Post-World War II single-story homes are gaining favor among those who find them convenient. As they hit 50, some even make the National Register of Historic Places.
My parents still live in the 1950s ranch house where I grew up. Surprisingly, except for small bathrooms, it still seems a practical floor plan more than 50 years after it was built.
The fact that it was on one level, something my mother wanted when she was carrying babies around, made it an easy house in which to grow old.
These days, the humble ranch gets little respect. Homebuyers want two-story entryways, living rooms with cathedral ceilings and massive master bathrooms.
But in some quarters, the ranch house is gaining ground. As more of the homes reach 50, the age at which they're eligible for inclusion in the National Register of Historic Places, more people are seeing something worth preserving.
"It's just kind of a plain house — well, that was the point," Richard Cloues, who is leading a campaign to protect ranch houses in his position with the Georgia Historic Preservation Division, told The Wall Street Journal.
There are those who have long appreciated the modest ranch homes, built from around World War II until the early 1970s, when builders embraced the two-story home as a way to fit more house on less land.
Sales fell in July for the third straight month, making it likely that the number of new homes sold this year will be the lowest since record-keeping started in 1963.
It looks as if 2011 is going to be one for the record books when it comes to new home sales.
And it isn't a good record. Home sales fell again in July, making it likely that 2011 will see the smallest number of new homes sold since the Commerce Department began keeping records in 1963.
At the July rate, the number of new homes sold this year would be 298,000, down from 323,000 last year, which was the previous low number.
It's no surprise that few new homes are being sold. The large number of foreclosures has created an ample supply of used homes at the same time the economy has shrunk the pile of buyers. New home sales are likely to stay low for several years.
"There is no upside momentum at all in housing," Eric Green, chief market economist at TD Securities, told Bloomberg. "Without any meaningful job growth, we’re going to continue to look at a housing sectors that is moribund."
Lawyers and companies who collected fees from homeowners as part of 'mass joinder' suits against big lenders are shut down and accused of making false promises.
California's attorney general has sued four lawyers, three law firms and others, saying they collected millions of dollars from homeowners in at least 17 states by falsely claiming to help them avoid foreclosure.
The action was the first by California's Mortgage Fraud Strike Force. The assets of those named in the suits were seized by either the California Department of Justice or the California Bar.
"The defendants in this case fraudulently promised to win prompt mortgage relief for millions of vulnerable homeowners across the country," Attorney General Kamala Harris said in a news release. "Innocent people, already battered by the housing crisis, were targeted for fraud in their moment of distress."
According to the California attorney general's office, the lawyers and others representing them – in some cases, paid salespeople -- sent more than 2 million advertisements to borrowers in at least 17 states, asking homeowners to join their lawsuits against the big banks. In exchange, the solicitations claimed, the homeowners would avoid foreclosure and perhaps even have their mortgages thrown out and be able to keep their homes.
That was not the case, however. Some homeowners lost their homes shortly after joining the suits, the California attorney general said.
Bank of America throws elderly couple out of loan-modification program after they make their January payment in December.
We may all wonder why, in a world where ads can follow you around on the Internet, loan servicers can't handle basic tasks such as keeping accurate records of homeowner payments.
In Florida, a 70-year-old woman and her 78-year-old, terminally ill husband are facing foreclosure on their home of 15 years because they made a payment a week before it was due, The St. Petersburg Times reports.
That's right. Receiving Sharon and James Bullington's Jan. 1 payment in December was more than the computers and employees at Bank of America could handle.
"It's like death to me," Sharon Bullington said to The Times. "My husband is bedridden. It's almost more than I can bear."
The Bullingtons owe about $177,000 on their 1,591-square-foot home in New Port Richey, Fla., now worth about $133,464.
Last year, faced with mounting medical bills for her husband's cancer treatment, Sharon Bulllington sought a loan modification. The bank told her the only way to receive a modification was to quit making payments, so she did. She eventually got a trial modification that lowered her payments from $1,400 a month to $916.
Tucson tops the list, though a previous list deemed the city among the most likely to make a quick recovery. Maybe it just has a cold?
We started this week looking at the 10 real-estate markets expected to make the quickest recovery.
We’re going to end it with the 10 "sickest markets," or at least the 10 sickest markets as determined by an analysis of S&P/Case-Shiller data by 24/7 Wall St.
It's interesting that some of those sickest markets are also on the list of the 10 expected to do well in the next few years. Maybe they have a good prescription-drug plan?
In its analysis, Wall Street 24/7 heavily weighted vacancy data, in an attempt to quantify demand for housing versus available supply. Some of the big cities that have been losing population did poorly.
The sickest housing market was deemed to be Tucson, Ariz., where the homeowner vacancy rate is 6.8%, double the rate a year ago, and the rental vacancy rate is 15.9%. Median home prices have dropped 33% since 2008, and the rate of foreclosure is high.
Nevertheless, real-estate experts in Tucson didn't buy the analysis. "Is Tucson housing sickest in the land? Or does Tucson just have a head cold?" Kevin Kaplan wrote on the Long Realty Blog.
He and experts he quoted challenged the use of vacancy rate in determining real-estate health, especially in a city where many "snowbirds" leave their homes vacant in summer. Sales in the first seven months of 2011 were up 12% from the same period last year, and the city has about five months of inventory for sale — considered healthy, he pointed out.
You can buy a new home near President Barack Obama's vacation retreat for $4.35 million. That gets you a 5,400-square-foot house on four acres with ocean views.
With the news this week about President Barack Obama's vacation in Martha's Vineyard, Mass., we at first thought we'd pick out a modest home in which you could vacation like a president.
But then we thought, why not go all out? As long as we're dreaming, let's pick a property where you can live like a president.
So we picked out a new 5,400-square-foot home on four acres overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. Asking price is $4.35 million.
"Brand-new home with stunning, high-quality finish and fantastic water views of Chilmark Pond and the Atlantic," says the listing. What more could you want in a fantasy vacation spot?
The house has five bedrooms, three full baths and two half-baths. It also has a table-tennis room, a media room and a wine cellar, plus a two-car garage with unfinished space above that could be turned into a guest house. Although the house is new construction, it has a traditional look, with wood floors, beams and lots of windows.
FBI's annual report says that industry insiders and organized crime are continuing to engage in fraudulent schemes, shifting strategy with the economy.
One thing that's not declining with the housing bust is mortgage fraud, a new FBI report says.
The report found that fraud in 2010 was at about the same level as it was in 2009. As the number of purchases and mortgage originations fall, the type of fraud shifts: from lies on applications to buy a house to schemes involving mortgage modifications, foreclosure rescue and short sales.
"Mortgage-fraud schemes are particularly resilient, and they readily adapt to economic changes and modifications in lending practices," the FBI wrote in its annual report on mortgage fraud.
Fraud is perpetrated by both industry insiders and representatives of organized crime, the report says, adding that groups ranging from the Italian Mafia to Asian, Balkan, Armenian, Russian and Eurasian criminal organizations were involved in mortgage-fraud schemes in 2010.
"Mortgage fraud enables perpetrators to earn high profits through illicit activity that poses a relative low risk for discovery," the report said.
The FBI says the amount of fraud perpetuated is impossible to quantify, but it included data from CoreLogic that said that fraudulent application information was used to secure $10 billion in loans in 2010. That's just under last year's number, but less than half the more than $25 billion secured by fraudulent loan information in 2006, the height of the boom.
Sales were up in the Northeast and Midwest, down in the South and West. Economic uncertainly, tight lending standards and appraisal problems remain issues.
Homes are at their most affordable level in years, with mortgage rates lower than most of us have seen in our homebuying lives, yet home sales fell in July to their lowest level of the year.
Round up the usual suspects: economic uncertainty, unemployment and tight lending standards that make it difficult for those who want to buy a home to get a mortgage.
"Affordability conditions this year have been the most favorable on record dating back to 1970, but many buyers are being held back because banks are offering financing to only the most highly qualified borrowers, ignoring a large share of otherwise creditworthy buyers," Lawrence Yun, the National Association of Realtors' chief economist, said in a news release.
"Those potential buyers represent the difference between an uneven recovery and a much more robust housing market that could stimulate additional economic activity and create jobs."
Sales of existing homes fell 3.5% from June, but were up 21% over July 2010, after a popular tax credit had expired, the NAR reported.
The national median home price was $174,000, down 4.4 from a year ago. Distressed properties made up 29% of sales, compared with 30% in June and 32% in July 2010.