Fewer options for home equity loans

NEW YORK – Aug. 17, 2015 – Wells Fargo and Bank of America announced they are discontinuing some of their home equity loan products, Bankrate reports.

Bank of America says it’s ending the loans because it’s working on “product simplification,” but Wells Fargo attributes its decision to the “Know Before You Owe” rule, which goes into effect Oct. 3. The rule – also known as TILA-RESPA Integrated Disclosure – brings new documents to the mortgage lending process.

Home equity loans come in two types: closed-ended (usually just called a home equity loan) and open-ended, which is often called a home equity line of credit (HELOC). A home equity loan is a one-time lump-sum loan, which often comes with a fixed interest rate. A HELOC involves revolving credit where borrowers can choose when and how often to borrow against the equity in the property (a lender sets an initial limit to the credit).

“Because closed-end loans were a small percentage of our overall home equity volume, we chose to focus on our line-of-credit offering and not to extend the resources required to retool our closed-end home equity disclosures to meet the new [integrated disclosure] regulations,” Wells Fargo told Bankrate.

Lenders who issue home equity loans are required to comply with the integrated disclosure rules.

HELOCs, however, are not affected by the new regulations.

Bank of America and Wells Fargo say they will still offer HELOC products and will include a fixed-rate option, where borrowers lock in the interest rate on either a portion of the credit line or the entire loan amount.

Wells Fargo says it will be concentrating on making improvements to its home equity line of credit product, including enhancing its HELOC products with a lower line limit and a new minimum of $10,000 for all states (North Carolina is the exception at $12,000).

Source: “Time to Say ‘Goodbye’ to Home Equity Loans?” Bankrate.com (Aug. 7, 2015) and “TRID Pushes Wells Fargo Out of Home Equity Loans,” HousingWire (Aug. 11, 2015)

© Copyright 2015 INFORMATION, INC. Bethesda, MD (301) 215-4688

Which lenders are best for buyers?

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Aug. 17, 2015 – LendingTree, a company that refers buyers and owners to about 350 lenders in the U.S., announced the top 10 customer-rated lenders on its network based on customer reviews for the second quarter of 2015.

LendingTree says it based its ‘Top 10’ list on a weighted average of review rating and volume of customer reviews. Lenders were rated on mortgage rates, fees and closing costs, responsiveness, customer service and overall experience.

Survey top 10 in 2Q 2015 survey

1. HomePlus Mortgage

2. Triumph Lending

3. First Midwest Bank

4. Allied Mortgage Group, Inc.

5. J.G. Wentworth Home Lending, Inc. formerly known as WestStar Mortgage Inc.

6. Insight Loans

7. Intelliloan

8. Pulaski Bank Home Lending

9. Reliant Bank Mortgage Services

10. Ditech Mortgage Corporation

“With the addition of 30 new lenders in the quarter, we had more lenders than ever in contention for these top spots,” says Sam Mischner, SVP of lender operations at LendingTree.

© 2015 Florida Realtors®

What do today’s buyers want in a home?

NEW YORK – Aug. 5, 2015 – What building materials are trending in new-home construction? The latest Annual Builder Practices Survey, conducted by Home Innovation, reveals what buyers can expect to see in the new-home market.

1. Garages: The garage door is getting more enhancements, including windows, insulated doors, and doors made of composite or plastic materials. In 2014, 32 percent of all new single-family homes had bays for three or more cars – the most ever recorded in this study’s history.

2. Flooring: Carpeting continues to be the most popular flooring option for new construction, included in about 83 percent of all new-home bedroom installations. However, only about 40 percent of living rooms now have carpet. Hardwood flooring – both solid and engineered– is the second most popular type of flooring included in 27 percent of all new-home installations. Ceramic tile (which appears in 72 percent of all bathroom floor installation) follows in third place, making up 20 percent of all new-home floor installations.

3. Countertops: For kitchen countertops, granite continues to reign in two out of three homes (64 percent of new-home installations). Quartz/engineered stone is gaining popularity while laminate, solid surfacing and ceramic tile are losing appeal.

4. Appliances: Cooktops and wall oven combinations are gaining in popularity and make up about 24 percent of the market, compared to freestanding ovens (45 percent). Freezer-on-bottom refrigerators are gaining in popularity at 19 percent, while side-by-side has fallen to 28 percent of the share.

5. Kitchen sinks: More buyers are paying attention to their kitchen sink, with the single basin kitchen sink making a comeback, growing from 5 percent to 20 percent of all new single-family homes in the past decade. Also growing in popularity are granite/stone kitchen sinks (at 8 percent). One-piece cultured marble lavatories are continuing to decline in demand.

Source: “Material World: The Hottest Trends From the 2015 Builder Practices Survey,” BUILDER Online (July 29, 2015)

© Copyright 2015 INFORMATION, INC. Bethesda, MD (301) 215-4688

4 Florida cities tops for seriously underwater homes

IRVINE, Calif. — July 30, 2015 — RealtyTrac released its second quarter (Q2) 2015 U.S. Home Equity & Underwater Report, which listed four Florida cities at the top of the list for homes seriously underwater – properties where the homeowners owe at least 25 percent more than the home’s current market worth.

Areas (population greater than 500,000) with the highest percentage of seriously underwater properties included Florida markets such as Lakeland (28.5 percent), Cleveland, Ohio (28.2 percent), Las Vegas (27.9 percent), Akron, Ohio (27.3 percent), Orlando (26.1 percent), Tampa (24.8 percent), Chicago (24.8 percent), Palm Bay(24.4 percent) and Toledo, Ohio (24.3 percent).

In addition, RealtyTrac looked at underwater homes that are also in the foreclosure process.

In the same Florida cities, over half of the homeowners going through foreclosure were seriously underwater:Lakeland (54.8 percent of foreclosures seriously underwater), Tampa (51.7 percent), Palm Bay (51.5 percent) and Orlando (51.2 percent).

Statewide, 23.6 percent Florida of homeowners with a mortgage were seriously underwater in the Q2 2015 – a drop from 23.8 percent in the first quarter and 30.3 percent year-to-year.

On the flipside, RealtyTrac found that 17.6 percent of Florida owners with a mortgage were “equity rich” with at least 50 percent equity. That’s a slight drop for the first quarter’s 17.8 percent but an increase from 15.9 percent year-to-year.

Looking only at homes in foreclosure, 62.8 percent in Florida were seriously underwater, while 18.6 percent, even though going through foreclosure, were equity rich.

“Strong South Florida price increases over the past few years have moved many homeowners from negative to positive equity. We would encourage the remaining distressed homeowners to ask for a Broker Price Opinion (BPO) regarding the value of their property – many may be surprised at their improving value,” says Mike Pappas, CEO and president of Keyes Company in South Florida.

National numbers

Nationwide, 13.3 percent of all properties with a mortgage were seriously underwater in Q2, an increase from 13.2 percent of all homes in the first quarter. However, they dropped from 17.2 percent year-to-year. At the peak of the foreclosure crisis in 2012, the percentage was 28.6 percent.

“Slowing home price appreciation in 2015 has resulted in the share of seriously underwater properties plateauing at about 13 percent of all properties with a mortgage,” says Daren Blomquist, vice president at RealtyTrac.

“However, the share of homeowners with the double-whammy of seriously underwater properties also in foreclosure is continuing to decrease and is now at the lowest level we’ve seen since we began tracking that metric in the first quarter of 2012,” he adds.

© 2015 Florida Realtors®

Miami Home Prices, Sales Continue to Strengthen, Housing Inventory Shortage a Reality

Submitted by Lynda Fernandez on September 19, 2012 – 11:33am


Miami, FL – Miami home prices rose again in August, marking nine consecutive months of appreciation, according to the 25,000-member MIAMI Association of REALTORS and the local Multiple Listing Service (MLS) system.   The median sales price of Miami-Dade condominiums, which has increased each of the last 14 months, increased 28.4 percent to $146,500 compared to a year earlier.  The median sales price of single-family homes rose 10.8 percent to $195,000.  

“Despite the shortage of housing inventory, Miami home sales remain strong and continue to drive significant price appreciation,” said 2012 Chairman of the Board of the MIAMI Association of REALTORS Martha Pomares.  “There is evident demand for Miami properties, particularly from foreign buyers and investors who recognize Miami’s desirability and profitability.  Miami remains the top market for foreign buyers in the nation, and local international activity continues to grow.” 

In August the average sales price for condominiums in Miami-Dade County increased 20.9 percent to $283,497.  The average sales prices for single-family homes increased 28.4 percent to $408,810.  

Florida Statewide Home Prices
Statewide median sales prices in August increased 5.8 percent to $147,000 for single-family homes and 13.2 percent to $102,980 for condominiums, according to data from Florida Realtors Industry Data and Analysis department and vendor partner 10K Research and Marketing. The national median existing-home price for all housing types was $187,400 in August, a 9.5 percent increase from August 2011, according to the National Association of Realtors (NAR).

Miami Home Sales Rise Again in August
Total residential sales in Miami-Dade County increased 7.0 percent compared to a year earlier, compared to record sales levels in August 2011.    The sales of existing condominiums in Miami-Dade increased 8.0 percent, from 1,382 to 1,492.  Sales of single-family homes increased 5.0 percent, from 1,009 to 1,059, year-over-year.   

Statewide sales of existing single-family homes totaled 18,669 in August 2012, up 10.8 percent compared to a year ago.  Statewide condominium sales totaled 8,767, up 5.7 percent from those sold in August 2011. Nationally, sales of existing single-family homes, townhomes, condominiums, and co-ops increased 7.8 percent from July and were 9.3 percent higher than they were in August 2011, according NAR.

“Miami is experiencing a mini-boom fueled mostly by demand from international buyers but also by population growth resulting from migration from other states, baby boomers, and local consumers,” said 2012 MIAMI Association of REALTORS Residential President Patricia Delinois.  “Miami’s firm position as a major global city is expected to continue to draw demand long into the future, as businesses, residents, visitors and tourists, investors, and vacation and second homebuyers take advantage of all that our vibrant and unique city has to offer.”

Shortage of Housing Inventory in Miami-Dade 
Over the last year, the inventory of residential listings in Miami-Dade County has dropped 26 percent from 15,405 to 11,431.  Compared to the previous month, the total inventory of homes decreased 0.2 percent.   Currently, there are 4.2 months of supply in Miami-Dade.  Total housing inventory nationally increased 2.9 percent at the end of August and was 18.2 percent below year-ago levels, which represents an 8.2-month supply at the current sales pace.  

Distressed Sales Decrease
Strong demand for bank-owned (REO) properties and improved processing of short sales continues to yield absorption of distressed listings and to contribute to price appreciation.  In August, 45.8 percent of all closed residential sales in Miami-Dade County were distressed, including REOs (bank-owned properties) and short sales, compared to 56 percent in August 2011 and 47 percent the previous month.  Nationally, distressed sales accounted for 22 percent of August sales.

Cash Sales Reflect Strong International Presence 
In Miami-Dade County, 64 percent of total closed sales in August were all-cash sales, compared to 62 percent in August 2011 and 64 percent the previous month.  Cash sales accounted for 45 percent of single-family and 78 percent of condominium closings.  Nearly 90 percent of foreign buyers in Florida purchase properties all cash.  Reflecting the stronger presence of 
international buyers in the Miami real estate market, all-cash sales nationally were unchanged from the previous month at 27 percent of transactions in August; they were 29 percent in August 2011. 

Note:  Statistics in this news release may vary depending on reporting dates. Statistics reported by MIAMI are not impacted by NAR’s rebenchmarking efforts.  MIAMI reports exact statistics directly from its MLS system.

Miami Beach development decision delayed after complaints ….

Miami Beach’s interim city manager pulled a vote on pricey proposals to redevelop public parking lots off Lincoln Road after one bidder alleged Sunshine Law violations.




A major Miami Beach redevelopment project has been thrown into limbo because a losing bidder said city officials illegally held a closed door meeting to evaluate competing teams’ proposals to lease and develop city-owned land near Lincoln Road.

The City Commission was expected to vote this month on whether to partner with one or more teams to build shops, apartments, restaurants and cultural venues on three city parking lots.

But interim City Manager Kathie Brooks yanked the vote off the commission’s July 18 agenda after Lincoln Road Development LLC, which was ranked fourth of four, said Miami Beach’s selection committee should have discussed the competing offers in a public meeting.

City lawyers says they’re not convinced the city violated Florida’s Sunshine Law as alleged, but it may be better to play it safe and hold a do-over meeting or re-start the bidding process.

“If we’re going to err, we’re gong to err on the side of Sunshine,” said City Attorney Jose Smith.

Brooks pulled the vote off the table on July 5 after the city received letters from attorney Rafael Andrade, a lobbyist for Lincoln Road Development, in which he raised concerns about the city committee that evaluated and ranked proposals on May 11.

Andrade said the city should have publicly noticed the meeting and opened committee deliberations to the public. He also said the committee failed to consider the benefits of a hotelier on Lincoln Road Development’s team, and that the committee’s chairwoman failed to “disclose her association” with the leading bidder.

“It would be in the city’s best interest for the administration to declare the evaluation committee’s recommendation null and void,” Andrade wrote on July 3.

Smith said Brooks, who declined to comment, is now weighing her options, out of caution.

What that means for the teams of bidders is unclear.

For now, as the committee’s recommendations still stand, developer Robert Wennett’s team √No11i remains the frontrunner to partner with the city on a $59 million project to build apartments, restaurants and shops on the two city lots on either side of Lenox Avenue. Terranova Corp.’s second-ranked team proposed a $131 million project. The third-ranked Tri-Star projected its development costs at $100 million. Lincoln Road Development’s costs were estimated at $40.5 million.

Wennett referred questions to a member of his staff, who didn’t return calls for comment.

Attempts to reach Terranova and Tri-Star representatives through their attorneys were unsuccessful.

Evaluation committee chairwoman Elsie Howard, however, said Andrade’s criticisms of her “association” with Wennett, as well as her husband’s, are off-base.

Andrade said Howard should have disclosed that she is associated with several companies that, according to Florida records, have their principal place of business at Wennett’s 1111 Lincoln Road. Howard said she leases an office in that building, but “I’m not sure he [Wennett] even knows my name.”

“I’m insulted by the insinuation,” she added.

As for the alleged Sunshine Law violation, Smith said the issue Andrade raised stems over “a difference of opinion as to whether the deliberations of the committee have to be in the Sunshine.”

The law that regulates meetings in which contractors reveal information about a sealed bid or negotiate with representatives of a government says “any portion of a meeting at which a negotiation with a vendor is conducted pursuant to a competitive solicitation, at which a vendor makes an oral presentation as part of a competitive solicitation, or at which a vendor answers questions as part of a competitive solicitation is exempt from” the Sunshine Law.

Miami Beach interpreted that law, which was changed last year, to mean that the entire meeting must be recorded but closed to the public.

Other governments, however, have closed only portions of the meeting. For instance, the city of Miami recently allowed the public to view portions of a committee tasked with evaluating proposals for new development at the Scotty’s Landing site in Coconut Grove.

“There aren’t yet any Attorney General (or other) opinions, or case law, on point to provide guidance, so this is, in many ways, a new issue for local governments,” Raul Aguila, Chief Deputy City Attorney and the current head of the city’s purchasing department, wrote in an email.

That issue could have broader implications for the city, which also closed its $1 billion convention center redevelopment evaluation committee to the public.

“Nobody has asserted a challenge to the convention center process,” said Smith. “But it’s probably a matter of time before somebody does.”