Tag Archives: foreclosures

foreclosure

Landlords must disclose foreclosures to tenants

Renters no longer have to worry about being surprised when their home is repossessed by a bank now that a new law requiring landlords to give them notice has been signed.

Gov. Jan Brewer signed the tenant notice bill late last week amid a flurry of action on laws passed by the legislature in the session that ended June 14.

House Bill 2281 amends the Arizona Residential Landlord and Tenant Act to require owners to provide written notice to tenants within 5 business days of receiving a notice of trustee’s sale. The law previously only required notice if a provision was in the lease.

Republican Rep. Steve Smith of Maricopa says he sponsored the bill after renters complained they were tossed out by banks without notice.

homes

Prices Up, Foreclosures Down, Investors Losing Interest

Phoenix-area home prices are back on their way up again, after a short drop in January. The latest housing report from the W. P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University shows soaring prices, dropping foreclosures and waning interest from investors looking at Maricopa and Pinal counties, as of February.

* The median single-family home price shot up more than 4 percent in just one month — January to February.
* The median single-family home price went up 36.5 percent from February 2012 to February 2013.
* Foreclosures have resumed their downward trend, after a brief post-holiday bump, and they are likely to fall below the “normal,” long-term level by the end of next year.

Phoenix-area home prices have risen sharply since hitting a low point in September 2011. The median single-family home price went up 4.3 percent from January to February. It went up 36.5 percent – $124,500 to $170,000 – from last February to this February. Realtors will note the average price per square foot rose 30.9 percent year-over-year. The median townhouse/condo price increased 39.4 percent – from $77,500 to $108,000.

“These substantial increases were predicted in our last report and are almost certain to continue in March,” says the report’s author, Mike Orr, director of the Center for Real Estate Theory and Practice at the W. P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University. “Pricing typically strengthens during the peak buying season from February to June each year.”

Orr adds the market is still dealing with a chronic shortage of homes available for sale. The number of active single-family-home listings (without an existing contract) in the greater Phoenix area fell about 5 percent just from February 1 to March 1. Also, 79 percent of the available supply is priced above $150,000, creating a real problem in the lower range.

“The shortage continues to get more severe among the most affordable housing sectors,” says Orr. “Overall, ‘distressed,’ bargain supply is down 32 percent from last February, since we’re seeing fewer foreclosures and short sales. First-time home buyers face tough competition from investors and other bidders for the relatively small number of properties available in their target price range.”

Thanks to the tight inventory, the amount of single-family-home sales activity was down 10 percent this February from last February. Things don’t appear to be getting better.

“Higher prices would normally encourage more ordinary home sellers to enter the market, but it seems many potential sellers are either locked in by negative equity and/or staying on the sidelines, waiting for prices to rise further,” explains Orr. “At some point, we will reach a pricing level where resale supply will free up, but we are not there yet.”

While high-end, luxury-home resales are picking up some steam, many frustrated home buyers in the lower price range have been turning to new-home construction. As a result, new-home sales were up an incredible 67 percent from last February to this February. New-home sales have almost doubled their market share from 6 percent to 11 percent over the last 12 months. Still, Orr says new-home sales have a long way to go to recover their normal percentage of the market.

He adds, “New homes are not being built in sufficient quantity to match the population growth in the Phoenix area. The construction industry remembers overbuilding from 2003 to 2007, contributing to the disaster in 2008 that resulted in layoffs and bankruptcies for some developers. For now, it looks like they will probably build fewer than half the homes needed to keep pace with current population trends.”

Investor interest also continues to wane in the Phoenix area. The percentage of homes bought by investors from 2011 to mid-2012 was way up, but it declined in Maricopa County from 37 percent last February to 29.7 percent this February. Many investors are looking at other areas of the nation where prices haven’t recovered as much and more bargains are available. Orr labels it a “significant down trend” here.

Foreclosures and foreclosure starts (homeowners receiving notice their lenders may foreclose in 90 days) are both back on a downward trend, too, after a short post-holiday bump. Completed foreclosures on single-family homes and townhome/condos fell 25 percent from January to February alone. They were down 52 percent from last February. Foreclosure starts were down 61 percent from last February. Orr predicts foreclosure-notice rates may be down to “below long-term averages” by the end of 2014. Meantime, the lack of cheap foreclosed homes continues to help push prices up.

“The significant annual price increase over the last 12 months has now spread to all areas of greater Phoenix,” says Orr.

Orr’s full report, including statistics, charts and a breakdown by different areas of the Valley, can be viewed at http://wpcarey.asu.edu/finance/real-estate/upload/Full-Report-201303.pdf. A podcast with more analysis from Orr is also available from knowWPCarey, the business school’s online resource and newsletter, at http://knowwpcarey.com/index.cfm?cid=13.

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Arizona foreclosure rate tumbles

The number of Arizona homeowners losing their home to repossession or who are in some stage of the foreclosure process keeps on dropping.

New data released by foreclosure tracking form RealtyTrac shows nearly 4,000 homes were either taken by lenders or received notices of foreclosure last month. That’s a 29 percent drop from January and a 56 percent drop from February 2012.

About 1,900 homes were repossessed last month and 2,100 homeowners received a notice of default, the first step in the foreclosure process.

In March 2012, nearly 9,500 homes were in some stage of foreclosure. That includes 3,600 Arizona repossessed by banks and more than 5,900 homeowners who received a notice of default. That month, Arizona was No. 1 in the nation for foreclosures. Arizona is now No. 6.

foreclosure

1/3 of Arizona’s home sales are foreclosure-related

A new report shows 34 percent of all home sales in Arizona last year involved houses in some stage of the foreclosure process.

The data released Thursday by foreclosure tracking firm RealtyTrac shows that’s actually a 26 percent dip from the previous year.

Nearly 65,000 homes sold while in some stage of foreclosure last year. The average sales price for those homes was $142,000 and reflected a 23 percent discount from regular prices. The number of foreclosure sales actually was a 25 percent improvement from 2011.

Another 19 percent of the homes sold last year were short sales where the bank accepted less than was owed on the mortgage.

Both numbers were substantially lower than in 2011 as the Arizona home market finally began recovering from years of high foreclosures.

foreclosure

1/3 of Arizona's home sales are foreclosure-related

A new report shows 34 percent of all home sales in Arizona last year involved houses in some stage of the foreclosure process.

The data released Thursday by foreclosure tracking firm RealtyTrac shows that’s actually a 26 percent dip from the previous year.

Nearly 65,000 homes sold while in some stage of foreclosure last year. The average sales price for those homes was $142,000 and reflected a 23 percent discount from regular prices. The number of foreclosure sales actually was a 25 percent improvement from 2011.

Another 19 percent of the homes sold last year were short sales where the bank accepted less than was owed on the mortgage.

Both numbers were substantially lower than in 2011 as the Arizona home market finally began recovering from years of high foreclosures.

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68-Unit Apartment Community in Mesa Sells for $4M

 

 

Cassidy Turley completed the sale of Country Club Greens, a 68-unit apartment community on 2.4 acres at 350 W. 13th Place in Mesa for $4M.

The buyer was Clear Sky Capital CCG L.P. of  Phoenix and the seller was California Bank & Trust. Executive Vice Presidents David Fogler and Steven Nicoluzakis with Cassidy Turley Arizona’s Multi-Family Group brokered the transaction.

Built in 1986, the property has nine one bed/one bath and 59 two bed/two bath fully remodeled rental units that include new energy efficient appliances and upgraded kitchen and bathroom cabinets.

The complex also has a swimming pool and spa and on-site leasing office. Country Club Greens is located one mile south of the Loop 202 on Country Club.

In other news, Cassidy Turley completed a 2,800 SF lease for Voxpop, the shopper marketing radio network, at 2141 E. Camelback Rd.. Justin Himelstein and Jason France with Cassidy Turley Arizona’s Office Tenant Representation group represented Voxpop.

The marketing company relocated from an office at University and 35th St. to the Camelback Corridor submarket. Judith Tucker with Camroad Properties represented the landlord, Two Corners Financial Group, LLC.

Voxpop began in 2003 in Mexico and is the largest in-store marketing radio network reaching more than 40M people in more than 1,800 stores. In 2009 the company expanded its operations in the U.S.

The company currently has partnerships with retailers in Arizona, Texas and California, including Arizona-based Bashas’, AJ’s Fine Foods and Food City locations. Voxpop is a strategic messaging company that started by providing background music for stores and grew into providing targeted advertising and marketing messages for grocery customers.

The client list includes national companies such as Nestle, Coca-Cola, Tyson, General Mills and Kraft.

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Are Arizona’s anti-deficiency statutes feeding the bubble?

Jack and Jill were living the American dream. They bought their dream house in 2006. Then, the economy spiraled downward. Jack lost his job. Housing values dropped, and the amount remaining on Jack and Jill’s mortgage exceeded the value of the property — commonly known as having a house that is “under water.”

Jack and Jill didn’t want to pay the mortgage any more, so they walked away, leaving the bank to clean up the mess from their financial misstep.

They were able to do that because of Arizona’s anti-deficiency statute, which says that if a person or corporation owns a residential property on 2.5 acres or less that is used as a dwelling, the owner is not responsible for any deficiency occurring after a foreclosure, according to Lynne B. Herndon, city president for BBVA Compass.

“The difference between the fair market value of the home — or the amount that the foreclosure sale brings — and the loan balance is known as a deficiency,” said Paul Hickman, president and CEO of the Arizona Bankers Association. “In Arizona, the bank suffers that loss, not the homeowner who walks away from the home.”

But it’s not only the homeowners — whom the statutes were intended to protect — who are catching the breaks.

“Unfortunately, the statute has been interpreted more broadly than originally intended such that properties used for investment are also covered,” Herndon said.

Arizona is one of only 12 states that has some form of anti-deficiency protection. Of the 12, Herndon said Arizona has the most liberal statute.

“This statute absolutely contributed to the housing bubble as investors both in this state and outside of the state knew they could buy residential real estate in Arizona and walk away if the investment became negative,” Herndon said. “Homeowners in this state have experienced larger declines in home value due to this statute allowing investors to speculate and walk away.”

The incidence of homeowners like Jack and Jill walking away from their home, avoiding hundreds of thousands of dollars of negative equity in their home, and legally sticking their lenders with a loss and became an all-too-common move during the Recession, experts said.

“In my view, the average borrower was not likely aware of the finer points of the anti-deficiency statutes when determining whether to purchase a home,” said Jennifer Hadley Dioguardi, a partner in Snell & Wilmer’s Phoenix office. “However, once the housing market crashed, the anti-deficiency statutes likely caused some homeowners who had the means to make their mortgage payments to decide to simply walk away from the residence given the fact that the lender had no recourse against them other than to foreclose upon the residence once the residence was under water. The borrower was not responsible for the deficiency. This likely contributed to some homeowners who could pay their mortgage simply walking away from the property and leaving the lender on the hook.”

Experts believe that homeowners and investors who seized the opportunity to take advantage of Arizona’s anti-deficiency statutes to protect their own financial futures, might be stifling the state’s chance at an economic recovery and exacerbating the economic collapse.

“The broadness of the deficiency statute has had an overall negative impact not just on the banking industry, but more importantly, Arizona’s long-term economy,” said Keith Maio, president and chief executive officer of National Bank of Arizona. “Arizona’s statute is the most liberally interpreted of the 12 non-recourse/deficiency states, the majority of which limit the protection to primary residences or some other means that limit its contribution to speculation. In Arizona, it allows investors to finance their speculation in housing, risk-free. If their investment does not work out, they don’t have to pay back the difference between what they sold the home for and what they owe. This statute was intended to protect homeowners, but what it has really done is hurt traditional homeowners by opening them up to large swings in housing values. I believe the impact, while negatively effecting banks earnings, is greater on the homeowners in the community at large.”

Despite the impact on the overall economy, it’s still been the banks who take the initial and biggest hit because they are often precluded from recovering the balance of the loan deficiency from the foreclosed borrower. While short sales are not protected by the Arizona’s anti-deficiency statutes, lenders have often been willing to agree to short sales and reduce or otherwise waive deficiency claims, because lenders know they could not otherwise recover loan deficiencies, should the borrower elect to foreclose.

“The deficiency statute has led to greater losses for residential lenders in Arizona because they cannot obtain a judgment against the borrower who may have the ability to repay the deficiency,” Kevin Sellers, executive vice president of First Fidelity Bank. “Lenders’ inability to pursue the borrower for the deficiency creates an environment that results in a higher incidence of strategic defaults.”

The biggest problem for lenders may be that it doesn’t appear that they will get any relief from lawmakers. Dioguardi said properties initially covered by the anti-deficiency statutes had to be two and one-half acres or less and utilized either for a single one-family or a single two-family dwelling. This language was interpreted by the Arizona Supreme Court to require that the dwelling be built and at least occasionally occupied.

“However, a recent decision by the Arizona Court of Appeals has extended the anti-deficiency protection to cover a residence that was not yet constructed and in which the borrowers had never resided,” Dioguardi said. “The Court found that even though the home was never utilized for a residence as required by the statute, because the borrowers intended to live in the single-family home upon its completion, they were subject to the protections of the anti-deficiency statute.”

The court decision, Dioguardi said, needs to be refined to protect both lenders and borrowers.

“Given that the Arizona Supreme Court declined the petition for review of the decision, the legislature should amend the statute to make it even clearer that the borrower must physically inhabit the property to claim the protection of the anti-deficiency statute,” she said. “The current risk to lenders created by the decision as it currently stands will likely drive up the cost of construction loans.”

Bank executives also believe that amending — not necessarily getting rid of — the state anti-deficiency statutes is what the banking industry needs to continue on the road to post-Recession economic recovery.

“A very reasonable solution proposed by the Arizona banking community is to simply require that a property protected from a deficiency judgment be the primary residence of you or a member of your family as already defined in Arizona’s property tax statues,” Maio said. “This will have the effect of limiting this protection for homeowners, which is what was intended. Those in our Arizona business community that oppose this type of change are motivated by their own special interests. Those whose real motivation is to profit on speculative investment or from the fees and commissions that come from buying and selling speculative homes for profit, you will oppose this type of change. But for the rest of us that want to protect Arizonans from future bubbles and encourage a long-term and sustainable economy, we should support this simple change, as it is in our best long-term interest.”

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Why Different States Are Getting Out of the Housing Crisis Faster

America’s housing market is finally starting to really recover from the Great Recession, but some areas of the country are fighting back faster than others. New research from the W. P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University indicates one reason: Different states have dramatically different mortgage laws, and some make it easier to push through tough times.

“The laws across states use different legal theories as the basis for mortgages, and they balance the rights of creditors and borrowers very differently,” explains Assistant Professor of Real Estate Andra Ghent of the W. P. Carey School of Business. “The variations started early in America’s history, and they’re not really based on economic reasons, but they’re still having a major influence on what’s happening now with the housing market.”

Ghent runs through a few main issues playing a role in whether a state has already gotten through the worst of the housing crisis or whether it’s still plodding along:

Some states require judicial involvement in foreclosures, while others don’t.
Some states require a massive amount of paperwork, including the original promissory note, in order for a lender to foreclose.
Some states require a longer “redemption period” of time, during which the borrower can be behind on payments, before a foreclosure can happen.

Ghent says, in general, many of the states that don’t require judicial involvement or tons of paperwork have already run through the bulk of their foreclosures and are finally seeing rising property values. That’s because the flood of cheap, foreclosed properties onto the market has stopped.

Arizona is one of the states in which the damage happened relatively quickly, and there’s no longer a big backlog of foreclosures to go through the process. Phoenix-area home prices have been rising dramatically since last fall.

“The key is quick resolution of the situation,” says Ghent. “For example, if a state requires a longer period before foreclosures can happen, then that generally means the homes deteriorate more as the borrowers realize they’re going to have to leave and stop taking care of the property. This is bad for the neighbors and the property values.”

Ghent adds she doesn’t see much renegotiation during the times leading up to the foreclosures. The rules just allow for drawing out the situation.

“New York and Florida, for example, have very slow foreclosure processes,” Ghent says. “Properties can sit around without any maintenance for two to four years while they work their way through the maze, before they finally get a new owner.”

Ghent also doesn’t think that making more foreclosures go through the judicial process will help prevent problems like robo-signing. That’s where some lenders didn’t properly review all the individual details of the cases or follow all of the required procedures.

“In most of those cases, the borrowers were really behind on their payments and would eventually have lost the homes, anyway,” Ghent says. “Fraud is unacceptable, but it was also a case of sheer volume. If those particular states had required less paperwork, that’s what might actually have helped prevent more robo-signing.”

Ghent emphasizes that getting rid of the patchwork of different state laws would ultimately benefit the housing market as a whole.

“Can you imagine how much money, time and resources we could save, if we didn’t have 50 different sets of laws, paperwork and legal-expertise requirements?” she asks. “Again, there appears to be no real economic reason for the differences. Many of these laws date all the way back to the 1800s, and some were changed just after the Great Depression.”

Overall, Ghent has one big message for those who can influence the process in the future.

“Nobody pays attention to mortgage laws for 50 to 60 years at a time,” she says. “They only examine these laws after a major event, so the time to change is now.”

Ghent’s research on the history of America’s mortgage laws can be found online at
http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2166656.

Stress Map Sun Belt Sunset

Arizona foreclosures drop, still No. 2

Fewer homeowners were mired in the foreclosure process last month but Arizona still posted the second-highest foreclosure activity rate in the nation.

The state posted a 19 percent drop in homes being repossessed or receiving foreclosure filings in July from July 2011.

Data released Thursday by foreclosure tracking firm RealtyTrac shows lenders actually repossessed more than 3,400 Arizona homes last month. Another 4,800 homes entered the foreclosure process.

RealtyTrac says one in every 346 Arizona homes were in some stage of the foreclosure process last month.

California saw the nation’s highest foreclosure rate under RealtyTrac’s method, with one in every 325 homes in some state of foreclosure. Florida was third and Nevada in 6th place.

Metropolitan Phoenix was No. 20 on the market ranking list.

home prices are rising

Phoenix-Area Home Prices Continue To Rise

Phoenix-area home prices continue to rise, but a short supply of available homes is causing the amount of activity in the market to fall. A new report from the W. P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University gives an update on the hard-hit housing market of Maricopa and Pinal counties, as of April:

  • The median single-family home prices are up 25 percent from a year ago.
  • The overall supply of homes for sale is down 54 percent from last April.
  • The number of single-family homes sold this April was down 11.5 percent from last April, largely due to the lack of supply.

Anxious Phoenix-area homeowners will be relieved to see the median single-family home prices in the area went up 25 percent, from $112,000 to $140,000, between April 2011 and April 2012. Realtors will note the average price per square foot went up 16.5 percent in the same timeframe. However, the new W. P. Carey School report indicates we could be seeing even more activity, if more homes were available for sale.

“April is normally a very busy month for home sales, but this year’s sales are weaker than last year’s due to the unusual lack of supply,” says Mike Orr, director of the Center for Real Estate Theory and Practice at the W. P. Carey School of Business. “We’re looking at only about 8,800 single-family homes for sale in the Greater Phoenix area, and more than 25 percent are priced at more than $500,000. The inventory of single-family homes for sale under $250,000 with no existing contract is equal to only 21 days of supply.”

Orr says we have a very unbalanced market with many more buyers than sellers. Home prices have been going up since they reached a low point in September 2011. Condominiums and townhomes are included in the boost. Their median sales price rose about 23 percent from April 2011 to April 2012, going from $72,500 to $89,050.

“Demand remains strong in the market, as evidenced by multiple-bid situations for the majority of resale home listings,” says Orr. “Most homes priced well are attracting multiple offers within a couple of days. Up to 20 or 30 offers for a home are becoming common, and often, many offers exceed the asking price. As a result, in the single month from March to April, the overall median sales price increased by 3.8 percent.”

The areas that suffered the most price damage during the recession, such as El Mirage, Maricopa, Tolleson and Glendale, are now seeing the most positive price movement. A few areas that were least affected by foreclosures, such as Cave Creek, Fountain Hills and Wickenburg, are still showing negative price movement.

Overall, foreclosures are down 62 percent in the Phoenix area from last April. However, one note of concern comes from the number of foreclosure starts – homeowners receiving notice their lenders may foreclose in 90 days. That number went up 4.7 percent from last April. Orr says he has seen a slight uptick in the rate of foreclosure notices since the signing of a recent legal settlement between the states and five of the nation’s largest housing lenders.

New-home sales, normal resales and short sales are up year-over-year, and most lenders have recently encouraged troubled homeowners to use short sales as a preferred alternative to foreclosure. Meantime, sales of homes owned by banks, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and the government are going down. In fact, so-called “distressed supply” dropped 81 percent from April to April.

“In order for us to see a more stable housing recovery, the basic rules of economics require prices to change enough to bring a new wave of sellers onto the market,” explains Orr. “That hasn’t happened yet, and so far, supply remains insufficient to meet demand.”

Orr’s full report on Phoenix-area home prices, including statistics, charts and a breakdown by different areas of the Valley, can be downloaded. More analysis is also available from knowWPCarey, the business school’s online resource and newsletter.

Shea Homes Arizona Sales Increase, Optimistic About Housing Recovery

The jury is still out about the national housing recovery, but Shea Homes Arizona is noticing a pickup in its sales during the first four months of the year. With three new home communities that have opened since January and three more that will be announced soon, Shea Homes Arizona has already outpaced its 2011 YTD sales by 40%.  During the housing slump, Shea averaged 5 home sales per week in 2010 and 2011 and currently is averaging more than 8 home sales per week already this year.

“We are seeing the same amount of visitors to our communities, but more are buying homes,” said Ken Peterson, VP of Sales and Marketing for Shea Homes. “We think a couple things are taking place, first, more people are becoming eligible to get loans again after going through foreclosures or short sales and second, the resale inventory is so low right now that people are getting frustrated by bidding wars.”

The most interesting trend Shea Homes has seen lately has been the final sales in communities that can now be closed out. La Quintana, La Mirada, Painted Trails, Entrada, Copper Hills, Lost Canyon and Cabrillo Canyon have all just recently closed over the past few months. Escala at Seville and Foothills at Layton Lakes only have one or two remaining model homes or spec homes, bringing the total Shea Homes communities to 12. The SPACES product that opened in early 2010 has only two lots left, in addition to its models, and a second SPACES at Evans Ranch community will be opening very soon.

“Sales are always a good indication of a recovering housing market, but we also added two new product lines this year- duplexes and triplexes and also acre lot luxury homes, which helps us bring in new buyers that we might have missed before,” said Peterson. “We are pretty optimistic for now and happy about the trends we are seeing in Arizona.”

For more information on Shea Homes, visit Shea Homes’ website at sheahomes.com.

home prices

Phoenix Home Prices Up, New-Home Sales Coming Back

Foreclosures are dramatically down in the Phoenix-area housing market. This means fewer cheap homes coming onto the market, home prices rising for the sixth month in a row as a result, and many buyers finally starting to turn their attention from bargain resale homes to new-home sales. A new report from the W. P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University reveals some trends for Maricopa and Pinal counties, as of March:

> The number of foreclosures completed this March was down a huge 60 percent from March 2011.

> The median single-family-home price went up more than 20 percent from last March.

> New-home sales rose 35 percent in the same time period.

Mike Orr, the report’s author, says the home-buying season is in full swing and peak activity will last until June. The median single-family-home price in the Phoenix-area was $134,900 in March. That’s up 20.4 percent from a year ago when it was $112,000. Realtors will note the average price per square-foot went up 14.4 percent.

“Prices have begun to rise at a fast pace, and bargains are no longer plentiful,” says Orr, director of the Center for Real Estate Theory and Practice at the W. P. Carey School of Business. “Most homes that are priced well are attracting multiple offers within a couple of days, and many are exceeding the asking price.”

Orr emphasizes there’s been a dramatic change in the types of transactions happening in the market. Normal resales, new-home sales, investor flips and short sales are on the rise, while lender-owned home sales are down 61 percent from the year before.

Overall, the supply of single-family homes on the market (without an existing contract) went down 64 percent from March 2011 to March 2012. Orr estimates there is only a 23-day supply of homes priced under $250,000 available and that the market is very unbalanced, with far more buyers than sellers. The existing supply is heavily weighted toward the higher-priced end of the market.

“The very low number of inexpensive homes available for resale means more buyers are considering purchasing new homes as an option,” says Orr. “This signals the start of a distinct upward trend in new-home sales.”

When it comes to resales, Orr says all-cash buyers are still receiving preference over those with offers that require some form of financing. That’s because lenders need an appraisal, and appraisers are typically looking at months-old home sales for comparison. Those are priced well below the current market value.

“This puts ordinary home buyers at a severe disadvantage,” explains Orr. “More than 26 percent of Phoenix-area transactions are investor purchases.”

Orr’s full report, including statistics, charts and a breakdown by different areas of the Valley, can be viewed at wpcarey.asu.edu. More analysis is also available from knowWPCarey, the business school’s online resource and newsletter, at knowwpcarey.com.

Phoenix-Area Housing Market

Short Supply, Rising Prices In The Phoenix Area Housing Market

Are we actually seeing the start of a housing shortage in the Phoenix area? A new report from the W. P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University reveals some surprising information for Maricopa and Pinal counties, as of February:

  • Housing supply was down a huge 42 percent from the year before.
  • Foreclosures were down 52 percent from last February.
  • Single-family-home prices have been on the rise since September.

Perhaps most notably, the report’s author, Mike Orr, says some realtors are actually starting to call around to ask people whether they would consider selling homes in desirable neighborhoods.

“Supply is tight, in a pretty extreme way, and it looks likely to stay that way for months,” says Orr, director of the Center for Real Estate Theory and Practice at the W. P. Carey School of Business. “The inventory of single-family homes for sale under $250,000 (without a contract already) is less than 25 days of supply. This is highly unusual and signals a market heavily out of balance, with far more buyers than sellers. It’s now becoming a matter of how much of a price increase will get people to start putting their homes back on the market.”

The median price for a single-family home sold in the Phoenix area in February was up 8.3 percent from last year. This includes new-home sales, and it’s an increase from $115,000 to $124,500. Realtors will note the average price per-square-foot went up 4.1 percent.

February is the start of the selling season that normally runs through June. Orr expects to see lots of activity and even “frantic attempts” to buy over the next three months. This is likely to push prices even higher.

“One thing that could slow this down is appraisals,” explains Orr. “That’s because appraisers are still looking at prices from up to three months ago, and they may be reluctant to write appraisals that match the now-higher market value. This will continue to give all-cash buyers a big advantage over those who need to secure a loan.”

Orr adds that foreclosures and short sales continue to exert a strong influence on the market. They represent about 20 percent of total sales. New home sales make up only 6 percent of the total market.

Buyers from outside Arizona account for 26 percent of the transactions. Also, despite the positive momentum, Orr emphasizes there are still many Phoenix area homeowners with loans exceeding the market value of their houses.

Income Tax Traps

Short Sales And Foreclosures: Income Tax Traps For The Unwary Homeowner

Short Sales and Foreclosures: Income Tax Traps for the Unwary Homeowner

by Stuart Pack, J.D. and Kelly C. Mooney, J.D., L.L.M.

When considering a short sale, foreclosure or other strategic default under the terms of a mortgage or deed of trust, most homeowners and many professionals focus on the immediate concern of whether the transaction will result in personal liability for any debt deficiency resulting from the short sale or foreclosure.

However, the income tax consequences of a short sale or foreclosure should also be given serious consideration, as, in many cases, the possibility of negative income tax consequences could outweigh any potential benefits of a decision to short sell or walk away from the property.

For federal income tax purposes, a short sale of real property or a foreclosure upon real property (whether via a judicial foreclosure or a trustee’s sale) can trigger two distinct types of income tax consequences, depending on whether the debt at issue is “recourse” or “non-recourse” for federal tax purposes. These income tax consequences and the differences between recourse and non-recourse debt are discussed below.

1. Tax Consequences of a Short Sale or Foreclosure With Respect to Recourse Debt

If the debt in question is recourse debt for federal tax purposes, any short sale or foreclosure that involves the forgiveness or cancellation of all or a portion of the debt typically triggers the recognition of (a) cancellation of indebtedness (“COD”) income to extent that the amount of the forgiven debt exceeds the fair market value of the foreclosed upon or short sold property; and (b) gain or loss from a “deemed” sale or exchange of the foreclosed upon or short sold property (i.e., the taxpayer is treated as though he or she sold the property for federal income tax purposes). Consequently, the federal income tax consequences of a short sale or foreclosure with respect to recourse debt are bifurcated between the recognition of COD income on the one hand and the recognition of gain or loss on a deemed sale or exchange of the property on the other.

(a) The COD Income Component

COD income is the term tax professionals use to describe the kind of income that arises for tax purposes when debt is cancelled or forgiven for less than its full face or principal amount.  COD income is specifically included in a taxpayer’s gross income under Section 61(a)(12) of the Internal Revenue Code.  Importantly, COD income is always treated as “ordinary” income for federal tax purposes, such that the tax rates applicable to ordinary income (which can be as high as 35% for individuals) apply to COD income.

(b) The Sale or Exchange Component

Like any sale or exchange of real property, the “deemed” sale or exchange of the short sold or foreclosed upon property that occurs upon the cancellation of recourse debt can trigger the recognition of gain or loss.  The amount of gain or loss is determined by comparing the fair market value of the property at the time of the short sale or foreclosure to the taxpayer’s adjusted tax basis in the property.

Most often, due to the current economic situation, short sales or foreclosures result in a loss because the taxpayer’s basis in the property exceeds the property’s fair market value.  In the event that the taxpayer held the property as a capital asset for a sufficient period of time, the gain or loss recognized on the deemed sale will be treated as capital gain or capital loss for federal income tax purposes.

While the recognition of capital gain can be beneficial, due to the lower (i.e., 15%) tax rate on capital gain, the recognition of capital loss may not be as helpful.  In general, capital losses can only be used to offset capital gain and cannot be used to offset ordinary income (like COD income), although individuals can use up to $3,000 in capital losses each year to offset ordinary income.

2. Tax Consequences of a Short Sale or Foreclosure With Respect to Non-Recourse Debt

If the debt in question is non-recourse debt, any short sale or foreclosure that involves the forgiveness or cancellation of all of a portion of the debt will only trigger the recognition of gain or loss on a “deemed” sale or exchange of property.  The forgiveness of non-recourse debt, in cases involving a short sale or foreclosure on real property, does not trigger the recognition of COD income.  In cases involving non-recourse debt, the amount of the gain or loss is determined by comparing the outstanding amount of the debt to the taxpayer’s adjusted tax basis in the property.  Again, the character of the gain or loss depends on whether the taxpayer held the property as a capital asset.

3. Distinguishing Recourse from Non-Recourse Debt

Often, the most difficult component in determining the likely tax consequences of a short sale or foreclosure is ascertaining whether the debt at issue is recourse or non-recourse for federal tax purposes.  In essence, “recourse” debt is debt for which the borrower is personally liable and “non-recourse” debt is debt for which the borrower is not personally liable, but which is usually secured by other assets, such as real estate.  That being said, a number of factors go into determining whether a particular debt is recourse or non-recourse, such as the language of the debt instrument, the applicability of any State anti-deficiency statutes (for example, Arizona’s anti-deficiency statutes may be viewed as turning an otherwise recourse debt into a non-recourse debt in cases in which the debt is purchase money and the other statutory requirements are satisfied), and, in some cases, the manner in which the debt is foreclosed upon.  Given the complexities that can arise, it is recommended that a tax or real estate professional be contacted for appropriate advice.

4. Exceptions and Exclusions

In cases in which a foreclosure or short sale is likely to trigger the recognition of taxable income, whether the income is COD income or capital gain, all may not be lost.  The Internal Revenue Code provides a number of exceptions and exclusions to the recognition of these types of income, one or more of which might apply.  Again, in cases in which the recognition of COD income is likely, a tax professional should be consulted to determine if any exceptions or exclusions are likely to apply.

(a) COD Income

Section 108 of the Internal Revenue Code provides a number of exclusions and exceptions to the recognition of COD income.  In cases involving a short sale or foreclosure, the most commonly applicable exclusions include:

i. Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act

Codified as Section 108(a)(1)(E) of the Internal Revenue Code, this Act enables taxpayers to exclude up to $2 Million of COD income, so long as the cancelled debt was secured by the taxpayer’s principal residence and was incurred in the purchase, construction, or substantial improvement of the principal residence.  However, this exclusion is only in effect through December 31, 2012.

ii. Insolvency

When a taxpayer is “insolvent” for federal income tax purposes immediately before the event triggering the recognition of COD income, the COD income can be excluded from federal income tax to the extent of the taxpayer’s insolvency.

iii. Bankruptcy

If a bankruptcy petition is filed prior to the short sale or foreclosure, the taxpayer will not be required to recognize COD income by reason of the discharge.  However, if the bankruptcy petition is filed after the short sale or foreclosure then, unless some other exclusion applies, COD income would be recognized.

(b) Capital Gain

Under Section 121 of the Internal Revenue Code, any capital gain recognized on a “deemed” sale or exchange of a principal residence can be excluded from taxable income to the extent of $500,000 for married persons filing joint tax returns or $250,000 for unmarried persons.

Example
Taxpayer (T), a confirmed bachelor, buys a one family house in 1990 for $100,000 and finances it, in part, with a $50,000, 15-year mortgage loan.  In 2005, immediately after the mortgage loan is paid off in full, T decides to take advantage of the skyrocketing increase in real estate prices by taking out a new interest only mortgage loan in the amount of $300,000.  As part of the mortgage process, T’s house was appraised by his mortgage lender at $400,000.  T uses $250,000 of the new mortgage loan to buy a vintage DeLorean automobile and pay off his credit card debt and uses the other $50,000 to substantially improve the house.  In 2010, T comes to the unhappy realization that the fair market value of his house has plummeted to $200,000 and decides to short-sale the house.  T finds a buyer for $200,000 and T’s lender agrees to accept the $200,000 short sale proceeds to release the house from the lender’s deed of trust (and, in writing, the lender also agrees to release T from personal liability for the $100,000 deficiency).  What are the likely federal income tax consequences to T?

1. Capital Gain from the “Deemed” Sale of House

Since T bought the house in 1990 for $100,000 and made $50,000 of substantial improvements to the house, T’s adjusted tax basis in the house is $150,000.  Since T was deemed to have sold the house as part of the short sale in 2010 for $200,000, T will recognize $50,000 of capital gain (even thought T’s lender and not T, will receive all of the proceeds from the short sale).  If the house is T’s primary residence and other requirements of Internal Revenue Code Section 121 are satisfied, the $50,000 capital gain can be excluded from T’s taxable income because of the $250,000 exclusion right.  If the house was not T’s primary residence, then the $250,000 exclusion does not apply and T will be required to recognize the $50,000 of capital gain.

2. Cancellation of Debt Income

Assuming the new mortgage loan is recourse debt for federal tax purposes (because the debt is non-purchase money, the debt may not be treated as non-recourse under an applicable anti-deficiency statute in the case of a short sale), T would also recognize $100,000 of COD income.  If the house was T’s primary residence, then the Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act would enable T to exclude up to $50,000 of the $100,000 of COD income (because $50,000 of the $300,000 loan was used to substantially improve the house, it would be considered “qualified principal residence indebtedness”).  However, because the other $50,000 of the $100,000 deficiency was used to purchase the DeLorean and pay off T’s credit card debt, the other $50,000 would be taxable as ordinary COD income, unless T can establish he was insolvent at the time of the short sale or one of the other exclusions to the recognition of COD income applies.  If the house was not T’s primary residence, then the Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act would not apply and the entire $100,000 deficiency would be treated as taxable COD income, unless T can establish he was insolvent at the time of the short sale or one of the other exclusions to the recognition of COD income applies.

Of course, as each individual homeowner’s situation may vary, it is vital in considering any short sale or foreclosure to discuss your individual income tax situation with a tax professional.

For more information about income tax traps:

Stuart Pack, J.D. is a partner with the law firm of Nagle Law Group, P.C. in Scottsdale, Ariz. He concentrates his practice in the area of commercial and residential real estate law. He can be reached at Stuart.Pack@naglelaw.com or 602-595-6951 (x122).

Kelly C. Mooney, J.D., L.L.M. (Taxation) is a shareholder with the law firm of Gallagher & Kennedy, P.A. in Phoenix, Ariz. She practices in the area of federal tax law, with an emphasis on the taxation of individuals, corporations, partnerships, tax-exempt entities, and civil tax controversy matters. She can be reached at kcm@gknet.com or 602-530-8075.

Economic Forecast

Economic Forecast: Arizona, U.S. to Show Improvement in 2012

Improvement in both the Arizona and U.S. economies can be expected next year, but full recovery is still a few years away. That’s according to experts who spoke Wednesday at the 48th Annual Economic Forecast Luncheon, co-sponsored by ASU’s W.P. Carey School of Business and JPMorgan Chase.

 More than 1,000 people packed into the Phoenix Convention Center to hear the outlook for 2012. The experts say that though U.S. economic growth was actually slower this year than last year, conditions for 2012 are looking up for the nation and state.

“Although the Arizona recovery is tepid at best, every key indicator is expected to improve in 2012 as compared to 2011, including jobs, incomes, sales and even housing,” said Research Professor Lee McPheters, director of the JPMorgan Chase Economic Outlook Center at the W. P. Carey School of Business. “Still, no indicator will be sharply better until the national economy moves onto a faster growth path.”

McPheters says Arizona hasn’t been rebounding with the same vigor seen in previous recovery periods. The state lost 324,000 jobs from 2007 to 2010. By the end of this year, only about 20 percent of those will be restored. However, Arizona did move from No. 49 among the states for job creation in 2010 all the way up to a Top 10 growth state this year.

“After three consecutive years of lost employment, about 23,800 jobs were added in 2011,” said McPheters, editor of the prestigious Arizona and Western Blue Chip Forecast publications. “Arizona employment is expected to increase by 45,000 jobs in 2012. However, we’re now at about 9 percent unemployment in the state and expect unemployment to continue to be a problem next year, dropping to around 8.5 percent. Healthcare and manufacturing are among the sectors doing relatively well.”

McPheters also expects Arizona’s population to grow by 1.5 percent in 2012, faster than the national average of about 1 percent, but slower than Texas and Colorado. Personal income is expected to go up 6 percent in Arizona. Retail sales are projected to rise by 8 percent. Cautious consumers have largely been putting off non-essential spending, but may relieve some pent-up demand next year.

In the hard-hit housing market, McPheters predicts 20-percent growth in single-family housing permits. However, Elliott D. Pollack, president of highly regarded economic and real estate consulting firm Elliott D. Pollack and Company, explained that even a large percentage growth in this area doesn’t mean much.

“Permits have bottomed out, but they are still down 89 percent from the peak,” Pollack said. “About 50,000 to 55,000 excess housing units remain in the Greater Phoenix area.”

Foreclosures and short sales have been dragging down existing-home prices. Pollack says, in the third quarter of this year, 25 percent of the existing-home transactions were foreclosures, and another 29 percent were short sales. Also, more than 40 percent of the homes being sold are going to investors and other owners who won’t actually live there.

“On the positive side, the number of units going into foreclosure is declining, and housing prices appear to have stabilized,” said Pollack. “Depending on population growth, job growth and other factors, we could see full housing recovery in three to four years.”

Pollack says the apartment market is already looking good, as many people switch to renting. Vacancy rates in industrial space have started to decline, and an increasing number of companies are looking at the Phoenix area as an alternative to California. Still, about one out of every four square feet of office space in the metro area is vacant.

At the national level, experts expect 2012 to bring an increase in gross domestic product (GDP) of somewhere between just under 2 percent to 3 percent. Professor John B. Taylor, the George P. Schultz Senior Fellow in Economics at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution, talked about what needs to be done in this area.

“The economy wasn’t nearly this weak in the 1980s, following an equally deep recession when unemployment rose to even higher levels,” said Taylor, who served as Undersecretary of the Treasury during President George W. Bush’s first term and on the President’s Council of Economic Advisers for President George H. W. Bush. “Recently, we have seen a return toward more government intervention for fiscal, monetary, regulatory and tax policy. These swings have had enormous consequences for the American economy.”

Taylor says the country needs a predictable government policy framework based on law with strong incentives derived from the market system and a clearly limited role for government.

Anthony Chan, chief economist for private wealth management at JPMorgan Chase & Co., specifically addressed the future of the financial markets. He said many stocks are a bargain now.

“We currently face oversized volatility and uncertainty; for this reason, we believe stocks are attractively priced from a historic perspective,” said Chan, who served as an economist at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, appears monthly on CNBC, and is a member of the Reuters, Bloomberg and Dow Jones weekly economic indicator panels. “Prices should gravitate toward fairer values when the outsized degree of uncertainty lifts.”

Chan added corporations are sitting on “huge amounts of cash,” while paying out low dividends. When business sentiment improves and uncertainty is reduced, he expects faster employment and economic growth. He also believes high-yield and municipal bonds will remain a good investment as long as the country doesn’t fall into recession. Still, he is concerned the United States may be losing some control over its long-term destiny, noting that China and Japan hold a combined 46 percent of U.S. Treasuries.

“It is hard to believe the U.S. influence will remain as dominant as it once was, if this trend persists,” said Chan. “Meantime, emerging markets are becoming more attractive. Consider a diversified portfolio.”

For more details and analysis on the 2012 economic forecast, including the presentation slides, go to knowwpcarey.com.

 

housemarkethardtoread

High Foreclosure Rate And Unemployment Make Housing Recovery Hard To Read

The Phoenix resale market slowed a bit in May when compared to April, possibly because activity spiked last month as the federal first-time home buyer program came to a close, according to Jay Butler, associate professor of real estate and author of the monthly Realty Studies Report from the W. P. Carey School of Business. And though foreclosures as a percentage of the market are continuing to decline, the actual number of foreclosures is still quite high, he said. Even hopeful signs, like the recent increases in median price, are connected to foreclosures — in this case because foreclosures on high price homes pulled the median up. So where will Phoenix be in the fall? Hard to say, according to Butler, because we’ve never been here before. (9:37)

realestateinunchartedterritory

Real Estate: In Uncharted Territory

The resale season starts in March with an upswing in real estate transactions, but last month’s numbers were much higher than might be expected if this were a “normal” year. Jay Q. Butler, associate professor of real estate at the W. P. Carey School, complies the monthly Realty Studies report for the Phoenix metro area. He notes that a promising trend toward fewer foreclosures appears to have shifted. The difficulty in projecting what will happen next is that we’ve never been in this place before. Here’s what he has to say about those March numbers. (12:15)

'Strategic Defaults in the Recovering Real Estate Market

‘Strategic’ Defaults In The Recovering Real Estate Market

The Phoenix resale home market rebounded slightly in February, according to the Realty Studies Report from the W. P. Carey School of Business. Compared to January, the number of transactions increased and prices were up a bit. Still, foreclosures accounted for 42 percent of the total market, and the sale of previously foreclosed properties made up 40 percent of the traditional sale segment. Meantime, market watchers are wondering what will happen when the many Adjustable Rate Mortgages (ARMs) reset this year and next. We asked  Jay Butler, associate professor of real estate and author of the report, what he thinks about that, and what else he noticed in the February data. (9:20)

Urban Land Institute

Earth Day 2010: A Pivot Point for Land Use and Community Building

By Patrick L. Phillips
Chief Executive Officer, Urban Land Institute

The fortieth annual recognition of Earth Day finds the world of land use in the midst of change, much as it was in 1970. However, in terms of community building, where we’ve been over the past four decades is not where we are headed for the next 40 years. What we’ve learned is that we can build in a way that both accommodates growth and protects — even enhances — the environment.

When the recognition of Earth Day began, people were moving to suburbia by the hundreds of thousands, returning to downtowns primarily to work or shop in department stores. Suburban malls were still innovative; the average home cost about $23,400 and covered 1,400 square feet; the average car cost $3,900 (plus $39 for an eight-track stereo); and a gallon of gas cost about 36 cents.

Triggered by relatively cheap housing, cars and gas, our urban regions were continuing the postwar form: growing outward in two general patterns – rings, based primarily around major highway construction that circled around cities; or linear growth tracking a spine of major highways. The result was the familiar “hub and spoke” metropolitan pattern. Our cities were growing in spite of the environment, not in harmony with it.

Even as urban sprawl was advancing, the Urban Land Institute warned of the potential for dire consequences. A 1970 article in Urban Land magazine cautioned, “We have carried the concept of conquest and dominion over nature to a point where large areas of our living environment have become not only unsightly but downright unhealthy.” It implored the land use community to be aware of development’s toll on air and water quality, and to appreciate “the interplay between the natural earth forces and land development activities.”

It was a fortuitous message then, and one with even more relevance now: How we use land matters. Land use has an enormous impact, not just on the natural environment, but on the long term economic and social viability of our cities. Vast demographic, financial, and environmental shifts are necessitating a major overhaul in what and where we build, and will continue to do over the next 40 years leading to Earth Day 2050.
Among the forces of change now in place:

  • The U.S. population has grown by more than 100 million people since 1970, with an additional 150 million expected over the next 40 years;
  • The first wave of baby boomers are hitting 65 — most will shun retirement and stay in the workforce, and many, if healthy now, could still be alive in 40 years;
  • The children of baby boomers, Generation Y (the most technologically connected generation in history) has started to enter the housing market and workforce;
  • Household size is shrinking, due to more people living alone, delaying marriage and childbirth, and having fewer children;
  • The U.S. is now the largest importer of oil, rather than the largest exporter, leading to stepped up efforts to develop alternate sources of energy;
  • The U.S. transportation infrastructure system, once a world leader due to the new interstate highway system, is now falling far behind Asia and Europe in terms of transportation investments;
  • Concerns over climate change have resulted in an increasing number of government mandates aimed at limiting carbon emissions from vehicles and buildings; and
  • The worst economic downturn since the Great Depression has 1) thrown credit markets into prolonged turmoil; and 2) left many markets with unprecedented housing foreclosures, causing a decline in the homeownership rate and a long-term change in the perception of homeownership as the American Dream.

All these changes are taking place as the U.S. is becoming an increasingly urban nation, and as our urban regions are evolving into different nodes of employment, housing and recreation spanning 40 or 50 more miles. It is difficult to predict exactly what the city in 2050 will look like. However, what is clear is that piece-meal, haphazard and poorly connected development is a thing of the past. It’s also clear that the majority of the growth will occur not in downtowns, but in the suburbs. And in these areas, less land will have to be used to accommodate more people. This change in how suburban areas grow will have a major influence on the environmental and economic sustainability of entire metropolitan regions.

Going forward, this is what we can expect: building more densely to conserve energy, water and land, and to reduce the need to drive. Better coordination of land use planning and transportation planning, so that more development is oriented toward transit options. And, reusing and adapting obsolete space in a way that reflects the changing needs and desires of a much more mobile society – a society in which many are likely to rent longer and change jobs much more frequently.

At 40 years, Earth Day 2010 marks a pivot point for land use and community building. Looking forward to Earth Day 2050, it’s important to consider how the impact of urban design and development meets residents’ expectations for livability, amenities, flexibility and choice. Ultimately, cities are about what’s best for people, not buildings, and not cars. The places that get this right will be the winners in the decades ahead.

www.uli.org

An End in Sight

Hit Harder Than The Rest Of The Nation, The Valley’s Economy Is Starting To Show Faint Signs Of Recovery

Don’t dust off that party hat just yet, but there are early signs that the worst recession in the Valley’s history is easing its stranglehold on the economy. To be sure, as fall approaches and the recession’s two-year mark looms in December, Phoenix residents and businesses still struggle with plenty of economic problems. But economists and business leaders see hopeful signs.

Conventional wisdom says the housing market will pull the Valley out of the recession, after having led it down that path in the first place. Lee McPheters, economics professor at the W.P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University, sees that milestone unfolding right now. The Greater Phoenix Blue Chip Real Estate Consensus Panel estimates 8,260 single-family housing permits will be issued this year, McPheters says. That’s down dramatically from the 57,360 issued in 2004, but McPheters says the forecast also calls for 12,600 permits in 2010, establishing 2009 as the bottom for that economic indicator.

New-home sales may have hit their low point the first half of this year and sales of existing homes, or re-sales, are bouncing back, according to McPheters.

“We are on track here to have easily over 75,000 re-sales for 2009, and it could be closer to 100,000 because there’s lots of inventory out there,” McPheters says. “At least half of that is bank-owned foreclosures but, nonetheless, re-sales are quite robust.”

There were 110,000 re-sales in 2005 during the Valley’s housing boom.

“New permits and sales of new homes seem to have bottomed out and re-sales have been going up,” McPheters says. “Those seem to be pretty strong trends, but still at a low level.”

What McPheters is saying is that good news in the housing sector alone does not constitute an overall recovery.
“There is nothing in the makeup of the Phoenix economy at all that would provide the stimulus for any independent recovery,” McPheters says.

Metropolitan Phoenix is still plagued by continuing job losses, declining personal income, decimated retail sales, declining home prices, home foreclosures, weak commercial real estate construction and more. The shrinking labor force likely won’t bottom out until the second half of next year after recording a historic three-year stretch of job losses — 2008, 2009 and 2010.

“By the time all the job losses have been recorded, Phoenix will have several hundred thousand fewer workers, and it probably will be 2011 before there is any kind of vigorous recovery in retail sales,” McPheters says.

In the meantime, 96 percent of the economists in the national Blue Chip Economic Indicators newsletter expect the national recession will end in the fourth quarter of this year. McPheters sees the national downturn drawing to a close with a modest turnaround and he thinks Phoenix will follow suit.

“Nationally, at the end of 2009, we will stop talking contraction and start talking about indicators that are more positive,” McPheters says. “Then there will be a period of slow growth. Phoenix probably will follow that, but remember that we have been harder hit than the rest of the country.”

Still, there is more to the Valley’s economy than statistics. Local business leaders are encouraged by what they see.

“From my perspective, we have seen a dramatic increase in headquarters activity,” says Barry Broome, president and CEO of the Greater Phoenix Economic Council.

Businesses primarily from the Northwest and California and, to some extent, Boston and New York, are either researching the Valley or making definitive plans to move their headquarters here, he says. Broome expects 10 to 15 headquarters to relocate to Arizona over the next 18 months and Phoenix will land some of them.

Broome also sees “new, sophisticated capital” moving into the Phoenix market. Investors are deploying the money now and plans are being written up for commercial real estate and science and technology projects, he says. Existing companies poised for growth are attracting capital infusions, Broome adds.

“This is not the cheap Las Vegas capital coming into the Valley where they buy it, zone it and flip it,” Broome says. “Now we’re seeing private equity firms that have 50 to 100 years of reputation in the U.S. and the world that didn’t get burned in this downturn. They are coming out of the Northeast markets, which we have not seen before.”

Bruce Coomer, executive director of the Arizona Association for Economic Development, is amazed at how busy city and county economic development departments are in the Valley and around the state.

“I don’t think there are any in Metro Phoenix cities that are not extremely busy,” Coomer says. “They are telling me that they are having trouble keeping up with the work.”

Although cities are likely conducting outreach programs, Coomer believes staffers are scrambling mainly because companies are approaching them.

Economic developers, Coomer says, “have got some big deals in the wings. That tells me companies, site selectors and developers know that sooner or later the recovery is going to come and they all want to position themselves. They want all their ducks in a row and all their due diligence done so they can pull the trigger and be on the front lines in a short period of time.”

Richard Hubbard, president and CEO of Valley Partnership, sees two encouraging signs within the business community.

“Commercial development companies have come face to face with the difficult decisions they have to make, be that layoffs, stopping projects or filing for bankruptcy,” Hubbard says. “A lot of those decisions are being made.”

Hubbard also is pleased with decisions made by sources of capital.

“Lending companies — whether that’s banks, private institutions or individuals — who have taken back property through foreclosure are starting to bring that property to market at reasonable prices,” Hubbard says. “They’re cutting their losses and deciding they can’t hold onto the property anymore. That will allow these companies to move forward.”

Hubbard says he also is encouraged that the housing market is well into the process of working its way out of the recession.

“The home-building industry has been suffering for a long time and they made their tough decisions a year ago,” Hubbard says. “Now it’s time for the commercial industry to follow suit.”

The Arizona economy and Tucson, Southern Arizona’s economic engine, continue to suffer from the same maladies as Greater Phoenix, says Marshall Vest, an economist at the University of Arizona’s Eller College of Management. Vest sees no hopeful signs of a statewide recovery for the time being. The only positive for Tucson is that its housing boom was not as strong as Phoenix, and its economy was not dragged down as far as the Valley’s, he says.

Vest sees the national recession receding in the third quarter.

“Arizona and Tucson will lag behind the nation by at least a quarter or two,” Vest says. “So Arizona should bottom out by the end of the year or the first quarter of next year and start its recovery at that time.”

The first sign of a statewide recovery will be a peak in the number of initial unemployment insurance claims, followed by stabilization of the labor market and then an uptick in retail sales, Vest says.

Flagstaff dominates the Northern Arizona economy. Marc Chopin, dean of the W.A.

Franke College of Business at Northern Arizona University, says the city has been logging double-digit declines for sales tax revenues and bed, board and beverage tax receipts. Building permits for single-family homes and additions and alterations to existing homes also have been declining, he says.

“I don’t expect things will turn around for some time,” Chopin says. “Construction, I expect, won’t recover for some time. About a quarter of the homes in Flagstaff are second homes. Until there’s a recovery under way in Phoenix, from which many of our second-home owners come, the second-home market in Flagstaff is unlikely to recover.”

www.aaed.com
www.cba.nau.edu
www.ebr.eller.arizona.edu
www.gpec.org
www.valleypartnership.org
wpcarey.asu.edu

wood beam

As Commercial Real Estate Sector Prepares To Be Hit By Recession, Leaders Should Become Proactive

The headlines today have focused on the bailout of the banking industry and the housing market’s severe contraction. Not a lot of attention has been paid to the commercial real estate sector. As with all business cycles, there is a flow-through to the various sectors. The fact that we have lost more than 1 million jobs this year, and have had a severe reduction in housing values and record foreclosures, can only bode ill for retail and other commercial areas.

Since retail traditionally follows housing, how can it not be negatively impacted when fewer homes are being built and more and more people can barely afford their current homes? In recent months Mervyn’s, Linen ’n’ Things, The Shoe Pavilion and Circuit City have all announced either closing of some or all of their stores. The larger tenants oftentimes are the anchors of some of the smaller centers. There is usually a cascading effect on other tenants who feed off the traffic generated by the anchors. We have many clients who talk about tenants leaving in the middle of the night.

At this time, most of the bankers we have talked to have stated that they have few commercial projects on their radar, but most admit this is the next big area to hit them and the economy in general. Are they prepared and how can the lenders minimize the fallout from this?

We would like to outline some of the steps that lenders and others can take to be proactive in the process. Some lenders we have talked to take the position that they will sell the returning assets “as is,” so they do not incur anymore costs on a bad loan. This shortsighted approach will end up costing these lenders and their shareholders money.

We advise lenders to do a thorough analysis of the project in such areas as:

  • What is the current situation with the permits, utilities and other entitlements? This may unfortunately turn up information that the bank should have known about before it made the loan or kept funding it. There is a good case to not have the same people who approved the loans involved in this process. Some of these items may involve minor fixes that could make the project more marketable. For example, assume the contractor had not ordered some of the utilities, which usually involves a long lead time. By the bank being proactive (after they take the project back) and ordering some of the utilities, the project would have more appeal for a potential tenant versus sitting on the asset and waiting for things to happen. A new potential owner may have a tenant, but he needs to get him into the space within a set period of time. If the bank has done nothing but sit on the asset, the buyer may go to a project where he can get his tenant in immediately.
  • What is the status of payments to the contractors versus how much work has actually been performed? Is the project really 50 percent complete but you have paid out 60 percent, for example? Where are materials stored if ordered and paid for?
  • Another problem is when banks have the same people or departments evaluate the project. They are the ones who may have missed some of these issues to begin with. You want a fresh look at what you have. It is difficult to want to spend more money on an asset that will be a loss — but if you can do a proper evaluation of what you have, you may recoup quite a bit of additional money.

Why do Realtors for homes recommend cosmetic fixes to make them more saleable? Because they work. But the real estate owned (REO) departments of many banks do not want to incur additional costs in these areas. We like to assist the lenders by also giving some ideas on how to reposition the property. When clients come to us for an initial project, we frequently work with them on site plans. Even on a project that is partly or fully built, you can analyze how it can be revitalized and repositioned. It may have been poorly designed to begin with. Smart buyers are going to be looking at these ideas before they make an offer. If the lender hires someone to give them some of these ideas it can be very helpful information real estate brokers can use in marketing the asset.

We know of certain retailers developing new concepts to fit into smaller spaces to take advantage of a good location. If you have prepared some estimates of what would be involved to reconfigure the space, that makes it easier on the potential new owner and his tenant.

In summary, retail should be the next area to seriously impact the balance sheets of lenders. Most lenders have not had departments devoted to this problem because the market has been good for so many years. It is important to hire experts who can give an unbiased view of the asset and what can or cannot be done with the project. When a lender uses the same people or moves some of its people over they may not have the expertise to properly analyze the project to obtain the best possible value from it upon a sale.

Dark Days: Recession in Arizona

The Recession In Arizona And The Nation Could Drag On For Another Year

Winters in Arizona may be sunnier than other places, but the economy in the Grand Canyon State has cooled faster than almost every state. Analysts expect 2009 to bring even more bad economic news, and it is likely that the monthly reports on job growth and unemployment will be downright chilling for some time to come.

As in all downturns in the past 50 years, Arizona’s economy will track the national business cycle. There are no forces inherent in the makeup of the state’s economy that would propel Arizona into an independent turnaround. Arizona will recover at approximately the same time as the country as a whole.

And, entering 2009, a rebound for the national economy is nowhere in sight. The National Bureau of Economic Research recently decreed that we have been in recession since the end of 2007. Now that a start date has been identified, it is only natural to wonder how long recessions typically last. The answer is that the average post-World War II recession has been 10 months from peak to trough. This information is perhaps useful for trivia buffs, but in the current environment, the 10-month average is not much of a guideline. This recession has already persisted past 10 months, and may be well on its way to setting a post-war record for length. The recession will certainly be 18 months at a minimum, and could persist for as long as 24 months. Or more.

The list of economic problems facing the country and Arizona continues to grow. Until recently, exports and non-residential building were actually expanding at a double-digit pace, keeping the Gross Domestic Product growth figures in the positive region. As the global economy slows, exports will decrease, probably early in 2009. Arizona has important manufacturing exports, especially in high technology, that will be affected.

Non-residential building (commercial, office, and warehousing) will grind to a halt in 2009 as current projects are completed. When the economy is losing jobs and sales are falling, there is no need for additional offices, retail space or warehouses.

During the first half of 2008, consumers in Arizona and the nation continued to spend, and that bolstered growth. New unemployment claims were mounting during this period, but conditions would have been worse if consumers were not contributing to the economy. The credit crunch hit in the second half of 2008. Combined with a chaotic stock market and continually falling home values, consumer willingness — and ability — to spend hit the breaking point. Arizona retail sales were down sharply in 2008, with auto sales and restaurant and bar sales both off by 25 percent. Consumer spending is expected to fall more during the early months of 2009.

Compared to other states, Arizona’s labor markets are in the deep freeze. Employment in the state is down by more than 75,000 jobs compared to last year at this time. Arizona is just one of 37 states now losing jobs, but conditions are worse here. Arizona ranks 49th among all states in job growth. Only Rhode Island is losing jobs more rapidly. Unemployment rates nationally and in Arizona are destined to increase into the 7 percent or possibly 8 percent range before recovery begins.

And recovery will come, as it always does in business cycles, although this one will be deeper and longer than has been seen since the 1930s. Housing inventory will eventually be worked off, and foreclosures will begin to slow. Home prices will stabilize. The nation adds three million new residents per year, and the pent-up demand created by family formation and population growth will start to translate into new sales.

Arizona benefits from high levels of domestic migration. Even if migration slows temporarily in the down period, the basic attractions of Arizona remain powerful in the longer term.

One of these attractions for many decades has been affordable housing. During the housing boom, home prices in Phoenix increased faster than in many peer metropolitan areas, and Phoenix became less competitive to relocators. Although falling values have caused dismay to Arizona home owners, the resulting new lower prices actually create an environment for ultimate growth.

The table shows housing affordability as measured by the National Association of Homebuilders. Higher numbers indicate housing is more affordable. At the end of the previous recession (third quarter of 2001) Phoenix had an affordability value of 70, which means 70 percent of homes were affordable to families at the median Phoenix income. Phoenix housing was more affordable than the nation and the peer metro areas shown. Two years later, at the peak of the boom, Phoenix was less affordable than Denver, Riverside, Calif., and the nation as a whole. But the most recent values, for third quarter 2008, show Phoenix affordability up by 75 percent over the 2005 figure, and more affordable than the other metro areasandthe nation. The Phoenix housing advantage has been restored.

There is one final optimistic observation to be made, one which is familiar to Arizona economy-watchers. When recovery does begin, Arizona invariably rebounds much stronger than the nation, and more vigorously than most other states. What analysts are still debating is whether this rebound will come in 2009 or is delayed until early in 2010.

ForeclosureFallout

As More People Lose Their Homes, Banks Are Left Holding The Keys

Acquiring real estate through foreclosures is not exactly the type of transaction banks relish. That’s especially true in a down market that is overloaded with raw land and homes — and a paucity of potential buyers.

Estimates of the amount and value of acquired real estate through foreclosures are difficult, if not impossible, to come by, an industry insider says. A lot of the banks don’t want to talk about it.

“It’s ugly for everyone involved and you can’t even get the Federal Reserve to talk about it,” the insider says.

Anthony B. Sanders, professor of finance and real estate at Arizona State University’s W. P. Carey School of Business, sums up the somewhat dismal situation: “Banks are not in the business of being portfolio managers, either vacant land or housing.

“The way they’re trying to get rid of properties is that most banks are doing packaging. They sell packages of defaulted properties to investors around the United States,” he continues. “They started with national lenders, but there was very little interest in that. Then they went to regional packaging. That didn’t work either. Let’s face it, nobody really wants a Detroit-area loan or housing package.”

What’s happening is that hedge funds and equity funds are looking for very specific types of properties. Raw land value is highly dependent on where the land is.

“That’s why they don’t want to buy large portfolios,” Sanders says. “Because on the urban fringe, when you get way out west or southeast of Phoenix, some of that land they cannot literally give away. The reason is there is no foreseeable development going on in those areas.

“They’re looking for anything related to water rights or mineral rights — anything with natural resource implications still has a positive value,” Sanders says.

Until housing makes a comeback, banks are not finding a lot of interest in 40-acre tracts of desert that someday could be converted into a housing development, Sanders says. Some banks have defaulted single-family homes, often in remote areas.

“During the boom, and until fairly recently, a lot of starter homes were built in areas near Queen Creek, where land prices were fairly inexpensive for the Phoenix market,” Sanders says. “That market has really gotten beaten up pretty hard.”

National and regional bidders for those packages are few and far between.

“It brings back the old adage of location, location, location,” Sanders says. “If you’re planning properties located on major golf courses, or some properties in Scottsdale, there’s interest in that. In the classic subprime neighborhoods, which tend to be lower income, there’s not a lot of interest.”

In the meantime, banks are running around trying to peddle their packages. It’s more feasible to sell packages instead of marketing individual properties, because bank real estate portfolios are overflowing.

“Packages provide a good indication of which areas of Phoenix are likely to keep dropping like a rock,” Sanders says. “It’s those areas where there isn’t any interest in bank packages, which means the market doesn’t think they’re near the bottom. In some areas of Phoenix, the bottom may be a little ways away.”

With packaging of perhaps as many as 200 properties at a time, come discounts.

“The nasty part is that some of these properties are being offered at a big discount and they still can’t get rid of them,” Sanders says.

Even so, there continues to be interest in Ahwatukee, Scottsdale and Paradise Valley, which Sanders says means the housing market is showing some signs of life. But he adds this ominous observation.

“This is very reminiscent of the RTC (Resolution Trust Corporation) fiasco after the savings-and-loan debacle. It’s just like when the RTC was putting together packages. That’s the tipoff. Anytime you see packaging, that should make the hairs stand up on the back of your neck.”

At the Arizona Department of Financial Institutions, which regulates state-chartered banks and none of the large national ones, Tom Wood, division manager for banks, also recalls the S&L collapse.

“We had a lot of raw land in the 1980s,” he says. “Thank goodness we don’t have much of that now.”

Most of the real estate banks are trying to get rid of consists of single-family homes, Wood says.

“Very rarely do we see raw land,” he says. “Some banks don’t want to own it because it takes longer to get rid of. If they foreclose on raw land, they probably sell it at a sheriff’s sale.”

Wood expects a continued uptick in bank acquisitions of real estate, but sees very little of that among state-chartered banks. He suggests that some larger banks might be bundling foreclosed properties and attempting to dispose of their holdings through auctions or developers.

Depending on which economist you talk to, a substantial housing turnaround won’t happen until 2010. Some say 2009; and yet, as Sanders says, there are signs of life in 2008.

“For certain areas, recovery is there,” Sanders says, “but if I’m sitting in Buckeye, Avondale, Queen Creek and parts of Gilbert, I wouldn’t look for a speedy return.”