Showing posts from May, 2011

Republicans, Realtors To Spar Over FHA Loans

House Republicans are provoking a fight with the powerful National Association of Realtors by drafting legislation that would curtail the number of loans backed by the Federal Housing Administration, the main source of mortgage money for first-time home buyers. GOP lawmakers have made scaling back government support of the housing market a key priority. However, they are encountering resistance from Realtors and many Democrats, who believe such support is essential to keep the moribund housing market from sinking further. Home buyers who take out FHA loans pay insurance premiums to the government. That money is used to pay claims to lenders when borrowers default. Currently, homeowners are able to take out FHA-backed loans with a minimum down payment of 3.5% as long as they have a relatively healthy credit score. A draft bill to be discussed at a House subcommittee hearing Wednesday would raise the minimum down payment to 5% in an effort to require the agency to make safer loans and …

House Republicans make moves to curtail FHA-backed loans

House Republicans have drafted controversial legislation that would raise the minimum down payment and curtail the maximum size of Federal Housing Administration-backed loans in a move that has angered the National Association of Realtors, according to the Wall Street Journal. 

Homebuyers who take out FHA loans are required to pay premiums to the government. Those premiums are then used to pay out claims to lenders if a borrower should default. With a good credit score, a homeowner may currently take out a loan with a minimum down payment of 3.5 percent. If the legislation passes, the down payment would increase to 5 percent. Republicans, such as Rep. Judy Biggert, say they're trying to strike the correct balance for taxpayers and homebuyers in an effort to stabilize the agency's finances. 

On Oct. 1, the maximum size of FHA-backed loans will drop to $625,500 from $729,750, without the help of the bill. With the bill, it would fall further, to 125 percent of each county's me…

Design Revolution in New York City's Chelsea

A design revolution in New York City is taking place, as the Chelsea neighborhood transforms from a derelict wasteland to a thriving nexus of art and architecture. The Hotel Americano, the first U.S. outpost of the splashy Mexican hotel chain Grupo Habita, recently materialized on Manhattan’s West 27th Street. It’s situated between 10th and 11th Avenues, at the northern frontier of the Chelsea art district, in the middle of a block best known for its cacophonous, warehouse-scale nightclubs. Why, you might wonder, would anyone want to build a hotel here? But the unpromising appearance of the location is part of the allure. “It’s gritty,” says owner Carlos Couturier, “and I like that grittiness. It feels like what the Meatpacking District was ten years ago. Very authentic.” Yes, Way-West-27th is authentic—some of the nearest residents are in a cluster of city-owned housing projects—but here, as elsewhere in Manhattan, grit is an endangered species. Just down the block from the hotel is t…

Justin Timberlake Finds a Buyer for $5 Million Tribeca Condo

Tired of the paparazzi and part-time doorman, Justin Timberlake ditched Tribeca's Pearline Soap Factory for a penthouse at Soho Mews back in December. At the time, he hadn't yet found a buyer for the Pearline Soap pad, a 3,000-square-footer for which he paid around $4.77 million. But now he has! According to thelisting and StreetEasy, the apartment is in contract as of yesterday. The ask was down to $4.995 after a small PriceChop of $225,000 back in February. But the place isn't worth our tears. 414 Washington Street #5 in Tribeca

Federal Retreat on Bigger Loans Rattles Housing

By summer’s end, buyers and sellers in some of the country’s most upscale housing markets are slated to lose one their biggest benefactors: the deep pockets of the federal government. In this seaside community of pricey homes, the dread of yet another housing shock is already spreading.

“We’re looking at more price drops, more foreclosures,” said Rick Del Pozzo, a loan broker. “This snowball that’s been rolling downhill is going to pick up some speed.” For the last three years, federal agencies have backed new mortgages as large as $729,750 in desirable neighborhoods in high-cost states like California, New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Massachusetts. Without the government covering the risk of default, many lenders would have refused to make the loans. With the economy in free fall, Congress broadened its traditionally generous support of housing to a substantial degree. But now Democrats and Republicans agree that the taxpayer should no longer be responsible for homes valued wel…

Confidential Federal Audits Accuse Five Biggest Mortgage Firms Of Defrauding Taxpayers

WASHINGTON -- A set of confidential federal audits accuse the nation’s five largest mortgage companies of defrauding taxpayers in their handling of foreclosures on homes purchased with government-backed loans, four officials briefed on the findings told The Huffington Post. The five separate investigations were conducted by the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s inspector general and examined Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo, Citigroup and Ally Financial, the sources said. The audits accuse the five major lenders of violating the False Claims Act, a Civil War-era law crafted as a weapon against firms that swindle the government. The audits were completed between February and March, the sources said. The internal watchdog office at HUD referred its findings to the Department of Justice, which must now decide whether to file charges. The federal audits mark the latest fallout from the national foreclosure crisis that followed the end of a long-running housing b…

Manhattan's apt.-vacancy rate? Less than 1%

Borough sees ultra-low inventory benchmark for two months straight. Average rents are up 9% for studios from year-earlier numbers, 10% for one-bedrooms, 11% for two-bedrooms. Finding a good deal on a Manhattan rental apartment will continue to get tough through the spring and summer. Rents are rising and vacancy rates are below 1% for the second consecutive month, according to a report released Wednesday. Last month, the Manhattan vacancy rate was 0.94%, significantly below the April 2010 vacancy rate of 1.23%, according to Citi Habitats, the city's largest rental residential brokerage. In March, the rate was 0.99%. Average monthly rents were up for all apartment sizes in April from the same period a year ago, with three-bedroom apartments recording the highest rise in rent, reaching $4,946 a month, up 12% from the same month a year ago. “The market is fierce right now,” said Gary Malin, president of Citi Habitats. “Tenants no longer have the luxury to negotiate rents and wait to…

Tribeca's Ultimate Teardown About to Hit the Market for $45 Million