Saturday, December 09, 2006

Forecast Predicts Lower Rates Next Year

How this will affect the greater Seattle region is still hard to predict. We have not felt the housing downturn as much as some regions. I believe that values are still adjusting back to a norm following a very inflated marketplace.

A weakening U.S. economy is setting the stage for lower interest rates, according to a UCLA Anderson Forecast released today.

The forecast predicts real gross domestic product will rise no more than 2.7 percent next year, reflecting the weak housing market.

As a result, the Federal Reserve Board will cut interest rates to stimulate business, says Edward Leamer, director of the UCLA Anderson Forecast. Leamer says he sees the Federal Funds rate falling to 4.5 percent by the fourth quarter of next year.

Leamer also thinks housing starts will bottom out at an annual rate of 1.4 million in the second quarter of next year. As builders seek to sell inventory, new-home prices will fall to a low in the third quarter of 2007, down 10 percent from current levels, he says.

Prices for existing homes also will "nudge down a bit," he adds, noting the housing market downturn will hurt home builders, construction workers, real estate practitioners, and bankers, but will not be so severe as to force a recession.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Foreclosures Increase 17 Percent in Third Quarter, Up 43 Percent From 2005

I found this information on the current foreclosure data and wanted to share it with all of you. It's no wonder that we are seeing this trend after our inflated market corrected itself. A misconception that I feel many have is that homes have lost value; in reality home prices have corrected back to a reality driven market. The frenzied multiple bidding wars where prices were paid far over fair market value over the past year to year and a half is what I think caused this correction.

The good news: it's a great time for buyers and sellers if prices are realistic for the marketplace of today.

RealtyTracTM released its Q3 2006 U.S. Foreclosure Market Report showing that 318,355 properties entered some stage of foreclosure nationwide during the third quarter of 2006, a 17 percent increase from the previous quarter and a 43 percent yearly increase from the third quarter of 2005. The nation had a foreclosure rate of one foreclosure filing for every 363 households during the quarter, slightly higher than last quarter's rate of one foreclosure filing for every 425 households, but lower than the first-quarter rate of one foreclosure filing for every 358 households.

"Higher interest rates and a general softening of the real estate market are the two key factors contributing to the 43 percent increase in foreclosure filings from the third quarter of 2005," said James J. Saccacio, chief executive officer of RealtyTrac. "What our third quarter research appears to be showing is that the first wave of adjustable rate mortgages is having a negative impact on the number of homes going into foreclosure. With the volume of these loans -- more than $1 trillion of them due to adjust over the next 15 months -- this is a trend that definitely bears watching."

Colorado, Nevada, Florida post highest quarterly foreclosure rates

Colorado posted the highest foreclosure rate in the nation for the second consecutive quarter, reporting one new foreclosure filing for every 127 households -- 2.9 times the national average. After declining almost 13 percent between the first and second quarter of the year, foreclosure activity in the state was back up 24 percent from the second to the third quarter, with 14,374 properties entering some stage of foreclosure -- the eighth highest foreclosure total in the nation.

Nevada moved up from having the sixth highest rate in the second quarter to the second highest rate in the third quarter, reporting one new foreclosure for every 156 households -- 2.3 times the national average. The state reported 5,561 properties in some stage of foreclosure during the quarter.

Florida, which had the ninth highest foreclosure rate in the country for the second quarter, took over the No. 3 spot from Texas during the third quarter, reporting one new foreclosure for every 182 households -- almost twice the national average. With 40,136 properties in some stage of foreclosures during the quarter, the state reported the highest number of foreclosure filings during the quarter, barely beating out Texas which held the No. 1 spot for the previous two quarters.

Other states with foreclosure rates ranking them in the nation's top 10 for the third quarter included Georgia, Michigan, Texas, Indiana, Utah, Ohio and Illinois.

Quarterly foreclosure numbers soar in Florida, California; Texas remains static

A 55 percent spike in activity catapulted Florida into leading the nation in total foreclosure filings during the third quarter. Texas, which led the nation in foreclosure activity for the first two quarters of the year, moved into second place, reporting 39,363 properties in some stage of foreclosure. With a 35 percent spike in activity, California rounded out the nation's top three, reporting 37,317 properties in some stage of foreclosure for the three-month period.

While both Florida and California experienced significant increases in activity for the quarter, foreclosure activity in Texas remained basically unchanged, down less than 1 percent from the 39,690 properties reported for the second quarter, but still 18 percent above the 33,289 foreclosures reported for third quarter 2005. Compared to the same quarter last year, foreclosure activity in Florida is 26 percent above the 31,829 properties reported, and activity in California has increased 171 percent since the same quarter last year.

The state with the fourth highest foreclosure total for the quarter was Michigan, reporting 20,777 properties entering some stage of foreclosure, a 37 percent increase from the second quarter and 109 percent above third quarter 2005 numbers. Ohio posted the fifth highest total, reporting 19,748 new foreclosure filings for the third quarter, a 23 percent quarter-to-quarter increase and 32 percent above the foreclosure numbers reported for the same quarter last year.

"While the overall number of foreclosures represents a return to more or less normal levels, there are pockets of the country that are being hit more severely," Saccacio noted. "States with underlying economic issues, such as high unemployment or depreciating home prices will continue to outpace the rest of the country in the total number and rate of foreclosures."

Friday, July 21, 2006


Ever reviewed your home telephone bill, cellular phone bill, or if you are a business owner, your company phone bill and wondered why each and every month you are being charged a "Federal Excise Tax"? More importantly, have you ever wondered if you could avoid the tax altogether or get a refund?

Wonder no more…the IRS recently announced that it will stop collecting the Federal Excise Tax on long distance phone service, and taxpayers will actually be eligible to file for refunds of all excise tax paid on long distance service billed to them from February 28, 2003 through July 31, 2006. And believe it or not, the IRS will even pay you interest on these refunds! (Yet of course will tax you on the interest you are paid.) But before we jump into how you get your refund back, let's take a step back in time and look at the history of the Federal Excise Tax.

The tax was imposed in 1898, and was originally a tax on the affluent because phone service was a luxury back in 1898. The purpose of the tax was to help pay for the Spanish-American War which lasted six months. But after the war ended, the tax continued and consumers have paid well over $300 billion to pay for a war that cost only a tiny fraction of that amount. And with the current excise tax rate being 3% of the charges billed, that amount can be significant! For example, if your telephone bill is $100 the federal excise tax is only $3 a month but, if you are a business owner and your phone bill runs $10,000 that number is $300 a month. And with many consumers having more than one telephone service, the excise tax can add up pretty quickly.

So, how do you collect your cash?

The only way to obtain your refund is with your tax return. Tax forms will include a line for requesting the overpayment amount, and the refund can be claimed on 2006 returns due in 2007. To determine the amount of the refund, the IRS is working on a simplified method - similar to the sales tax deduction - which will allow you to use an IRS table amount to claim your refund. Or…similar to itemizing deductions on your return, you can gather up those old phone records dated after February 28, 2003 and add up the actual amount. For some, this could result in a larger refund and may be worth the effort. And although interest will be paid on the refund amount…don't forget that we're dealing with the IRS…the interest is taxable and will need to be reported on your 2007 income tax returns.
An interesting thought ......we all know that the IRS moves really, really slowly when it comes to change. But who would have thought that it would take over a century to repeal the federal excise tax?

Friday, June 16, 2006

Home Prices Up Nearly 18%

Home prices in Snohomish County tilted more toward a buyers' market in April, but that still did nothing to rein in prices, the Multiple Listing Service reported.

The combined median price for single-family homes and condominiums rose to $312,000, a 17.74% increase from April 2005, according to the service, which represents real estate agents in Western Washington.

For single-family homes, the median price was $329,000, a nearly 18% hike from a year ago. For condos, the median was $199,950, up 7.8% from April 2005.

Median means that half the homes sold for more and half sold for less.

While prices remain high, the increases are ebbing in comparison to previous months, which were typically 20+% higher than year-ago figures.

The number of available homes, which has been shrinking for some time, actually increased in April by 10%, but it wasn't enough to push prices down. While prices and listings are up, sales are down.

Pending sales, meaning sales in which the paperwork wasn't completed by the end of April, were down nearly 4%. Completed sales dropped 7.4%.

Still, sales remain at a high level. They're only slightly down from April 2005 sales, which set records in much of the Puget Sound area.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Home Listings Grow Slightly While Prices Soar

Home sales in Snohomish County picked up a bit in March, while prices continued their upward climb, the Northwest Multiple Listing Service said.

The number of homes on the market grew slightly in March up 3.8 percent to 3,242, stopping what has been a steady decline in the number of homes for sale in comparison to this time a year ago. Closed sales also were slightly above 2005 figures, up 2.8 percent to 1,537.

The biggest change was in the median price.

Combined prices for both condos and single-family homes hit $309,950 in March, a 20.33 percent increase from March 2005. That was among the biggest increases in the Puget Sound area, although smaller than in Skagit County, where homes appreciated by 35.7 percent.

For just single-family homes, the Snohomish County median price was $330,000. For condos, it was $189,970. Median price means half the homes sold for more and half sold for less.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

brrreeeport - brrreeeport - brrreeeport - brrreeeport - brrreeeport - brrreeeport

This is a very important word. Read the following article I received from a service I am part of:

What started out as an apparent debunking of an A-list blogger conspiracy has evolved into a made-up word shedding light on the search world. Microsoft's controversial employee blogger, Robert Scoble, invited readers to use the word ‘brrreeeport" on their blogs as a way to get "Z-list" blogs noticed, while testing the reach of the various search engines.

Editor's Note: So many questions: What do you think of Scoble's experiment? Does it shed any insight on to how search engines work? What do you think is the best blog engine? Are search engines lying about their results like Scoble suggests? Is there an exclusive group of "A-list bloggers?" Join our discussion in WebProWorld.

Scoble's snarky experiment was in response to the notion of the supposed Blog Club, where A-list bloggers only link to each other and thereby keeping lesser-known bloggers out of the loop of recognition in typical Critical Theory style. The invention of the word "brrreeeport" and the invitation to put on a person's blog created a vacuum to Technorati's blog listings and popular tags. Very soon, the term was listed at the top of Technorati's most searched word. Two days later, "brrreeeport" is out ranking searches for information on the Dick Cheney hunting accident, and is third on the list of tags. The original purpose of the experiment worked. Technorati returns some 487 results for the word, leading searchers to blogs they may have never encountered. But the memetic results led to another exploration of the efficacy of various search engines.

At the time this article was written, a search on Technorati returns 487 results; Google's Blog Search: 452; Feedster: 569. On that information alone, it would appear that Google Blog search is missing an element the other blog engines aren't. But the more interesting question Scoble brings up on Wednesday, when he compares results of Google, MSN, and Yahoo! Google's main page (as of present) says it found 22,400 results for the word. Scrolling through, however, there are only 353 results after similar entries are omitted. Re-searching with omitted results included returns only 979 results, as the other 21,000 are apparently inaccessible. Scoble calls this an example of "lies that are going on on search engines." Scoble reports that MSN returns over 1, 369 entries (though my results continue to say 221), and Yahoo! returns over 1,010. The varying numbers does bring up an interesting question as to the veracity of any given search engine's reach. One thing's for certain, many are taking advantage of the memetic appeal of the word, "brrreeeport." Bloggers have committed to throwing the word onto their blog posts. Even the famous New York City gay and lesbian publication The Village Voice has thrown it into a headline for an unrelated music review. There are even sponsored links for the word on Google and Yahoo!'s SERPs. On Yahoo!'s system though, it's not the exact word, but ads served up based on similar keywords. Whatever the deeper implications, the immediate benefit was for Z-list bloggers who otherwise may have never been found. Someone's even reserved the brrreeeport domain.

About the Author:Jason is a staff writer for WebProNews covering technology and business.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Free 411 Calls From Cell and Home Phones

Cell phone companies are charging us $1.00 or more for 411, information calls, when they don't have to. When you need to use the 411 / information option, simply dial 1 800 FREE 411 or 1 800 373 3411 without incurring a charge at all except for the minutes required to make the call.

This is information people don't mind receiving - Pass it on. Works on home phone also.