The number of contracts to buy homes rose in the Midwest but declined in other regions. Still, the numbers are better than at the same time last year.

By Teresa at MSN Real Estate Jan 25, 2012 11:00AM

Woman in front of sale sign with fingers crossed (© SuperStock)The number of contracts to buy homes signed fell in December, a reminder that any housing recovery is likely to come in fits and starts. Remember the economist who predicted a "catfish recovery"?

 

The National Association of Realtors reported that its index of pending home sales fell to 96.6% last month. That was 3.5% lower than November's 100.1, which was the highest number in 19 months. An index of 100 is considered healthy.

 

"Even with a modest decline, the preceding two months of contract activity are the highest in the past four years outside of the homebuyer tax-credit period," NAR chief economist Lawrence Yun said in a news release.

 

Florida voters, facing massive foreclosures and loss of equity, may force presidential hopefuls to look harder at the crisis. Other key battleground states also are suffering.

By Teresa at MSN Real Estate Jan 24, 2012 1:13PM

Up to this point, the Republican candidates for president have largely ignored the housing crisis. When they talk about the economy, they talk about jobs and regulations, not the millions of Americans who are in danger of losing their homes to foreclosure.

 

We'll put aside for now the issue of just what Newt Gingrich did for Freddie Mac. If you're interested in Freddie Mac's role in the housing crisis, CNN has a good explainer.

 

As the GOP candidates fight for votes in the Jan. 31 Florida primary, they’re having a harder time ignoring the housing issue. Florida has been the epicenter of the foreclosure crisis, and residents have seen their homes drop in value by more than 50% in some areas.

 

Manhattan judge agrees with the rocker that she had paid her rent. Whether she 'ruined' the $27,000-a-month townhouse with her renovations is being debated.

By Teresa at MSN Real Estate Jan 23, 2012 1:20PM

© Robert Sietsema, Courtesy of Village Voice, LLC.Rocker Courtney Love has won her case and won't be evicted from her $27,000-a-month New York City townhouse.

 

The law was on her side: A judge agreed with her contention that she was current on her rent on the four-story, three-bedroom home in Manhattan's West Village and dismissed the suit brought by her landlord.

 

Love plans to move anyway next month, when her lease expires, according to The New York Post.

 
Tags: celebrity

Proposed settlement between the big banks and the states includes aid to underwater homeowners, $1,800 payments to robo-signing victims and servicing reform.

By Teresa at MSN Real Estate Jan 23, 2012 11:23AM

A proposed settlement between major U.S. banks and states over mortgage practices has gone to the state attorneys general for review after nearly a year of negotiations.

 

Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan hinted last week that the settlement, which President Barack Obama may announce Tuesday during his State of the Union speech, includes "far and away the largest principal reduction of the [housing] crisis" as well as reforms in the way that mortgage servicers deal with borrowers.

 

"We're very close to a settlement that would both fix the servicing problems, but also help over a million families around the country stay in their homes and get help," Donovan told the U.S. Conference of Mayors. He estimated that 1 million underwater homeowners could receive mortgage modifications that included principal reductions.

 

This 992-square-foot home is part of a landmark midcentury-modern project built for 10 working families that pooled their resources in the 1940s. Some were movie cartoonists.

By Teresa at MSN Real Estate Jan 20, 2012 1:34PM

Courtesy of Realtor.comWhen you think about historic homes, you often think about large.

 

But in Los Angeles, a piece of history measuring 992 square feet has gone on sale for the first time in more than 40 years. The three-bedroom, one-bath condo is listed for $595,000.

 

The apartment is part of the Avenel Cooperative Housing project, built in 1947 by prominent Los Angeles architect Gregory Ain for 10 families, each of which contributed $11,000 toward construction.  The complex is on the National Register of Historic Places.

 

Some reports say most of the founding residents were motion-picture cartoonists and their families. Four of the 10 were at some point called before the House Un-American Activities Committee, which was investigating supposed Communist influences in Hollywood.

 

Sales of existing homes rose for the third straight month. Inventory and unemployment are down, providing more reasons for optimism despite the long road ahead.

By Teresa at MSN Real Estate Jan 20, 2012 10:27AM

Sold sign in front of house (© Nick White/Cultura/Getty Images)We close the week with another report of "not so bad" news about the real-estate market.

 

Sales of existing homes rose 5% in December, the third straight month of increases.

 

The number of homes sold was 3.6% over the number sold in December 2010. With inventory of homes for sale at its lowest level since March 2005, the market picture is looking a little brighter.

 

Are we at the bottom? We won't know until we start climbing out. A number of significant hurdles stand between today's conditions and a healthy market, including high unemployment, tight credit and an unknown number of distressed properties still to come to market.

 

Analysts suggest an REO-to-rental program wouldn't do much to help home prices. It's also possible the government would have to offer subsidies to investors.

By Teresa at MSN Real Estate Jan 19, 2012 12:53PM

House for rent in the middle of winter (© David Joel/Getty Images)The federal government is reported to be close to a program to turn foreclosed homes owned by Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and the Federal Housing Administration into rental properties, probably by selling them off in bulk to investors.

 

But, like many of the government's initiatives to combat the foreclosure crisis, this one may have significantly less impact than hoped.

 

An analysis by Goldman Sachs estimated that in the most optimistic scenario, such a program would boost housing prices 0.5% the first year and 1% the second year. But the impact would probably be less.

 

Builders take heart from the stronger showing toward the end of the year but note that 'normal' demand is still years away.

By Teresa at MSN Real Estate Jan 19, 2012 10:42AM

© Andy Sacks/Getty ImagesIt's official: 2011 was the worst year on record for single-family homebuilding.

 

But with December being the third straight month to show an increase in the number of single-family homes to start construction, builders are feeling a bit optimistic. A bit.

 

While the number of single-family homes started in December rose 4.4% over November, the total number of homes started fell 4.1%, driven by a decline in the volatile multifamily numbers. Still, the December numbers for combined single-family and multifamily construction were 24.9% above the rate in December 2010, according to the Commerce Department.

 
 

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