Pierce County civic and real estate industry leader Harold Allen Jr. dies

Harold Allen Jr., a dedicated civic and real estate industry leader in Pierce County for six decades, has died at his Lakewood home.

Allen, 85, passed away Saturday.
Harold Allen Jr.
Harold Allen Jr.

The retired head of Pierce County’s oldest family-owned real estate firm, Harold Allen Company Realtors, Allen served a broad variety of community causes and held real estate industry leadership positions on the local, state and national level.

Among his numerous credits, Allen served two terms as president of the Tacoma-Pierce County Chamber of Commerce. He was a director of the Lakewood Chamber of Commerce, of Lakewold Gardens and Charles Wright Academy.

Allen was appointed the state’s youngest real estate commissioner at 28. He headed the Tacoma-Pierce County Association of Realtors twice and was president of the Washington Association of Realtors once.

On the national level, Allen was a two-term director of the National Association of Realtors.

Allen graduated from Taft School in Watertown, Conn., and attended Stanford University. He served in the Navy during the Second World War.

At 21, Allen took over the family real estate firm after his father’s untimely death. As head of that firm, Allen was a pioneer in the development of the Lakewood community and its Oakbrook development.

The realtor is survived by four children, a brother and a sister, eight grandchildren and longtime companion Margaret Johnson.

Allen’s two wives, Mary Jane Allen and Kaye Highsmith Allen, died before him.

More details of Allen’s life and services are available on The News Tribune’s obituary page,
www.legacy.com/tribnet

Consumer Attitudes on Housing Continue Summer Season's Gradual Upward Trend

WASHINGTON, Oct. 9, 2012 /PRNewswire/ — Results from Fannie Mae’s September 2012 National Housing Survey show Americans’ optimism about the recovery of the housing market and with regard to homeownership continued its gradual climb, bolstered by a series of mortgage rate decreases experienced throughout the summer. Consumer attitudes about the economy also improved substantially last month, breaking the progression of waning confidence seen during much of this year.

“Consumers are showing increasing faith in the nascent housing recovery,” said Doug Duncan, senior vice president and chief economist of Fannie Mae. “Home price change expectations have remained positive for 11 straight months, and the share expecting home price declines has stabilized at a survey low of only 11 percent. Furthermore, the Federal Reserve’s latest round of quantitative easing has caused a large drop in mortgage rate expectations. Friday’s September jobs report, including the strong upward revisions for prior months, a sizable increase in earnings, and a sharp decline in the unemployment rate, should provide further impetus for improving consumer confidence in the housing market.”

Keeping a relatively steady pace with recent periods, survey respondents expect home prices to increase an average of 1.5 percent in the next year. The share who say mortgage rates will increase in the next 12 months dropped 7 percentage points to 33 percent. Nineteen percent of those surveyed say now is a good time to sell, marking the highest level since the survey began in June 2010. Tying the June 2012 level (and the all-time high since the survey’s inception), 69 percent of respondents said they would buy if they were going to move.

With regard to the economy overall, forty-one percent of consumers now believe the economy is on the right track, up from 33 percent last month, while 53 percent believe the economy is on the wrong track, compared with 60 percent the prior month. Both the right track and wrong track figures mark the highest and the lowest readings, respectively, since the survey began in June 2010.

SURVEY HIGHLIGHTS

Homeownership and Renting

  • Consumers’ average home price change expectation is 1.5 percent, consistent with recent periods and marking nearly a full year in which home price expectations have been positive.
  • Thirty-seven percent of those surveyed expect home prices to go up in the next year, the highest level since the survey’s inception in June 2010.
  • Thirty-three percent of respondents say mortgage rates will go up in the next year, a decrease of 7 percentage points since last month.
  • Nineteen percent of respondents say it is a good time to sell, the highest level since the survey’s inception.
  • Those who say now is a good time to buy dipped slightly to 72 percent.
  • The percentage of respondents who say they would buy if they were going to move increased to 69 percent, tying June 2012 at the highest level since the survey’s inception.

The Economy and Household Finances

  • Consumer optimism climbed in September, with 41 percent saying the economy is on the right track – the highest level recorded since the survey’s inception and an 8 percentage point increase over last month.
  • Forty-four percent of respondents expect their personal financial situation to improve over the next year, up from 42 percent in August.
  • The share of respondents who say their household income is significantly higher than it was 12 months ago decreased by 3 percentage points to 17 percent.
  • Thirty-four percent of those surveyed say their household expenses are significantly higher than they were 12 months ago, a 2 percentage point increase over August.

The most detailed consumer attitudinal survey of its kind, the Fannie Mae National Housing Survey polled 1,000 Americans via live telephone interview to assess their attitudes toward owning and renting a home, mortgage rates, homeownership distress, the economy, household finances, and overall consumer confidence. Homeowners and renters are asked more than 100 questions used to track attitudinal shifts (findings are compared to the same survey conducted monthly beginning June 2010). Fannie Mae conducts this survey and shares monthly and quarterly results so that we may help industry partners and market participants target our collective efforts to stabilize the housing market in the near-term, and provide support in the future.

For detailed findings from the September 2012 survey, as well as a podcast providing an audio synopsis of the survey results and technical notes on survey methodology and questions asked of respondents associated with each monthly indicator, please visit the Fannie Mae Monthly National Housing Survey site. Also available on the site are quarterly survey results, which provide a detailed assessment of combined data results from three monthly studies. The September 2012 Fannie Mae National Housing Survey was conducted between September 5, 2012 and September 22, 2012. Interviews were conducted by Penn Schoen Berland, in coordination with Fannie Mae.

Fannie Mae exists to expand affordable housing and bring global capital to local communities in order to serve the U.S. housing market. Fannie Mae has a federal charter and operates in America’s secondary mortgage market to enhance the liquidity of the mortgage market by providing funds to mortgage bankers and other lenders so that they may lend to home buyers. Our job is to help those who house America.

Follow us on Twitter: http://twitter.com/FannieMae.

Freddie Mac sells $2 bln bills at mixed rates, mixed demand


Tue Oct 9, 2012 9:58am EDT

Oct 9 (Reuters) – Freddie Mac, the No. 2 U.S. home funding
company, said on Tuesday it sold $2 billion of reference bills at mixed rates
and mixed demand compared with last week’s sale of similar maturities.

Freddie Mac said it sold $1 billion of three-month bills due Jan. 7, 2013 at
a 0.119 percent stop-out rate, down from the 0.121 percent rate for its $1
billion three-month bills sold Oct. 1.

The company also sold $1 billion of six-month bills due April 8, 2013 at a
0.154 percent rate, up from the 0.151 percent rate for $1 billion six-month
bills sold a week ago.

Demand for the three-month bills was stronger, with the bid-to-cover ratio
at 5.12 versus 5.05 for the three-month bills sold Oct. 1. Demand for the
six-month bills was weaker, at 5.11 vs 5.30 for the six-month bills sold a week
ago.

A bid-to-cover ratio reflects the amount of bids compared with the amount
offered. A higher ratio indicates stronger demand.

Settlement is Oct. 10.

Freddie Mac warns of foreclosures featured in fake rental ads: real estate roundup

freddiemac.jpgView full sizeFreddie Mac’s headquarters in McLean, Va.Must-read housing and development news from across the web:

Rentals: Government-backed mortgage financier Freddie Mac says scammers are using its foreclosed properties to bilk renters out of sensitive information and security deposits.

The scammers wait until a home is sold at auction, usually into bank ownership. Then they post a phony advertisement to rent the house — which they don’t own — on sites like Craigslist, looking for renters who will submit an application with private information or pay security deposit.


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In some cases they hand over bogus keys, then disappear. In others they’ve changed the locks, so the renter doesn’t know they’re squatting until a real estate agent shows up with police.

Freddie Mac suggests checking homes against property records and sale listings, and independently verifying before providing credit information.

North Bethany: The fast-growing, unincorporated neighborhood — one of the metro’s new-home hotbeds — is in dire need of utility infrastructure, but no one can agree where it should go. “Everyone agrees we need a substation for North Bethany,” said a Portland General Electric official. “It just might not be in North Bethany.”

Apartment construction: A Northeast Portland neighborhood group is raising money to consider legal action against a proposed apartment project. The project, like many in the city, lacks plans for off-street parking.

Foreclosure mediation: A Rhode Island federal judge said he’s “incredibly pleased” with the way the program is turning out. The AP reports:

U.S. District Judge John
McConnell Jr. says it’s in the best interests of homeowners and mortgage
providers to try to negotiate settlements. Former Bank Rhode Island CEO
Merrill Sherman, the program’s special master, delivered a progress report in
court Tuesday. She has held 131 settlement conferences and expects to
hold more this year. Settlements haven’t yet been reached in most cases.

In Oregon, a foreclosure mediation program and a subsequent court ruling have brought foreclosures to a crawl, and sent more cases into the state’s courts.

–Elliot Njus

Housing industry: Hands off mortgage deduction

The housing industry is laying the groundwork for a sustained campaign to fight changes to the mortgage interest deduction if Congress tackles tax reform next year.

Groups including the National Association of Realtors and the Mortgage Bankers Association say the reform concepts being floated on the campaign trail — such as GOP nominee Mitt Romney’s idea of capping itemized deductions at $17,000 — are merely the warm-up for the main event in 2013.

“It’s the presidential election season. Are we watching the debate? Are we paying attention? Yes. But we are not going to get too worked up now,” said Jamie Gregory, deputy chief lobbyist for the Realtor group. “The real debate is going to take place in January.”

David Stevens, the president and CEO of the Mortgage Bankers Association, said his group wouldn’t “overreact” to what either Romney or President Obama says in the campaign’s final weeks. 

“I have the Romney plan on my desk,” Stevens said. “I have a similar one from Obama there, too.”

But another branch of Washington’s housing lobby, the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), say it’s monitoring the tax-reform chatter closely in case a proposal catches fire. 

“It’s possible that any kernel of an idea can gain some traction,” said Jim Tobin, NAHB’s senior vice president for government affairs. “Our members read the papers, and our members are looking to us to see what they should be taking seriously.”

Tobin said NAHB reached out to the Romney campaign to see how serious of an idea the deduction cap was, and said the group was told it was just one of several concepts the campaign was examining. Romney has also tossed out $25,000 and $50,000 as possible figures for an itemized-deduction cap.

“We take the notion of tax reform very seriously,” Tobin said. “In order to get to some of the targets on tax rates, mortgage interest, among other incentives, inherently has to be on the table.”

Housing groups are already lobbying lawmakers about the importance of the mortgage break, and are stressing to members that the tax exemption is widely used by the middle class and helping fuel the economic recovery.

The comments from the housing industry come as Democrats and Republicans alike lay down markers on tax reform in preparation for the post-election debate over the “fiscal cliff.”

On Tuesday, Sen. Charles Schumer (N.Y.), the upper chamber’s third-ranking Democrat, called for an overhaul of the tax code that reduced deficits without lowering the top rate — at least in part, he said, because the mortgage interest deduction and other tax breaks that could be targeted for elimination help the middle class. 

Romney, meanwhile, floated his itemized-deduction cap last week after Obama and others attacked his plan as paving the way for tax increases on the middle class.

Because lower-income households are less likely to itemize their tax deductions, higher earners would be hardest hit by capping them.

But the preference for mortgage interest also accounted for around a third of average itemized deductions in 2009, according to the Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center, meaning a deduction cap would almost certainly occasion a higher tax bill for many homeowners. 

“The places where that really could hit hard are the areas with higher taxes and housing costs,” Roberton Williams of the Tax Policy Center told The Hill. “The New Yorks, the Californias — D.C.’s probably in there, too.”

And while most housing groups say they’re taking a wait-and-see approach, they have responded sharply to proposals to curb the mortgage interest deduction before.

“We have banks lending defensively already. The last thing that we can afford right now is having borrowers afraid to buy because of some change in tax policy down the road,” said Stevens of the mortgage bankers group. “My emphasis right now is not to create more uncertainty in the housing market.”

The mortgage bankers, for instance, said in a statement that the plan from the president’s fiscal commission, known as Simpson-Bowles, would have “negative repercussions” for homebuyers. 

Simpson-Bowles put forward a tax-reform plan that would have eliminated all tax preferences, and another that called for lowering the cap to $500,000.

The housing groups bring sizable political clout to the debate. Political action committees for the Realtors, Mortgage Bankers and Home Builders have contributed more than $5.9 million to candidates or other political committees during the 2012 campaign cycle up to the end of August — with close to $3.6 million of that coming from the Realtors alone. 

The Realtors’ super-PAC — the National Association of Realtors Congressional Fund — has spent roughly $5 million on independent expenditures for candidates, making it one of the highest-spending super-PACs this cycle, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

Some of those super-PAC ads — such as a spot backing Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.), the chairman of the powerful Energy and Commerce Committee — highlighted lawmakers’ support for the mortgage deduction.

Gregory of the Realtors’ group said his shop is putting considerable effort into ensuring it is ready for tax-reform proposals next year.

“We are in the process of doing our homework and our research shop is running the numbers downstairs,” he said. “We are going to try to be the source of credible information for when those proposals come out.”




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SocialProperties.com Releases New Solution for Real Estate Agents to Capitalize on Social Media

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Mortgage giants Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac battle banks on who gets stuck with …

EDITOR’S CHOICE — SCOTT SUTTELL
Mortgage giants Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac battle banks on who gets stuck with bad housing loans

Blog entry: October 4, 2012, 2:00 pm     |     Author: SCOTT SUTTELL

A battle over who gets stuck with tens of billions worth of bad housing loans “explains why many Americans still can’t get a mortgage as interest rates hit a new low,” according to this Wall Street Journal story, which includes comments from Bill Cosgrove, CEO of Union National Mortgage Co. in Strongsville.

The average rate on a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage is about 3.5%, the lowest since the 1950s. “But thousands of would-be homeowners are being locked out of the market because lenders, facing a hard-line stance from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, have grown wary of making new loans,” The Journal says.

The mortgage giants “have been forcing banks to take back an increasing number of loans that the banks made during the boom years and sold to Fannie and Freddie,” according to the newspaper. “To protect themselves from such demands in the future, banks are ratcheting up credit and documentation standards for new mortgages.”

So far, The Journal notes, Fannie and Freddie have asked banks to repurchase $66 billion in mortgages made between 2006 and 2008, according to an analysis of federal filings by Inside Mortgage Finance, an industry newsletter. The balance of outstanding demands from both companies at the end of July was up 37% from a year earlier.

These so called “put-backs” help recover money for Fannie and Freddie, which The Journal says have turned small profits in recent quarters after getting a $142 billion taxpayer bailout. Indeed, buying back defective mortgages “is part of the business if we make a legitimate mistake,” says Union National’s Mr. Cosgrove.

But Fannie and Freddie, in some case, go too far.

“Earlier this year, Mr. Cosgrove faced a demand from Fannie Mae to repurchase a $103,000 mortgage his bank had made in 2003 after the homeowner in Garfield Heights, defaulted in late 2010,” The Journal notes.

The latest example, because the borrower made regular payments for so many years, is proof that the loan put-back process “has become more and more ridiculous,” Mr. Cosgrove tells the newspaper. Fannie reviewed the lender’s 2003 property appraisal and decided the valuation was inaccurate. The dispute hasn’t been resolved, The Journal reports.

New in the neighborhood

The fancy new MOCA Cleveland building opening next week “may make the loudest design statement, but it’s far from the only symbol of bold, 21st century urbanism in the University Circle neighborhood” of Cleveland, according to this post from TheAtlanticCities.com.

“The neighborhood has seen a diverse set of investments, including high density residential projects, new medical facilities and academic buildings, even multiple public transit initiatives,” according to the website. “University Circle now stands out as a diverse hub of activity in a city clamoring for such things.”

The story attributes some of the improvement to the catalytic effect of RTA’s HealthLine, a bus rapid transit route connecting the neighborhood to downtown.

“Blessed by a significant cluster of university, medical, cultural, and transit facilities, it is in a fortunate position to generate private sector development (the neighborhood has grown to support around 3 million visitors, 50,000 jobs and 10,000 resident) that many surrounding communities still cannot since losing their industrial base in the last century,” TheAtlanticCities.com says.

But it’s not all praise.

The story says University Circle’s success “feels more of an anomaly than a sign of things to come. Population loss is the norm to the immediate north, east, and west of University Circle. Few cities in America have lost more people since the 1960s than Cleveland, with an overall drop of 17 percent in the last 10 years.”

The art of the game

Clevelander Mike McGrath considers basketball a beautiful sport, and his work is a constant reminder of that feeling.

This blog post on ESPN’s website looks at a basketball art blog, Double Scribble, created by Mr. McGrath and his friend (and fellow Cleveland native) Nick Kastner, now based in Durham, N.C.

Messrs. McGrath and Kastner are collaborating with Cleveland art gallery BUCKBUCK to put on an exhibition called “Art of the Game: A Celebration of Art Basketball,” that starts Oct. 20 and runs into November.

“The site itself has more or less always been a gallery, sharing other artists’ work and getting their work out to our audience has always been one of my favorite aspects of the site,” Mr. McGrath, 25, tells ESPN via email. “The next logical step was moving from the web into the real world. It was important for us to have our first ever show here in Cleveland, having both been born and raised in the area. So we met with the guys from BUCKBUCK Studio through a mutual friend, they loved the idea and it just came together from there.”

Longtime Cavaliers fans will love some of the images on the Double Scribble site, especially those of Terrell Brandon, Austin Carr and Mark Price.


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WATCH: Protesters Arrested In Front Of Fannie Mae Headquarters

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WATCH: Protesters Arrested In Front Of Fannie Mae Headquarters

“Fannie Mae, you can’t hide, we can see your greedy side,” chanted over 200 homeowners and renters from across the country, who protested today in front of Fannie Mae headquarters in Northwest, Washington D.C.. The protestors gathered to demand the resignation of acting Federal Housing Authority Director Edward DeMarco, whose agency oversees twin Government-backed mortgage regulators Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

“What do we do when the banks attack?” they shouted. “Stand up, fight back.”

The protestors said they want President Obama to replace DeMarco at the FHA with a director who will prevent Fannie and Freddie from issuing post-foreclosure evictions. They also demanded the following:

– Fannie Freddie sell back to residents or a non-profit after foreclosure at real value

– Fannie Freddie don’t sell to hedge funds or other investors who caused the problem in the first place, but instead turn over properties to community control, or sell back at current market value to occupants

Five woman were arrested for blocking passage outside the Fannie Mae complex after local police issued three warnings for them to get out of the street.

“I will do whatever it takes to keep my  home even if I have to go to jail,” said Massachusetts resident Virginia Wooten, a protester that was detained.

“The banks got bailed out and we got sold out, they got the money and we got the bill,” said California resident Nell Myhand, another protester that was arrested.

The protesters referred to themselves as the Fannie Freddie 99 Fighters, and expressed frustration over the fact that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are the largest holders of vacant foreclosures. They have traveled to five major ciites demanding immediate attention and action from leaders at the twin GSE’s (Government Sponsored Enterprises).

“We respect the right to protest and voice opinions,” Fannie Mae spokesman Andrew Wilson told TRNS. “Every day, Fannie Mae is focused on helping homeowners who are struggling. The bottom line is that we want to prevent foreclosure whenever possible.”

The women who were arrested included Wooten, Myhand, Renika Wheeler from Georgia, Deborah Nowell from Massachusetts and Roline Burgson from Rhode Island.

Malcolm Chu, a community organizer at Springfield No One Leaves, told TRNS that his organization will pay the $50 bail fee incurred by the protestors who were arrested.

The mob of protestors were expected to protest in front of DeMarco’s Silver Spring, Md. home later in the day.

Repeat home buyers fuel housing recovery

(MoneyWatch) Across most of the country, home prices remain affordable and rents continue to rise. And while today’s investors are helping the housing recovery, they’re not completely responsible. Data from the National Association of Realtors (NAR) suggests that traditional repeat buyers are driving today’s market.

According to a recent joint survey by BiggerPockets.com and Memphis Invest, 39 percent of investors plan to buy more properties over the next 12 months than they did over the last year. Twenty-six percent of investors plan to purchase the same number of properties.

“Though housing markets are changing across the nation, investors are still seeing great opportunities. Hundreds of thousands of foreclosures and short sales are coming to market and rents are continuing to improve in most markets, creating a positive environment for the nation’s 2.81 million residential real estate investors,” Joshua Dorkin, founder and CEO of BiggerPockets.com, said in a press release.

“They will certainly continue to be major player in the nation’s housing economy for the foreseeable future,” he added.

According to the survey, one out of eight — or 28.1 million Americans — either consider themselves to be residential real estate investors or own residential investment properties today, according to the survey. That high number is not surprising when you consider many homeowners are renting out properties they’d rather sell.

NAR data shows investors accounted for an average 22 percent of the market share from 2003 to 2011.

There are perks to investors taking an active interest in today’s real estate market. With millions of Americans actively investing in real estate, billions of dollars are being poured into repairs. The results of the survey reveal that real estate investors are spending more than the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to rehabilitate neighborhoods.

Recent NAR data suggests that investors absorbing the over-supply of inventory helped stabilize the housing market. Residential real estate investors have spent more than four times the amount of money HUD’s Neighborhood Stabilization Program has to repair foreclosed and short-sale homes, the BiggerPockets.com/Memphis Invest survey says.

At a median expenditure of $7,500 per property owned, investors are spending a total of $9.2 billion per year to repair the damage caused by foreclosures. By comparison, Congress has authorized a total of about $7 billion for the Neighborhood Stabilization Program over the past four years.

Investors continue to purchase single-family homes as investment property

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Chris Clothier, a partner with Memphis Invest, believes investors are improving neighborhoods and driving local economies. They are purchasing properties that would otherwise sit vacant for months, dragging down area home prices, and using local electricians, plumbers and labor to update the homes. “Those dollars provide jobs and put money into local economies. It’s clear that investors are the ones who are risking their own money to improve and stabilize neighborhoods for new owners or tenants,” Clothier said in a press release.

Investor activity has benefited the housing market, but there’s a downside too. “Investors have been largely purchasing with all-cash, which puts first-time buyers at a significant disadvantage,” Walter Molony, a NAR spokesman, said in an e-mail. “Both investors and entry-level buyers have been focused on low price ranges, with investors winning the deals since they don’t have a need for financing.”

Molony points out that the situation has flipped in 2012, as the supply-demand situation is now balanced in much of the country — except for the West and Florida, where NAR says housing shortages are putting pressure on home prices.

So while the BiggerPockets.com/Memphis Invest survey shows investors planning to continue purchasing and rehabbing property, NAR data shows the overall investor market share is on the decline. The drop started in March, and since April investor market share has averaged 18 percent — below its long-time average of 22 percent.

Investors certainly help fuel the housing recovery, but NAR data shows they aren’t the driving force. “First-time homebuyers are also below their long-term average with housing shortages in the low price ranges and a headwind of tight credit,” notes Molony. “At present, the market is being driven by an increase in traditional repeat buyers.”

Realtors Pony Up Another $2 Million to Kill Phantom Tax

The National Association of Realtors pumped another $1.3 million in support of the Measure 79 campaign, which seeks to amend the Oregon constitution to prohibit real estate transfer taxes. State filings show the Oregon Association of Realtors added an additional $700,000. The two groups have now put up more than $5 million to ban a practice that has already been illegal in Oregon since 1989 (except for a one-tenth of a percent tax in Washington County which predated that 1989 law).

As WW previously reported, proponents of the constitutional ban have produced misleading campaign propaganda that could lead voters to believe that a transfer tax is imminent but repeated attempts to pass such legislation in Salem have met with dismal failure.