Seattle : Housing Crash Is Hitting Cities Once Thought to Be Stable Q1,2011

Housing Crash Is Hitting Cities Once Thought to Be Stable

SEATTLE — Few believed the housing market here would ever collapse. Now they wonder if it will ever stop slumping.

The rolling real estate crash that ravaged Florida and the Southwest is delivering a new wave of distress to communities once thought to be immune — economically diversified cities where the boom was relatively restrained.
In the last year, home prices in Seattle had a bigger decline than in Las Vegas. Minneapolis dropped more than Miami, and Atlanta fared worse than Phoenix.
The bubble markets, where builders, buyers and banks ran wild, began falling first, economists say, so they are close to the end of the cycle and in some cases on their way back up. Nearly everyone else still has another season of pain.
“When I go out and talk to people around town, they say, ‘Wow, I thought we were going to have a 12 percent correction and call it a day,’ ” said Stan Humphries, chief economist for the housing site Zillow, which is based in Seattle. “But this thing just keeps on going.”
Seattle is down about 31 percent from its mid-2007 peak and, according to Zillow’s calculations, still has as much as 10 percent to fall. Mr. Humphries estimates the rest of the country will drop a further 5 and 7 percent as last year’s tax credits for home buyers continue to wear off.

“We went into 2010 feeling gangbusters, thanks to Uncle Sam,” Mr. Humphries said. “We ended it feeling penniless, with home values tanking.”
The fact that even a fairly prosperous area like Seattle was ensnared in the downturn shows just how much of a national phenomenon the crash has been. The slump began when the low-quality loans that drove the latter stage of the boom began to go bad, but the resulting recession greatly enlarged the crisis. Many people could not get a mortgage, and others simply gave up the hunt.
Now, though the overall economy seems to be mending, housing remains stubbornly weak. That presents a vexing problem for the Obama administration, which has introduced several initiatives intended to help homeowners, with mixed success.
CoreLogic, a data firm, said last week that American home prices fell 5.5 percent in 2010, back to the recession low of March 2009. New home sales are scraping along the bottom. Mortgage applications are near a 15-year low, boding ill for the rest of the winter.
It has been a long, painful slide. At the peak, a downturn in real estate in Seattle was nearly unthinkable. In September 2006, after prices started falling in many parts of the country but were still increasing here, The Seattle Times noted that the last time prices in the city dropped on a quarterly basis was during the severe recession of 1982.
Two local economists were quoted all but guaranteeing that Seattle was immune “if history is any indication.” A risk index from PMI Mortgage Insurance gave the odds of Seattle prices dropping at a negligible 11 percent.
These days, the mood here is chastened when not downright fatalistic. If a recovery depends on a belief in better times, that seems a long way off.
Those who must sell close their eyes and hope for the best. Those who hope to buy see lower prices but often have lighter wallets, removing any sense of urgency.
Arne Klubberud and Melissa Lee-Klubberud paid $358,000 for a new, 960-square-foot townhouse on trendy Capitol Hill a few weeks after that Seattle Times article was published. Now, with one child and with hopes for more, they need more space. They just put the townhouse on the market for $300,000.
“Obviously, this is not the ideal situation,” said Ms. Lee-Klubberud, a 32-year-old lawyer. They are hoping to take advantage of the sour market to buy at a good price, but first, they must sell for an amount that is acceptable. “Everyone has their limits,” she said. “We have ours.”
On a dark, dank Sunday, a handful of people came to look at the three-level unit. One of them was Katherine Davis, who had just sold her house in the far eastern suburbs. It took 14 months, during which she had to drop the price several times. The equity she had accumulated over the decades disappeared quickly.

“At first, I thought it would be nice to come out of this with $200,000, but I adjusted my expectations,” Ms. Davis said. She ended up with less than half of that. Her goal is to buy a small place in the city, but not yet. “Selfishly, I’m hoping the market continues to drop,” she said.

Increasing numbers of sellers are simply surrendering.
Megan and Ryan Dortch tried to sell their one-bedroom Eastlake condo for $325,000 two years ago. They rejected an offer of $295,000 as inadequate. A year later, they relisted it for $289,000, then $279,000, which was less than they paid. Without a sale at that price, they could not afford to buy a place big enough for them and their new baby.
They have given up on real estate. They are renting out their old apartment at a small loss every month, and living in a rented house. “I don’t expect the market to get better,” said Ms. Dortch, 31, a customer service consultant.
Neither does Gene Burrus, another frustrated seller who became a landlord. “Rent is so cheap it doesn’t make sense to buy now,” he said. He might reconsider if 10 or 15 percent more comes out of the market.
Redfin, a real estate brokerage firm based in Seattle, says foot traffic began picking up in the last several weeks. Mortgage rates are rising, which could nudge those who need to buy to make a deal now for fear rates will rise even more.
But whenever the market finally does pick up, all those accidental landlords will want to unload, putting another burden on the market. “So many sellers are waiting in the shadows,” said Redfin’s chief executive, Glenn Kelman. “The inventory is going to expand and expand and expand. I don’t see any basis for significant price increases.”
While almost every economist is expecting another round of price declines for the next few months, many see a leveling off in the second half of the year. Fiserv, the company that produces the monthly Case-Shiller Home Price Indexes, analyzed prices in 375 communities. About three-quarters of them will be stable by December, Fiserv calculates.
“We’re at a period near the bottom but with more volatility than we normally see at this point,” said David Stiff, Fiserv’s chief economist. “This sort of double dip is unprecedented for housing.”
Maybe that is why belief in a bottom is as elusive now as fears of a top were in 2006.
“We would love to have a house,” said Dan Cunningham, a 41-year-old renter. “I have more than enough for a down payment. I’m preapproved for a loan. But I have to have confidence it’s not going to lose another 20 percent.” He plans to wait until he sees prices rising before making any offers.

葛老砲轟:美房市改革「蠻幹」 未將副作用量化鉅亨網編譯張正芊 綜合外電  2011-02-14 14:45:20 

前任美國聯準會 (Fed) 主席葛林斯潘 (Alan Greenspan) 上周五 (11 日) 指責,美國政府規劃的房市融資改革計畫,簡直「蠻幹」(fly blind)。因為美國房貸市場若缺乏政府補助,會變成如何,目前所知仍不足;但政府卻執意砍去補助。

葛林斯潘於華府智庫布魯金斯學會 (Brookings Institution) 舉辦的一場研討會上指出,我們並不知道,去除主要房貸補助機構─「二房」房利美 (Fannie Mae)、房地美 (Freddie Mac) 及政府全國房貸協會 (Ginnie Mae) 之後,美國房市會變成如何。
根據加州大學柏克萊分校 (University of California at Berkeley) 教授 Dwight Jaffee 提出看法,從目前歐洲房貸利率與公債殖利率間的差距,實際上比美國小來看;若美國房貸融資轉而倚賴民間市場,不僅可行,且利率也會接近原本水準。
不過葛林斯潘和 Jaffee,也雙雙點出歐美間房貸條約及銀行體系有所差異。例如屋主若趁利率下降,欲將房貸以較低利率進行再融資,在美國費用全免,在歐洲則須收費。Jaffee 預測,若美國也轉為收費,房貸及公債間的利率差,恐增加至少 0.5 個百分點。
葛林斯潘則指出,歐洲房貸大多由〝大到不能倒〞的銀行所供應,並創造出可能成本高也不透明的補助模式,「幾乎與二房情況相同」,而這正是刺激美國總統歐巴馬 (Obama) 政府提出房市融資改革方案的原因。

美國房地產市場原本固若金湯 如今瀕臨崩潰

鉅亨網新聞中心 (來源:世華財訊) 2011-02-14 23:41:45 


經濟學家稱,房地產泡沫崩潰是由建筑工人,買家和銀行開始的。而這些人只是房地產鏈條的其中一環,房地產衰退還遠沒結束。房地產網站Zillow的首席經濟學家Stan Humphries也表示,房地產低迷將會持續一段時間。
Zillow的數據顯示,西雅圖的房價已經從2007年中期的頂峰下跌了31%,并且還有10個百分點的下跌空間。Stan Humphries預測美國其他地區的房價也將下跌5到7個百分點。
在西雅圖時報發表關於房地產文章的幾周之前,Arne Klubberud和Melissa Lee-Klubberud花了358,000美元買了一座960平方英尺的房子。現在,由於需要更大的房子,他們給這座房子標價300,000美元出售。

巴菲特Q4出售所有美銀、Nike持股 減持紐銀、穆迪股份

鉅亨網編譯張正芊 綜合外電  2011-02-15 11:30:19

「股神」巴菲特 (Warren Buffett) 執掌的投資公司波克夏哈薩威 (Berkshire Hathaway)(BRKA-US),上季拋售了所有美國銀行 (Bank of America)(BAC-US) 股份,並減持信評機構穆迪 (Moody's)(MCO-US) 的股份,但增加了富國銀行 (Wells Fargo)(WFC-US) 持股。

根據波克夏周一 (14 日) 向美國證券交易委員會 (SEC) 遞交的投資組合明細,巴菲特去 (2010) 年第 4 季完全拋售共 8 家企業持股,總值近 3 億美元。
當中除了美銀外,較知名的企業還包括運動用品大廠 Nike Inc.(NKE-US) 及有線電視系統供應商 Comcast Corp. (CMCSA-US),依序拋售了價值 7445 萬美元 (500 萬股)、3125 萬美元及 420 萬美元的股份。
另外與前季相較,波克夏還減持了 3 家企業股份。包括將紐約銀行梅隆 (Bank of New York Mellon)(BK-US) 持股砍 10% 或近 20 萬股,剩餘持股價值 5740 萬美元;以及出售 2% 或近 45.8 萬股穆迪股份,所剩持股價值 8.667 億美元。同時還出售 340 萬股全球食品業龍頭雀巢 (NESN-CH) 的股票。
同一時間,波克夏將富國銀持股提高 2%,至 3.426 億股,價值 116 億美元。
這些轉變,主要由於巴菲特股票投資組合前操盤手 Lou Simpson 去年底退休,因此由股神再度重掌持股配置。尤其是美銀的股份,大多是 Simpson 任職波克夏子公司 GEICO 時所購入。

兩房 債券價格近日走高 國內銀行已持續減持

鉅亨網新聞中心 (來源:財匯資訊,摘自:每日經濟新聞) 2011-02-15 08:43:05

長江證券海外經濟分析師沈楠對《每日經濟新聞》記者表示,“兩房”債券的問題現在已經成為了一個政治問題,實際上“兩房”已經破產,現在完全是國家在支持,“兩房”債券不僅是中國在購買,還有很多其他國家也持有,因此對美國政府的壓力是多方面的。他認為,奧巴馬政府應該會選擇由美國納稅人來承擔 “兩房”債券的損失,而不是外國投資者,因為如果選擇將損失全部轉移給外國投資者,將極大地影響美國的信用及其今后的債券發行。