Real Estate
Posted by: Lillian Wong @ 2:02 pm

When Verrado debuted five years ago, it drew international attention for its design, scope and features.

It was the West Valley’s answer to Gainey Ranch in Scottsdale. In the first four months after opening, 250 homes and more than 60 custom home sites sold.

Two years later, East Valley residents welcomed Spectrum at Val Vista in Gilbert, a 1,470-acre development at the corner of Pecos Road and Val Vista Drive. The community offered homes, shopping, a hospital, a wellness center and one of the largest auto malls in the country.

While sales boomed at Verrado when it opened, Spectrum sputtered out of the gate, a result of bad timing more than anything else. And today, like nearly every other master-planned community in metro Phoenix, both are struggling to draw home buyers as foreclosures and depreciating home values continue to taint the market.

To compound matters, each community is a long way from downtown Phoenix: Verrado is a 25-mile commute, while Spectrum is 29 miles away. When gas prices hit record highs last year, many residents there started to second-guess their purchases. At the same time, potential new owners began to shun the Valley’s outskirts and look inward. The fallout is still in motion.

The Phoenix Business Journal took an in-depth look at these publicized developments on opposite sides of town, from the real estate boom in the middle of this decade to the crash that continues to plague the Valley.

West Side

Last week, the Arizona Regional Multiple Listing Service Inc. had 125 active home listings in Verrado, and about 60 percent were in pre-foreclosure or foreclosure.

Forty-eight homes are in the short-sale process and 27 are foreclosures.

RL Brown, publisher of the Phoenix Housing Market Letter, said Verrado was on the cutting edge of the marketplace, but “clearly they have seen a change in their fortune.” He said a slowdown in custom housing sales hurt the project, which may have suffered further strain because of its location on the far west side.

To date, about 1,450 production homes and 20 custom properties have been built, according to developer DMB Associates Inc. Many custom homes sold five years ago still haven’t been built.

Verrado is 30 percent developed, and its estimated 25-year build-out likely will be extended. The community’s master plan called for 14,000 homes by 2030.

Buckeye Associate Planner Brian Rose said home builders have stopped construction. Forty to 50 final plats, or subdivisions, were presented to the city for approval in 2006. The city has held off on those approvals at the request of developers because there is no demand.

About 1,600 to 2,000 homes were scheduled to be built on those plats by now, but the land sits barren as builders wait for the ailing economy and real estate market to turn around.

Verrado Vice President and General Manager George Casey said the business plan and development will span multiple decades and market cycles.

According to ARMLS, 170 homes were sold in Verrado from March 17, 2008, to March 17, 2009, a 91 percent increase from the same period the year before. Of those 170 homes, 75 were foreclosures, an 80 percent increase from the prior year.

About 3,000 people now live in Verrado and about 165 homes there are leased, according to Casey. That is a departure from the community’s marketed concept of a family utopia devoid of renters.

DMB gradually has changed its marketing strategy to attract seniors as well, a shift from its intended demographic of families and commuters.

“The active-adult market has always been a part of the Verrado residential mix,” Casey said.

East Side

At the other end of the Valley, ARMLS listed 20 active home sales at Spectrum at Val Vista as of March 24, and nearly as many in pre-foreclosure (10) and foreclosure (7). In the past year, the Gilbert community, originally developed by Woodbine Southwest Group, recorded 56 home sales, eight short sales and 26 foreclosures.

Unlike Verrado, Spectrum is near build-out: Some 3,500 homes have been planned and approved, with about 200 yet to be built.

Gilbert spokesman Garin Groff said the economy has slowed the development rate.

Len Meyer, an associate broker who markets the area, said Spectrum has gone through its woes, including developer changes and home builder and land banker bankruptcies. Despite that, the market has picked up, thanks to foreclosures.

“That’s what’s selling,” said Meyer, co-owner of Tempe-based Gammage Realty Group Inc. “This is typically the time of year things begin to sell.”

Market analyst and consultant John Fioramonti said Spectrum has laid off most of its sales force.

Get Connected

Verrado: www.verrado.comSpectrum at Val Vista:

East vs. West

Figures are for the 12-month periods starting March 17:

Spectrum at Val Vista
’07-’08 ’08-’09 % change
Homes sold 52 98 88%
Real estate owned 8 40 400%
Average sale $304,700 241,600 -21%
Median sale $297,900 222,500 -25%

’07-’08 ’08-’09 % change
Homes sold 93 178 91%
Real estate owned 9 75 800%
Average sale $416,700 $301,100 -28%
Median sale $338,000 $273,500 -19%

Source: Arizona Regional Multiple Listing Service Inc.

Troubled Builders

Home builders and other stakeholders going through Chapter 11 bankruptcy or facing other financial troubles:

Cachet Homes: Held its first auction in late February to unload 28 single-family houses and townhomes.
Engle Homes: The company’s parent, Tousa, has been in bankruptcy since January 2008 after losing 98 percent of its market value. A spokeswoman for the Hollywood, Fla.-based builder told the South Florida Business Journal on March 23 it would lay off 200 of its remaining 700 employees.
Hacienda Builders: Out of business. There was a trustee sale of the company in April 2007, and Bank of America became the beneficiary.

Brown Family Homes: Out of business.
Fulton Homes: The Tempe-based builder filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in late January.
Richmond American: The brand’s parent,
MDC Holdings Inc., lost $380.5 million, or $8.24 per diluted share, in 2008. The previous year, the Denver firm lost $636.9 million, or $13.94 per diluted share.
Trend Homes: The Gilbert-based builder came out of Chapter 11 reorganization late last year. In January 2008, Phoenix-based Najafi Cos. LLC purchased its assets and subsidiaries for $65 million.
Taro Properties Arizona LLC: The land brokerage firm and its two affiliates are in Chapter 11 bankruptcy and served as the banker for Trend Homes. Chief Financial Officer Bill Southworth said the company owns 542 lots adjacent to the Spectrum development. Southworth expects a ruling on the bankruptcy in 45 to 60 days.

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2 home-decor stores to open
Filed under: General, Business, Real Estate
Posted by: Lillian Wong @ 1:54 pm

Weekend shoppers are getting their first look at the Scottsdale Quarter. The emerging shopping district southeast of Scottsdale Road and Greenway Hayden Loop had its first two store openings on Thursday.  more…

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Battle renewed over CityNorth
Filed under: General, Real Estate
Posted by: Lillian Wong @ 1:51 pm

The Arizona Supreme Court should not accept jurisdiction in the CityNorth case, the Goldwater Institute argues, because the Arizona Court of Appeals ruled correctly in the case and because no similar cases are likely in the future.   more…

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Low rates spur refinancing calls to Valley lenders
Filed under: General, Mortgages
Posted by: Lillian Wong @ 1:48 pm

Record-low mortgage interest rates encouraged many Phoenix-area homeowners to inquire about refinancing their loans in the past week, mortgage lenders and brokers said. While average interest rates in the Valley aren’t as low as those reported nationally, lenders said they have come down enough to make refinancing worthwhile for some borrowers.  more…

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G20 protests: chanting demonstrators march to London’s Hyde Park ahead of talks
Filed under: General, Business
Posted by: Lillian Wong @ 1:30 pm

Up to 15,000 protesters gathered in Hyde Park on Saturday afternoon after marching through central London to demonstrate ahead of the G20 summit of world leaders.  more…


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Filed under: General
Posted by: Lillian Wong @ 12:30 pm

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Why is the jobless rate lower here?
Filed under: General, Business
Posted by: Lillian Wong @ 11:21 am

One of the most firmly held beliefs about the Arizona economy is that it is too dependent on housing. This goes beyond the indisputable point that housing is a big part of the Arizona economy. The assertion, almost universally accepted, is that housing drives the rest of the Arizona economy.  more…

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Pimco chases attractive returns
Filed under: General, Business, Mortgages
Posted by: Lillian Wong @ 11:06 am

Pimco chases attractive returns

Bill Gross, co-CIO, says he seeks returns up to 15% for participating in the latest bank rescue plan. Play
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Home-price skid slowed in January
Filed under: General, Real Estate
Posted by: Lillian Wong @ 11:01 am

Wire Reports

U.S. home prices fell 6.3 percent in January from the same month last year, according to a U.S. government report.

However, at the same time, The Federal Housing Finance Agency said prices, on a seasonally adjusted basis, rose 1.7 percent from December to January. Changes in the geographic mix of sales explained the unexpected monthly increase. Home sales included in January’s data were weighted toward areas that haven’t borne as much of the brunt of the housing recession, the agency said.

The index is calculated using mortgage loans bought or guaranteed by federally controlled mortgage-finance companies Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. It is down 9.6 percent from its peak in April 2007.  

The home-price decline was led by a 21 percent price drop in the Western region, which includes California, the Federal Housing Finance Agency in Washington said Tuesday.

But the pace of home-price declines is slowing as cheaper financing lured buyers and helped offset foreclosure sales. A wave of refinancing is likely to boost home-loan originations by $800 billion to $2.78 trillion, the Mortgage Bankers Association said Tuesday. Refinancing will total $1.96 trillion in 2009 and purchase originations will increase to $821 billion, the group said, as the Federal Reserve buys mortgage-backed securities.

The effect of having the Fed bid in the market is enough to create a refinance incentive for a tremendous number of homeowners, said Jay Brinkmann, MBAs chief economist. The vast majority of mortgages originated before the latter part of 2008 are probably going to have at least a 50 basis point refinance incentive for at least the next several months, with mortgage rates hitting lows not seen since the early 1950s and late 1940s.

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Foreclosures flood Tempe market
Filed under: General, Real Estate
Posted by: Lillian Wong @ 10:57 am

Tempe Realtor Dean Tolley is overloaded with foreclosed homes. In the 15 years he has sold homes in the Valley he has never seen so many foreclosed properties on the market. Foreclosed homes now make up the majority of his sales at Century 21. That trend is being seen Valley-wide, with the resale of foreclosed homes flooding the housing market.  more…

Tempe Realtor Dean Tolley says foreclosed homes now make up most of his sales at Century 21. 

Pat Shannahan/The Arizona Republic

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Home values, sales slip in north Phoenix
Filed under: General, Real Estate
Posted by: Lillian Wong @ 10:52 am

Home values and home sales declined throughout the Valley and Phoenix in 2008, and hardly any area was spared, not even the better-off areas of north-central Phoenix, northeast Phoenix and north Phoenix. Foreclosures were at new highs as well. Statistics gathered by the Information Market for The Arizona Republic revealed several negative trends for 2008 in north Phoenix:  more…

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Low prices helped lift home resales in Feb.
Filed under: General, Real Estate
Posted by: Lillian Wong @ 11:08 am

Sales of previously occupied homes in the Western United States climbed in February, as low mortgage rates and cheap foreclosed properties drew in many first-time buyers and investors, according to two reports released Monday.  more…

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Gilbert buys park land with $80 mil bond sale
Filed under: General, Real Estate
Posted by: Lillian Wong @ 11:00 am

Gilbert has sold more than $80 million in bonds and got a slightly better interest rate than its staff anticipated. But if the housing market doesn’t rebound as the town expects it to in the next couple of years, Gilbert taxpayers could be left holding the bill.  more…

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What exactly are soured securities?
Filed under: General, Real Estate, Mortgages
Posted by: Lillian Wong @ 10:56 am

WASHINGTON - A fresh effort to end the paralysis in lending was launched Monday by the Obama administration, which will join with investors to buy up around $500 billion in soured assets from banks.

But what exactly are these toxic assets the government wants to get off the banks’ books - and how did they get to be poisonous?  more…

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Administration moves against bad bank assets
Filed under: General, Real Estate, Mortgages
Posted by: Lillian Wong @ 10:52 am

WASHINGTON - The Obama administration on Monday aimed squarely at the crisis clogging the nation’s credit system with a plan to take over up to $1 trillion in sour mortgage securities with the help of private investors. For once, Wall Street cheered.

The announcement, closely stage-managed throughout the day, filled in crucial blanks in the administration’s financial-rescue package and formed what President Barack Obama called “one more critical element in our recovery.”  more…

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Fannie Mae Home Affordable Refinance
Filed under: General, Mortgages
Posted by: Lillian Wong @ 12:39 pm

Coming in April 2009!   more…

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Phoenix Area Home Trends
Filed under: General, Real Estate
Posted by: Lillian Wong @ 11:57 am

Phoenix Area Home Value Trends

Phoenix Area Home Sales


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