Florida Mortgage Refinance
Prior to 2006, home prices in the Florida housing market were among the most inflated in the United States. Now, it is possible to find a bargain on a residence in the sunshine state. Florida has suffered more than most states from the recession and housing crisis. Most experts believe that sales and prices of existing homes in Florida will hit bottom in 2010 and will not return to pre-recession levels until 2011 or even 2012. While January and February home sales were the lowest on record since tallies began in 1963, March sales showed a significant rebound.
Many economists attribute this rise in sales to the government tax subsidy program with its deadline of April 30th. To claim the 8,000 or 6,500 tax credit, new and existing homeowners had to lock in a valid contract to purchase prior to the deadline, and this last-minute rush pushed March sales upward. Additionally, many of the sales were attributed to people buying reduced-price foreclosures and short sales, as well as to the commencement of the traditional spring buying season.
Economic Indicators & Housing Statistics
March 2010 real estate sales throughout Florida represented a 27% increase over February 2010 and a 24% hike over March 2009. This was good news to realtors®. However, economists and real estate professionals differ in whether they believe this is a temporary spike (due largely to the tax credit, foreclosures and short sales) or the precursor of better things to come.
In terms of economic damage from the housing crisis and recession, Florida is among the hardest hit areas of the country. In 2009, housing starts in Florida numbered only 50,000 as compared to housing starts of 264,000 just four years prior. Florida is also fourth in the nation in terms of highest numbers of foreclosures.
Commerce Department figures revealed a seasonally adjusted annual sales pace of 411,000 nationally. The Southern region showed a 43% increase between February and March in seasonally adjusted annual sales pace. It was up 18% from March of 2009.
According to the Florida Realtors® Association housing market indicators released in April 2010, Florida existing home sales for March were 24% greater than the previous year. Existing condo sales rose 63% over the previous year. The average price for existing homes fell to $137,000, while the median price for condos was $96,900. The national existing home median price was $170,700.
Florida has ranked number one the past several years for mortgage fraud. To what degree this orchestrated the housing crash is as yet undetermined, although it undoubtedly played a large role. In addition to Florida, California, Arizona, New Jersey, New York and Maryland were high on the list for mortgage fraud. Most mortgage fraud consists of professionals listing false income claims for borrowers, or inflating the appraised value of homes. According to data released by Mortgage Asset Research Institute (a division of LexisNexis), the incidents of mortgage fraud increased by 7% in 2009 and by 26% in 2008. However, many experts believe that mortgage fraud is significantly understated since it is usually not discovered until a loan goes bad.
Worst is yet to Come?
While most realtors are proclaiming that it is a buyer's market in Florida and "now is the best time to buy," there are a few naysayers, such as Patrick.net, who contend that housing prices will continue to fall and that buyers should wait for rock-bottom prices. It is well-known that the Florida housing market (or the national market) will not recover fully until prices "bottom out" or hit the lowest level they're going to fall.
Experts such as those at Patrick.net do not believe this has occurred yet because there are too many "latent foreclosures" still waiting to happen. According to Patrick.net many banks are allowing a huge cache of past-due mortgages to languish in limbo rather than foreclose on the homes and incur associated costs, such as maintenance and property taxes. If this is true, the Florida housing market (indeed, the national housing market) will be deluged with foreclosures at some point in the future.
While the Obama mortgage refinance program, called Making Home Affordable, has helped some homeowners to avoid foreclosure, unfortunately, it does not appear to be enough to stem the tide of foreclosures across the country. Foreclosures and short sales (the sale of a home to avoid foreclosure) do have one redeeming characteristic: for the first time in years, reasonable prices prevail in the market. Mortgage refinance has the potential to stem the tide of foreclosures – which in turn lowers home values because of too much supply at low prices and other factors - but only if enough people take advantage of this option.
Even though new housing starts are slowly increasing in the Florida housing market, the old rules of development no longer apply. Whereas in Florida's recent past, developers focused on building and selling high-end properties - most new construction in 2010 and 2011 will be affordable single family housing.
Many commercial builders and building owners are turning to Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED®) certification as a means to sell and lease their units. As the Florida housing market shifted cataclysmically, builders, brokers and designers shifted their focus to survive in the new environment. Affordable and "green" are the words of the hour in this new real estate landscape.
For information on Making Home Affordable, the Obama administration's mortgage refinance plan, call 888-995-HOPE (4673). Assistance from Department of Housing and Urban Development counselors is free.
Florida Realtor Association
US Census Bureau Economic Indicators
"Top Ten Mortgage Fraud States," by Les Christie, CNN Money