Prices rise in more than a third of the nation's metro areas in the past year.
What a difference a homebuyer tax credit makes. Compared with a year ago, business is booming in the real-estate world, with purchases up 27.2% in fourth quarter of 2009 and sale prices also up in more than a third of the nation's metropolitan areas, according to the National Association of Realtors.
Even compared with the third quarter, when summer buying was in full force, the number of existing-home sales rose nearly 14% in the fourth quarter, with all but one state reaping the benefits, including double-digit gains in 32 states.
"The surge in home sales was driven by buyers responding strongly to the tax credit combined with record-low mortgage interest rates," said Lawrence Yun, chief economist with the Realtors group.
CitiMortgage is trying out a pilot program that pays delinquent borrowers to stay in their homes -- as long as they agree to maintain the property and hand over the keys after six months.
Although help has been on its way for millions of homeowners facing foreclosure, it soon will become apparent that some of them simply no longer have the ability to stay in their homes.
Even with aid through the Obama administration's Home Affordable Modification Program, unemployment and other hardships are expected to disqualify hundreds of thousands of from turning their temporary loan modifications into permanent help.
However, according to The Wall Street Journal, CitiMortgage has introduced a compromise that it hopes will benefit itself as much as the homeowner.
To try to discourage angry homeowners from trashing the foreclosed homes they once adored, Citi is starting a pilot program that lets distressed borrowers remain in their homes for six months, mortgage free, and then it actually pays them to leave.
The number of Americans at risk of losing their homes falls 10% from December to January.
I don't know about you, but I'm about ready to jump for joy at today's news that foreclosures fell 10% in January compared with December. What a great way to start the new year!
But the chief executive of RealtyTrac, which released the monthly foreclosure data, has other things in mind:
"January foreclosure numbers are exhibiting a pattern very similar to a year ago: a double-digit percentage jump in December foreclosure activity followed by a 10% drop in January," said James Saccacio. "If history repeats itself, we will see a surge in the numbers over the next few months as lenders foreclose on delinquent loans where neither the existing loan-modification programs or the new short sale and deed in lieu of foreclosure alternatives works."
The fourth quarter of 2009 marked the 12th in a row that prices continued their annual declines.
As much as I hate to admit it, the Obama administration's homebuyer tax credit might actually not be enough to save the ailing housing market.
Sure, for much of 2009, prices finally reversed their month-to-month declines and began to show some improvement, but as soon as the original tax credit was supposed to expire at the end of November, many of the increases in home values expired, too.
Zillow reports that in the fourth quarter of 2009, home prices fell 0.5% from the previous quarter to $186,200. That number also is 5% below home prices in the fourth quarter of 2008, marking the 12th consecutive month of annual decreases, it reported.
The number of homeowners seeking contractors to work on their homes rose 37% in the fourth quarter of 2009, with even bigger increases in Arizona, California, Florida and Illinois.
Not even a recession is going to stop Americans from remodeling their homes -- especially when it could end up being their primary residence for a lot longer than they had expected.
But that's likely not the only reason requests for remodel services rose 37% in the fourth quarter of 2009 compared with the same time a year ago, according to ServiceMagic.com, an MSN Real Estate partner.
With sharp increases in requests for services in Arizona, California, Florida and Illinois, the four states hit hardest by foreclosure, it appears recent homebuyers are also doing their part to keep contractors employed.
A Connecticut tree that twinkled over the holidays in Rockefeller Center is giving back to its home state as lumber for a Habitat for Humanity house.
You've no doubt seen pictures of the Christmas tree that decorated New York's Rockefeller Center over the holidays. But the Connecticut tree's journey doesn't end there.
The New York Times writes that the tree is returning to its home state to spread the Christmas joy for years to come as part of the lumber for a home being built by an affiliate of Habitat for Humanity International.
The home, which will be owned by single mom Iveth Bowie, is one of eight 1,250-square-foot row houses being built in Stamford, not far from where the tree grew up in Easton.
Is the recently unemployed 'Tonight Show' host staying in Los Angeles?
It all started after NBC announced last month that it was returning Jay Leno to the network's 11:35 p.m. time slot, bumping O'Brien's "Tonight Show" to a 12:05 a.m. start. If he wanted it, that is.
So what's he doing in his time off? Apparently, he's attempting to quietly sell his New York penthouse for a jaw-dropping $35 million, according to The New York Post.
Perhaps O'Brien and his wife, Liza, are going to stick around Los Angeles after all.
One company is hoping a cash payout when you pay off your mortgage will help keep 'underwater' borrowers in their homes.
For some people, it's not even about whether they can pay their mortgage anymore, it's whether they want to.
The New York Times says it is estimated that by June, the value of 5.1 million homes will fall below 75% of the amount owed on the mortgages, what it calls "the critical threshold" where "the owner starts to think hard about walking away, even if he or she has the money to keep paying."
Some say homeowners are morally obligated to continue paying their "underwater" mortgages, while others ask why more borrowers aren't walking away from their homes. But one company, Loan Value Group LLC, is actually trying to figure out a for-profit way to persuade homeowners with the money to pay to stick around.
According to a post by Nick Timiraos in The Wall Street Journal's Developments blog, the company is proposing a plan to give borrowers a lump-sum reward when they pay the mortgage off if they make good on their payments:
About Teresa Mears
Teresa Mears is a veteran journalist who has been interested in houses since her father took her to tax auctions to carry the cash at age 10. A former editor of The Miami Herald's Home & Design section, she lives in South Florida where, in addition to writing about real estate, she publishes Miami on the Cheap to help her neighbors adjust to the loss of 60% of their property value.