Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Housing News Digest, April 20

Builders offer green tract homes with nearly zero utility bills
On Earth Day Friday, Meritage Homes will begin offering a “net-zero” home that’s designed to produce as much energy as it uses annually. Such homes, starting at $140,000 in Tucson and $160,000 in Las Vegas, will be available in parts of Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada and central Texas, where a nine-panel rooftop solar array is already a standard feature. For a $10,000 upgrade, consumers can get 24 more solar panels that could reduce utility bills to zero.

MBA: Mortgage Purchase Application activity increases
The Refinance Index increased 2.7 percent from the previous week. The seasonally adjusted Purchase Index increased 10.0 percent to its highest level since December 3, 2010, driven largely by a 17.6 percent increase in Government purchase applications.

Aspen's high-end hotels all close
The Aspen Times reports it's the first time in memory all three have been closed at once, although each has a different reason. The Jerome will be undergoing general maintenance and The Little Nell will see some minor renovations that will shutter both until near the middle of May. A bigger, $30 million renovation project will keep the St. Regis closed until mid-June.

Distressed Properties Claim 40% of Existing-Home Sales
Distressed homes – typically REOs and short sales – accounted for 40 percent of the existing homes sold in March, the National Association of Realtors (NAR) reported Wednesday.

The trade group notes that these properties generally sell at discounts in the vicinity of 20 percent. Their large market share served to dampen the median existing-home price. For all housing types, it came in at $159,600 last month, down 5.9 percent from March 2010.

'Uneven' housing recovery continues
Also see here.
NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- Sales of existing homes increased in March, "continuing an uneven recovery" in real estate, an industry group said Monday.

Home sales rose at an annual rate of 5.1 million in March, up 3.7% from February, the National Association of Realtors said Wednesday. However, sales were 6.3% lower than in March 2010.