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Best of the Blogs, Real Estate: Why You Should Not Spend Thousands of Dollars on Home Furnishings


Plus, Restoration Hardware to open its first-ever restaurant.

This column highlights the most interesting and useful financial commentary on real estate from around the Web.

Miller Samuel Inc. Press
Link: Changing Midstream

"During the financial crisis, many residential developments planned as condominiums became rental apartments when financing for condos became almost nonexistent. Now, some property developers are making the same decision for a different reason: a rental market that could be described as torrid.

"Condos also typically have higher-end amenities and fixtures. For example, the 162 units originally planned as condos in Mercedes House have Sub-Zero refrigerators, Viking (VKNG) ranges and additional bathroom fixtures like Jacuzzi tubs, while rental units have Blomberg refrigerators and General Electric (GE) ovens. Thus it may be a more difficult proposition for a development company to recoup its investment when condos are rented.

"The boom in rentals has been created in large part because tight credit in the home-lending market is making it difficult to get a mortgage, Mr. Miller said. There are families looking for larger apartments with no other option but to rent. Also, Mr. Abehsera said, even if they could obtain a mortgage, there are fewer condos out there to choose from as a result of the financial crisis."

Realty Biz News
Link: - Doing Due Diligence for Office Space

"Our analysis of the online real estate industry here at RealtyBizNews has focused a great deal on web design, social media engagement, and other key aspects of business branding – the so called "digital footprint" of Realtors and agents online. As a template for how any new age company should look, we now present TheSquareFoot dot com.

"Moving on, TheSquareFoot's simple dogma – find, tour, lease a space is how people want to do things when they do business online. Time has never been more valuable a commodity. That said, let me show you another service in Houston, the one situated at the top of the SERPs for the same Google search, CommGate dot com (screen above). Back about the time Google (GOOG) decided to launch search, this site must have been cutting edge. Today? A jumble of useful, if you can bear to use them, action clicks take users into a pretty deep maze of form filling. Web 1.0, like 99 percent of the American commercial real estate space online."

Zillow Real Estate Research
Link: Comparing Price-to-Income Ratios to Affordability Across Markets

"Compared to their historical averages, measured from the first quarter of 1985 to the fourth quarter of 1999, 23 metros are below their historical average, while 106 metros and the United States as a whole are above their historical average. Four of the metros are exactly at their historical mean. The United States currently has a price-to-income ratio that is equal to 2.8, which puts it at 11% over its historical average. Eighty-two metros are still more than 10% over their historic average. Six metros have overshot their historical average by more than 10%.

"When considering the price-to-income ratio, Las Vegas (-22%) and Detroit (-26%) remain extreme outliers, while on the other end of the price-to-income spectrum, there are many more markets that are still very high compared to their historical averages, such as Eugene (55%), Boulder (69%), and Honolulu (76%). However, all but two markets (Boulder, CO and Honolulu, HI) are currently more affordable compared to their historical average due to the historically low mortgage rates.

"Conversely, markets in which the price-to-income level is still substantially above historical levels may see further declines in home values before stabilizing. Or, instead of home values falling in order to reach equilibrium with income levels, home values in these markets may stabilize sooner but stay flat for a longer period of time until future income growth brings the price-to-income ratio back into alignment with historical levels."

Mortgage Fraud Blog
Link: LexisNexis (MARI) Releases 14th Annual Mortgage Fraud Report

"With still-high delinquency and foreclosure rates, little economic progress in depressed markets, and unscrupulous individuals taking advantage of the financially disenfranchised, 2011 was a bleak year for the mortgage industry. As industry insiders and economic analysts hope for noticeable recovery, 2011's mortgage loan originations were at their lowest since 2001."

"Increased legislative and regulatory mandates like those from the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (or OCC) (a focus on 2009-10 closed loans and credentialing), the 2010 Dodd-Frank Act (overarching regulation across the financial services industry), the 2008 Secure and Fair Enforcement for Mortgage Licensing (or SAFE) Act (originator registration on National Mortgage License System & Registry (NMLS/R)), the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act (RESPA) (new required disclosures and closing procedures), and FHA Certified Brokers (HUD transitions third party originator risk to lenders and banks) have created a tighter day-to-day reality for professionals involved in all aspects of the mortgage transaction. Such mandates, along with the newly vigilant loan industry, appear to be making a difference in one arena, as a decreased number of loan origination fraud and misrepresentation cases are being reported. However, along with these decreases are increases in potential distressed homeowner fraud and collusion schemes."

Where We Live
Link: Foreclosure Data for Washington Metro Area are Mixed
"The company, which keeps track of foreclosures throughout the country, found 9,219 properties with foreclosure filings in the region for the first six months of this year. That's one out of every 240 housing units, a foreclosure rate that ranks 146th nationally.

"It also marks a decrease of less than 1% from the previous six months and a decrease of nearly 27% from the first half of 2011.

"The District had 78 properties with filings from January to June, down nearly 24% from the final six months of 2011 and down nearly 48% from the first half of 2011."

Link: Restoration Hardware to Open its First-Ever Restaurant
"Hey, if having breakfast at furniture stores is all the rage now overseas, this move only makes sense: Restoration Hardware is planning its leap into the restaurant business. According to a press release, the furnishings brand will open a gallery and retail space in the landmarked, colonnaded 19th-century Boston building that once housed the New England Museum of Natural History; the restaurant will fill an addition next door.

"No chef has been announced yet, but a piece in the Boston Herald had a small, uh, morsel about the decor: the space will contain two gas fireplaces and a 'basement-level addition designed in the style of 19th-century conservatory annexes.' No opening date has been announced for the gallery or restaurant yet, but Bostonites better get psyched to chow down while resting their elbows on, say, Parsons reclaimed oak dining tables and gazing lovingly at Mediterranean coast candles."

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