Monday, March 26, 2012

Housing News Digest, March 26

New-home sales fell in February for second month

WASHINGTON — Sales of U.S. new homes fell in February for the second straight month, a reminder that the depressed housing market remains weak despite some improvement.

The Commerce Department said Friday that new-home sales dropped 1.6 percent last month to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 313,000 homes. Sales have fallen nearly 7 percent since December.

Does Real Estate Still Mean Big Tax Breaks?
SANTA ANA, CA, Mar 26, 2012 (MARKETWIRE via COMTEX) -- With reduced home prices and interest rates near historic lows, affordability levels in early 2012 reached their highest point in 42 years according to the National Association of Realtors.

Not only are homes at record affordability levels, real estate ownership also opens the door to a wide variety of tax benefits and additional savings.

"A recent poll shows that 75 percent of likely voters think real estate tax deductions are appropriate and reasonable," said Steve DiUbaldo, president of Atlantic & Pacific Real Estate, a full-service real estate brokerage with offices in 22 states. "People understand the value of owning a home and the role played by tax benefits. Combine today's affordability levels with tax advantages and now is a very good time to consider both residential and investment real estate."

Housing Hype: Recovery Turns to Relapse?
Housing was charging back. Spring sprung early. Sentiment among home builders doubled in six months. Any talk that the fundamentals might not be supporting the sentiment was met with harsh criticism. And then suddenly it wasn’t.

A slew of new housing data last week disappointed the analysts and the stock market, and all of a sudden you started to hear concern that maybe housing wasn’t exactly in a robust recovery.

Freddie CEO signals GSE principal reduction could be soon
Freddie Mac CEO Charles "Ed" Haldeman gave a strong signal Friday that new incentives from the Treasury Department may be enough to start principal reduction on mortgages backed by the government-sponsored enterprises.

In January, the Treasury said it would triple incentive payments to mortgage investors who allow principal reduction in Home Affordable Modification Program workouts. The payouts ranged between six and 21 cents to the investors for each dollar forgiven under HAMP, but that will grow to between 18 and 63 cents.

BofA Offers Leasing Program to Select Customers Facing Foreclosure
In select hard-hit markets, Bank of America is introducing a program that will give some of its customers who are facing foreclosure the option to remain in their homes as a tenant rather than as a homeowner.

The Charlotte, North Carolina based-bank made the announcement Thursday in a release. The program, called Mortgage to Lease, will solicit fewer than 1,000 customers who qualify; there will not be opportunities to volunteer or apply for the program.