Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Housing bust worse than reported

The housing bust was worse than previously thought, with fewer homes having sold than was reported, according to the latest data from the National Association of Realtors.

The trade group released revised estimates Wednesday showing 15 percent fewer U.S. homes sold between 2007 and 2010 than it previously reported. The group now says there were 4.2 million sales of existing homes nationwide, down from the previously projected 4.9 million sales.

The trade group's statistics are important because private companies and developers rely on them for future planning. They also can influence public policy. The revisions are expected to have a "minor" impact on future revisions to Gross Domestic Product, NAR said.

The association revised its estimates after other industry groups criticized its methodology. Research group CoreLogic, for example, has said it believed the NAR's numbers were off by as much as 20 percent.

NAR doesn't report actual tallies of home sales. Instead, it makes estimates based on what local Realtors report to them.

NAR said Wednesday that problems arose during the housing bust as sellers turned more to Realtors and away from trying to sell real estate themselves. Some Multiple Listing Services expanded into new areas and some properties were listed on more than one service, resulting in double counting, the group says. Homes marketed as for-sale-by-owner are not reported in the MLS.

"It appears that about half of the revisions result solely from a decline in for-sale-by-owners...," said NAR chief economist Lawrence Yun. "The (for-sale-by-owners) market was overwhelmed by the housing downturn, and since most (for-sale-by-owners) are not reported in the MLS, national estimates of existing-home sales began to diverse based on previous assumptions."

Revisions for sales figures by state will be released Feb. 9, said NAR spokesman Walter Molony.

Kim Walker with the Charlotte Regional Realtor Association, which handles the Carolinas Multiple Listing Services said no revisions are expected for Charlotte-area data.

"From a consumer's viewpoint, only the local market information and MLS data matters," she said. Walker also said that "since there were no changes to local CMLS data or to the local supply-and-demand balance, or to local median prices," that she didn't expect to see metro-area specific revisions.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Median home price falls in South Carolina

The median sales price for homes in South Carolina dropped .7 percent to $149,000 in November, South Carolina REALTORS said this week.

New listings for the state fell nearly 10 percent to 6,242. Pending sales rose 10 percent to 3,571.
Inventory levels also shrank, dropping 15.2 percent to around 50,300 units.

Inventory levels have been falling nationwide. Published inventory levels, however, don't take into account homes going through foreclosure, seriously delinquent or owned by lenders but not put up for sale.

Longview Realty has new owners and new name

Andwell Partners has purchased Longview Realty and related properties in Longview, Charlotte's gated golf course community.

The new firm includes principals Bruce Anderson and Pat Welsh, and Mel Graham, who are among the original developers of The Club at Longview.

Longview and its builders have sold more than $24 million in homes and property in 2011, the company says. The company has also changed its name to Longview Properties LLC.

Longview Properties will focus exclusively on the Longview community. Ben Bowen of Ben Bowen Properties has been named director of sales and marketing.

Friday, December 16, 2011

210 Trade Investments talking to hotel chain about development rights

The developer 210 Trade Investments LLC is negotiating with a hotel chain over air rights above the EpiCentre entertainment complex in uptown, talks that could be in jeopardy if court proceedings don't progress, attorneys said Friday.

The EpiCentre is in bankruptcy protection and its developer and others have been accused by its lender in court of self-dealing and manipulating and falsifying bookeeping records. The company 210 Trade is affiliated with EpiCentre developer Afshin Ghazi. Last year, it bought development rights for what ultimately was a failed condominium tower on the corner of the project at Trade and College Streets.

On Dec. 8, 210 Trade Investments asked the court to let it record documents that it says have sat in escrow for two years. The documents involve ownership of some air rights above the 302,000-square-foot complex.

But attorneys for the lender and creditors, as well as the trustee appointed to handle the EpiCentre's affairs, told a bankruptcy court judge Friday that while they are working to understand the lengthy motion, they still do not understand all the details. They are neither prepared to support or oppose the motion, they said.

Federal judge George Hodges gave a nod to the motion's complexity saying: "I was impressed it took a 28-page, single-spaced report to represent what is supposedly an administrative act."

Asked about 210 Trade's urgency in pushing the motion, the group's attorney, Bob Stephens, said 210 Trade "is a developer like any other and wants to be able to do things..."

Stephens said 210 Trade is in "real" negotiations, although there is no letter of intent, and that negotiations need to move forward before Dec. 31.

Attorney Dennis O'Dea, who represents the committee of unsecured creditors, opposes 210 Trade's request, which he calls a "land grab."

On Friday, O'Dea told the judge that instead of trying to "revive" a document that O'Dea considers "misleading," 210 Trade should instead sit down with the trustee to talk and "do what they have to do."

The two parties continue to talk and a new court hearing will be scheduled.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

South Carolina cracks top 10 states in foreclosure filings

Foreclosure filings across the country dropped last month compared to October, but analysts say they expect a "new set of incoming foreclosure waves" to roll into the market early next year.

That's the latest from RealtyTrac, which tracks foreclosure, auctions and bank-owned homes.

There were 224,394 U.S. foreclosure filings last month, a three percent drop from November and a 14 percent decrease from the same time last year.

Nevada, California and Arizona continue to lead in foreclosures. South Carolina cracked the top 10 for the first time since RealtyTrac began issuing this report in 2005.

South Carolina saw more than 4,000 foreclosure filings in November, a 10 percent jump from October and 4 percent increase from the same time last year. One out of every 517 S.C. homes received a foreclosure filing in November, compared to one out of every 579 homes nationally, RealtyTrac says.

North Carolina, which ranks 34th in foreclosures, reported 2,700 foreclosure filings, a 8 percent drop from October and 34 percent decrease from 2010.

RealtyTrac described the U.S. filing slowdown in November as a seasonal change, and said scheduled foreclosure auctions reached a nine-month high last month. RealtyTrac said the increase in auctions corresponds to a surge in default notices seen in August.

Foreclosure activity slowed last year when banks paused to deal with paperwork problems. Lenders discovered that employees cut corners and signed false or incomplete legal documents.

As banks resume foreclosure proceedings, more distressed homes are expected to move through the foreclosure pipeline, eventually hitting the market.

"...November's numbers suggest a new set of incoming foreclosure waves, many of which may roll into the market as REOs or short sales sometimes early next year," said James Saccacio, co-founder of RealtyTrac.

For more information and to view a map illustrating foreclosure activity, go to:

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Judge expands power of trustee overseeing the EpiCentre

A bankruptcy judge Thursday broadened the powers held by the trustee overseeing the EpiCentre entertainment complex in uptown, despite objections by the EpiCentre's developer and owner.

In October, the judge appointed Elaine Rudisill to manage the 302,000-square-foot project at the request of the EpiCentre's lender, Blue Air 2010. Blue Air has accused EpiCentre developers Afshin Ghazi, George Cornelson III and others of wrongfully diverting money from the EpiCentre before filing for bankruptcy protection last year.

Rudisill, managing director of The Finley Group in Charlotte, had been limited to management duties. Now, Rudisill has full control of the project and could sue people if she felt it appropriate, said attorney Dennis O'Dea. As the attorney for the committee of unsecured creditors, O'Dea supports Rudisill's new power.

"Her voice is now very important in this case," he said.

During the hearing, which lasted more than a hour, attorneys for the EpiCentre and its developers told the judge they wanted the trustee to have to tell their clients what she was doing.

Travis Moon, an attorney representing Fulcrum Construction, objected. The general contractor is owed $3.5 million for its work on the project.

Saying that attorneys are investigating allegations of self-dealing and other actions by the principals, Moon said: "If you are saying we have to call if we just found a pot of money that was hidden, we are not going to do that."

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

N.C. Appeals Court rules against the Vue

The N.C. Appeals Court ruled Monday that the Vue can not force buyers to complete their purchases and that the developer can only keep deposits as damages if sales fall through.

The Vue last year sued four buyers who failed to close on their condos claiming they breached their contracts to purchase units in the luxury condo tower at Fifth and Pine streets. The developer said the defendants signed enforceable contracts, according to the court filings.

The Vue claimed it was entitled to specific performance of the agreement, meaning it wanted the courts to force the buyers to follow through with their purchase. The Vue also asked for damages "arising from the defendants' failure to timely perform their obligations."

Sales faltered at the uptown high-rise as the recession and weak housing market scared away buyers. Some people who had signed sales agreements in better economic times wanted out of their deal because they could no longer afford a unit, couldn't get financing or didn't want to buy property that appraised for less than the sales price.

In October 2010, a month after it started closing on units, the Vue's developer, MCL Cos. of Chicago, hinted it would sue those who didn't complete sales, referring in an e-mail posted on a blog to a court case where a judge ruled a Charlotte couple couldn't walk away from a $315,000 condo they'd signed a contract to buy.

Monday's appellate court decision was unanimous.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Trump still a Charlotte fan

The Trump Organization is still bullish on Charlotte, which Donald Trump views as having a lot of potential.

That comes from Donald's son, Eric, who talked to me Thursday for a story about Trump's interest in some Charlotte-area real estate.

"We would love to be in Charlotte. It's a great city," he said.

Trump said he's been approached by some area golf properties. He's also looked at "a high-rise and mid-rise opportunity and some land plays."

But, he said, the organization is not actively exploring anything specific at the moment.

Maybe one day.

"We think it’s a market we’d love to get in." Trump said.