HUD: Tax Credit Can Be Used on Closing Costs

30 05 2009

Here’s an update to my previous post on tax credit:

U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) just announced today that it will allow home buyer tax credit loans to be used on closing costs. FHA-approved lenders got the go-ahead from HUD to develop bridge-loan products that enable first-time buyers to use the benefits of the federal tax credit upfront.

Under the guidance, FHA-approved lenders can develop bridge loans that home buyers can use to help cover their closing costs, buy down their interest rate, or put down more than the minimum 3.5 percent.

The loans can’t be used to cover the minimum 3.5 percent, according to HUD officials.

Therefore, buyers applying for FHA-backed financing with an FHA-approved lender that offers a bridge-loan program can get a bridge loan to bring down the upfront costs of buying a home significantly but would still have to come up with the minimum 3.5 percent downpayment.

There remain many sources of assistance for buyers needing help with the 3.5 percent downpayment, including many state and local government instrumentalities and nonprofit lenders.

In addition, some state housing finance agencies have developed their own tax credit bridge loan programs, so buyers in states whose HFAs offer such programs can monetize the tax credit upfront to cover all or part of their downpayment. These programs are separate from what HUD announced today.

The first-time homebuyer tax credit was enacted last year to help encourage households to enter the housing market while interest rates are low and affordability is high. The credit is worth up to $8,000 and is available to households that haven’t owned a home in at least three years. The credit does not have to be repaid, and is fully reimbursable, so households can get their credit returned to them in the form of a payment.

Contact me for more information about the credit, including how to apply for it this year even if you’ve already filed your taxes.





HUD: Tax Credit Can Be Used on Closing Costs

29 05 2009

Here’s an update to my previous post on tax credit:

U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) just announced today that it will allow home buyer tax credit loans to be used on closing costs. FHA-approved lenders got the go-ahead from HUD to develop bridge-loan products that enable first-time buyers to use the benefits of the federal tax credit upfront.

Under the guidance, FHA-approved lenders can develop bridge loans that home buyers can use to help cover their closing costs, buy down their interest rate, or put down more than the minimum 3.5 percent.

The loans can’t be used to cover the minimum 3.5 percent, according to HUD officials.

Therefore, buyers applying for FHA-backed financing with an FHA-approved lender that offers a bridge-loan program can get a bridge loan to bring down the upfront costs of buying a home significantly but would still have to come up with the minimum 3.5 percent downpayment.

There remain many sources of assistance for buyers needing help with the 3.5 percent downpayment, including many state and local government instrumentalities and nonprofit lenders.

In addition, some state housing finance agencies have developed their own tax credit bridge loan programs, so buyers in states whose HFAs offer such programs can monetize the tax credit upfront to cover all or part of their downpayment. These programs are separate from what HUD announced today.

The first-time homebuyer tax credit was enacted last year to help encourage households to enter the housing market while interest rates are low and affordability is high. The credit is worth up to $8,000 and is available to households that haven’t owned a home in at least three years. The credit does not have to be repaid, and is fully reimbursable, so households can get their credit returned to them in the form of a payment.

Contact me for more information about the credit, including how to apply for it this year even if you’ve already filed your taxes.





Obama Administration Announced New Uniform Process for Short Sales

21 05 2009

Help is on the way for many homeowners who are facing foreclosure, thanks to new details under the Making Home Affordable Program just announced by the U.S. Treasury and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

I think it’s time the government steps in to help homeowners and those wishing to buy a home to prevent foreclosures by streamlining the short-sale and deeds-in-lieu process. Stabilizing the housing market is critical to our economic recovery so we need all the help we can get in today’s challenging economy.

Short sales occur when a bank agrees to let homeowners who have fallen behind on their mortgage to sell their home for less than they owe on their mortgage. Many families are finding themselves with a mortgage that is higher than their current home value and they are struggling. As a Realtor, I know that the extensive delay in the short sale process had caused many buyers to go elsewhere and have left many would-be sellers with no option but foreclosure.

The Making Home Affordable Program is designed to help homeowners obtain modifications to their loan so they can afford to stay in their home. Where a modification is not possible, new incentives encourage the “quick private sale or voluntary transfer of property, which will save homeowners money and protect their financial future,” according to U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner.

The following is a press release from The National Association of REALTORS (NAR)that the Obama Administration has announced new incentives and uniform procedures for short sales under its new Foreclosure Alternatives Program (FAP). For borrowers who do not qualify to have their loans modified on a permanent basis under the Making Home Affordable Loan Modification Program, the servicer may consider a short sale or, if that is not successful, a deed-in-lieu of foreclosure.

Borrowers (Homeowners). Borrowers/homeowners qualify under the FAP if they meet minimum eligibility requirements for the Home Affordable Modification program, but don’t qualify for a modification or do not successfully complete the three-month trial period. Before proceeding with a foreclosure, servicers must determine if a short sale is appropriate.

Incentives. Incentives include: $1,000 for servicers for successful completion of a short sale or deed-in-lieu of foreclosure; $1,500 for borrowers/homeowners to help with relocation expenses; and up to $1,000 toward the cost of paying junior lien holders to release their liens (one dollar from the government for every $2 paid by the investors to the second lien holders).

Standardized Documents. The program will include streamlined and standardized documents, including a Short Sale Agreement and an Offer Acceptance Letter. The goal is to minimize complexity and increase use of the short sale option.

Property Valuation by Appraisal or BPO. Servicers will independently establish both property value and minimum acceptable net return, in accordance with investor requirements. The price may be determined based on an appraisal or one or more broker price opinions (BPOs), issued no more than 120 days before the date of the short sale agreement.

Timeline. In the Short Sale Agreement, servicers must give borrowers/homeowners at least 90 days to market and sell the property, or up to one year, depending on market conditions. Property must be listed with a licensed real estate professional with experience in the neighborhood. No foreclosure may take place during the marketing period (at least 90 days) specified in the Short Sale Agreement.

Commissions. The Short Sale Agreement must specify the reasonable and customary real estate commissions and costs that may be deducted from the sales price. The servicer must agree not to negotiate a lower commission after an offer has been received.

No Borrower Fees. Servicers may not charge fees to borrowers/homeowners for participating in the FAP.

Program Expiration. The program is in effect through 2012.

Deed-in-Lieu of Foreclosure Option. Servicers have the option to require the borrower/homeowner to agree to deed the property to the servicer in exchange for a release from the debt if the property does not sell within the time allowed in the Short Sale Agreement (plus any extensions).

Visit http://www.treasury.gov for detailed information on the program changes.

Printed by Permisson of National Association of REALTORS.





Obama Administration Announced New Uniform Process for Short Sales

20 05 2009

Help is on the way for many homeowners who are facing foreclosure, thanks to new details under the Making Home Affordable Program just announced by the U.S. Treasury and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

I think it’s time the government steps in to help homeowners and those wishing to buy a home to prevent foreclosures by streamlining the short-sale and deeds-in-lieu process. Stabilizing the housing market is critical to our economic recovery so we need all the help we can get in today’s challenging economy.

Short sales occur when a bank agrees to let homeowners who have fallen behind on their mortgage to sell their home for less than they owe on their mortgage. Many families are finding themselves with a mortgage that is higher than their current home value and they are struggling. As a Realtor, I know that the extensive delay in the short sale process had caused many buyers to go elsewhere and have left many would-be sellers with no option but foreclosure.

The Making Home Affordable Program is designed to help homeowners obtain modifications to their loan so they can afford to stay in their home. Where a modification is not possible, new incentives encourage the “quick private sale or voluntary transfer of property, which will save homeowners money and protect their financial future,” according to U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner.

The following is a press release from The National Association of REALTORS (NAR)that the Obama Administration has announced new incentives and uniform procedures for short sales under its new Foreclosure Alternatives Program (FAP). For borrowers who do not qualify to have their loans modified on a permanent basis under the Making Home Affordable Loan Modification Program, the servicer may consider a short sale or, if that is not successful, a deed-in-lieu of foreclosure.

Borrowers (Homeowners). Borrowers/homeowners qualify under the FAP if they meet minimum eligibility requirements for the Home Affordable Modification program, but don’t qualify for a modification or do not successfully complete the three-month trial period. Before proceeding with a foreclosure, servicers must determine if a short sale is appropriate.

Incentives. Incentives include: $1,000 for servicers for successful completion of a short sale or deed-in-lieu of foreclosure; $1,500 for borrowers/homeowners to help with relocation expenses; and up to $1,000 toward the cost of paying junior lien holders to release their liens (one dollar from the government for every $2 paid by the investors to the second lien holders).

Standardized Documents. The program will include streamlined and standardized documents, including a Short Sale Agreement and an Offer Acceptance Letter. The goal is to minimize complexity and increase use of the short sale option.

Property Valuation by Appraisal or BPO. Servicers will independently establish both property value and minimum acceptable net return, in accordance with investor requirements. The price may be determined based on an appraisal or one or more broker price opinions (BPOs), issued no more than 120 days before the date of the short sale agreement.

Timeline. In the Short Sale Agreement, servicers must give borrowers/homeowners at least 90 days to market and sell the property, or up to one year, depending on market conditions. Property must be listed with a licensed real estate professional with experience in the neighborhood. No foreclosure may take place during the marketing period (at least 90 days) specified in the Short Sale Agreement.

Commissions. The Short Sale Agreement must specify the reasonable and customary real estate commissions and costs that may be deducted from the sales price. The servicer must agree not to negotiate a lower commission after an offer has been received.

No Borrower Fees. Servicers may not charge fees to borrowers/homeowners for participating in the FAP.

Program Expiration. The program is in effect through 2012.

Deed-in-Lieu of Foreclosure Option. Servicers have the option to require the borrower/homeowner to agree to deed the property to the servicer in exchange for a release from the debt if the property does not sell within the time allowed in the Short Sale Agreement (plus any extensions).

Visit http://www.treasury.gov for detailed information on the program changes.

Printed by Permisson of National Association of REALTORS.





First-time Homebuyers: How to Get the $8,000 Tax Credit

19 05 2009

How does a first-time homebuyer take advantage of the $8,000 tax credit? It comes with a few rules:

• The deduction is worth 10 percent of a home’s value up to $8,000, which means all homes worth more than $80,000 could qualify for the maximum amount.

• There is an income limit to qualify. A married couples’ modified adjusted gross income (MAGI) should be under $150,000 and single filers’ MAGI should be less than $75,000.

• Partial tax credits may be available for married couples with MAGI incomes over $150,000 but under $170,000, and single filers with incomes over $75,000 but under $95,000.

• If married couples file separately, they can both claim 5 percent of the home purchase ($4,000 each for a home over $80,000) on their tax returns.

• It’s a tax credit, not a deduction. That means the entire amount goes back to the first-time homebuyer unlike deductions, such as mortgage interest, that are subtracted from gross income before tax is calculated. If qualified for $8,000, the buyer gets $8,000, even if they would not owe that much in taxes otherwise.

• The tax credit applies to homes purchased from Jan. 1, 2009, through Nov. 30, 2009.

• The tax credit does not have to be paid back, providing the homebuyer keeps the property for at least 36 months and resides in the home.

• To qualify as a first-time homebuyer, the purchaser cannot have owned a home within the previous three-year period. However, ownership of a vacation home or rental home does not disqualify the buyer.

• If purchasing a new home, the effective date to receive the credit is the first day the homeowner actually lives in the house. If construction began in 2008, that buyer could still qualify. And if construction begins in 2009 but the owner does not take possession until 2010, the buyer would not qualify.

• The tax credit can be claimed on 2008 income tax forms even though the purchase took place in 2009. A buyer could close on a home the same day that President Obama signs it into law, fill out their income tax forms the next day, and receive the tax credit fairly quickly.

• The latest news announced on 5/13/09 at the National Association of Realtors’ (NAR) Summit by Secretary Donovan states that FHA will allow FHA consumers to access the tax credit funds when they close on their home loans so that the cash can be used as a downpayment. FHA’s policy will permit trusted FHA-approved lenders and HUD-approved nonprofits, as well as state and local governmental entities to “monetize” the tax credit through short-term bridge loans.

The tax credit is not a downpayment, but it could be used toward a downpayment if first-time homebuyers plan ahead. U.S. taxpayers have money withheld from every paycheck for income taxes. If they owe more tax than the amount deducted, they pay the IRS; if they owe less, they get a tax refund.

By anticipating at least an $8,000 refund in early 2010 when they file 2009 taxes, these buyers could cut down on their tax withholding this year and save the money toward a downpayment. There is one caveat, however: Should they not buy a home in the qualifying period, they would still owe the IRS the money, and reducing their withholding amount could result in a high bill at tax time.

Questions? Call FAR’s Legal Hotline at 407-438-1409. It’s a free call for members except for long distance phone charges, if any.





First-time Homebuyers: How to Get the $8,000 Tax Credit

18 05 2009

How does a first-time homebuyer take advantage of the $8,000 tax credit? It comes with a few rules:

• The deduction is worth 10 percent of a home’s value up to $8,000, which means all homes worth more than $80,000 could qualify for the maximum amount.

• There is an income limit to qualify. A married couples’ modified adjusted gross income (MAGI) should be under $150,000 and single filers’ MAGI should be less than $75,000.

• Partial tax credits may be available for married couples with MAGI incomes over $150,000 but under $170,000, and single filers with incomes over $75,000 but under $95,000.

• If married couples file separately, they can both claim 5 percent of the home purchase ($4,000 each for a home over $80,000) on their tax returns.

• It’s a tax credit, not a deduction. That means the entire amount goes back to the first-time homebuyer unlike deductions, such as mortgage interest, that are subtracted from gross income before tax is calculated. If qualified for $8,000, the buyer gets $8,000, even if they would not owe that much in taxes otherwise.

• The tax credit applies to homes purchased from Jan. 1, 2009, through Nov. 30, 2009.

• The tax credit does not have to be paid back, providing the homebuyer keeps the property for at least 36 months and resides in the home.

• To qualify as a first-time homebuyer, the purchaser cannot have owned a home within the previous three-year period. However, ownership of a vacation home or rental home does not disqualify the buyer.

• If purchasing a new home, the effective date to receive the credit is the first day the homeowner actually lives in the house. If construction began in 2008, that buyer could still qualify. And if construction begins in 2009 but the owner does not take possession until 2010, the buyer would not qualify.

• The tax credit can be claimed on 2008 income tax forms even though the purchase took place in 2009. A buyer could close on a home the same day that President Obama signs it into law, fill out their income tax forms the next day, and receive the tax credit fairly quickly.

• The latest news announced on 5/13/09 at the National Association of Realtors’ (NAR) Summit by Secretary Donovan states that FHA will allow FHA consumers to access the tax credit funds when they close on their home loans so that the cash can be used as a downpayment. FHA’s policy will permit trusted FHA-approved lenders and HUD-approved nonprofits, as well as state and local governmental entities to “monetize” the tax credit through short-term bridge loans.

The tax credit is not a downpayment, but it could be used toward a downpayment if first-time homebuyers plan ahead. U.S. taxpayers have money withheld from every paycheck for income taxes. If they owe more tax than the amount deducted, they pay the IRS; if they owe less, they get a tax refund.

By anticipating at least an $8,000 refund in early 2010 when they file 2009 taxes, these buyers could cut down on their tax withholding this year and save the money toward a downpayment. There is one caveat, however: Should they not buy a home in the qualifying period, they would still owe the IRS the money, and reducing their withholding amount could result in a high bill at tax time.

Questions? Call FAR’s Legal Hotline at 407-438-1409. It’s a free call for members except for long distance phone charges, if any.





III Forks Steakhouse Coming to Southside

17 05 2009

An upscale steakhouse with only four other locations in the nation is coming to the Southside of Jacksonville.

The 9,300-square-foot III Forks Steakhouse is expected to open in Tapestry Park later this year.

Open for dinner, III Forks specializes in prime cuts of meats. The menu, which includes filet mignon, young rack of lamb, veal chops, Chilean sea bass and lobster tail, along with soups, salads and appetizers. The menu items range in price from the high $20s to more than $50 for the filet mignon and crabcake St. Francis.

The restaurant includes a 300-label wine room, according to the company’s Web site.

III Forks is one of 87 full-service and 29 franchised restaurants throughout the U.S. and the United Arab Emirates owned by Consolidated Restaurant Operations Inc. in Dallas. One of the other brands is Cantina Laredo, which has a restaurant in the St. Johns Town Center.

The other III Forks locations are in Dallas and Austin, Texas; and Boca Raton and Palm Beach Gardens.





III Forks Steakhouse Coming to Southside

16 05 2009

An upscale steakhouse with only four other locations in the nation is coming to the Southside of Jacksonville.

The 9,300-square-foot III Forks Steakhouse is expected to open in Tapestry Park later this year.

Open for dinner, III Forks specializes in prime cuts of meats. The menu, which includes filet mignon, young rack of lamb, veal chops, Chilean sea bass and lobster tail, along with soups, salads and appetizers. The menu items range in price from the high $20s to more than $50 for the filet mignon and crabcake St. Francis.

The restaurant includes a 300-label wine room, according to the company’s Web site.

III Forks is one of 87 full-service and 29 franchised restaurants throughout the U.S. and the United Arab Emirates owned by Consolidated Restaurant Operations Inc. in Dallas. One of the other brands is Cantina Laredo, which has a restaurant in the St. Johns Town Center.

The other III Forks locations are in Dallas and Austin, Texas; and Boca Raton and Palm Beach Gardens.





Shipyards Project Facing Foreclosure

16 05 2009

The Jacksonville Economic Development Commission’s office has authorized city lawyers to start a foreclosure process against the developer of a $450 million upscale residential and commercial riverfront project.

City officials made the decision after LandMar Group LLC representatives informed them that they would not be able to make a $3.1 million debt payment on the Shipyards project, which is a breech of the developer’s contract with the city, according to mayor’s office spokeswoman Misty Skipper.

The decision to take legal action against LandMar signals the probable end of the glitzy Downtown project that has stirred controversy for most of this decade.

City officials have been meeting on a weekly basis with representatives of LandMar and its parent company since the developer notified the city that it would not be able to pay the $485,000 bill for property taxes on the Shipyards due March 31. Since then, the city and the developer have been negotiating, Skipper said, but there has not been a resolution. The city can initiate foreclosure because it is the primary mortgage holder on the property.

In a memo to the Jacksonville City Council, JEDC Executive Director Ron Barton outlined the following:

•The developer has until May 21 to make the debt payment before the developer goes into default and will be given 10 business days make the debt shortfall payment.

•The city will begin monitoring the net worth requirements for both LandMar, which must maintain a net worth of at least $20 million during the agreement and its parent company Crescent Resources LLC, which must maintain a net worth of at least $500. Barton noted that in the last two quarters Crescent Resource’s unaudited net worth has fallen below the $500 million requirement.

•If on June 29 Crescent Resource’s net worth is below $500, LandMar will be required to provide the city an additional letter of credit for about $18 million to cover the remaining costs associated with the public improvements. If LandMar does not provide the additional letter of credit the city will send a default notice, and if it is still not addressed, will again take legal action.

“The JEDC, along with the Office of General Counsel and the Council Auditor, continue to meet with the developer’s representatives on a weekly basis and will continue to explore solutions and options that address the obligations of the agreement while recognizing the unprecedented economic times and financial strain experienced by the real estate development industry,” Barton said in the memo sent May 13.

Source: Jacksonville Business Journal





Shipyards Project Facing Foreclosure

15 05 2009

The Jacksonville Economic Development Commission’s office has authorized city lawyers to start a foreclosure process against the developer of a $450 million upscale residential and commercial riverfront project.

City officials made the decision after LandMar Group LLC representatives informed them that they would not be able to make a $3.1 million debt payment on the Shipyards project, which is a breech of the developer’s contract with the city, according to mayor’s office spokeswoman Misty Skipper.

The decision to take legal action against LandMar signals the probable end of the glitzy Downtown project that has stirred controversy for most of this decade.

City officials have been meeting on a weekly basis with representatives of LandMar and its parent company since the developer notified the city that it would not be able to pay the $485,000 bill for property taxes on the Shipyards due March 31. Since then, the city and the developer have been negotiating, Skipper said, but there has not been a resolution. The city can initiate foreclosure because it is the primary mortgage holder on the property.

In a memo to the Jacksonville City Council, JEDC Executive Director Ron Barton outlined the following:

•The developer has until May 21 to make the debt payment before the developer goes into default and will be given 10 business days make the debt shortfall payment.

•The city will begin monitoring the net worth requirements for both LandMar, which must maintain a net worth of at least $20 million during the agreement and its parent company Crescent Resources LLC, which must maintain a net worth of at least $500. Barton noted that in the last two quarters Crescent Resource’s unaudited net worth has fallen below the $500 million requirement.

•If on June 29 Crescent Resource’s net worth is below $500, LandMar will be required to provide the city an additional letter of credit for about $18 million to cover the remaining costs associated with the public improvements. If LandMar does not provide the additional letter of credit the city will send a default notice, and if it is still not addressed, will again take legal action.

“The JEDC, along with the Office of General Counsel and the Council Auditor, continue to meet with the developer’s representatives on a weekly basis and will continue to explore solutions and options that address the obligations of the agreement while recognizing the unprecedented economic times and financial strain experienced by the real estate development industry,” Barton said in the memo sent May 13.

Source: Jacksonville Business Journal





Jacksonville No. 76 Among High-Tech Cities

14 05 2009

San Jose and Stockton, Calif., are just 78 miles from each other, yet they’re worlds apart in high-tech expertise.

San Jose — epicenter of internationally renowned Silicon Valley — is the nation’s most technologically adept metropolitan area, according to a new bizjournals study of 100 U.S. markets. Stockton ranks dead last.

Bizjournals created a five-part formula to identify metros blessed with the highest concentrations of high-tech companies, technology-oriented jobs, and workers with advanced degrees.

Jacksonville ranked 76th, with 12,670 high-tech jobs and 1,397 high-tech companies. Jacksonville had more than 23 high-tech jobs per 1,000 private sector jobs and just under 40 high-tech companies per 1,000 private companies. Almost 7 percent of adults 25 or older have master’s or doctoral degrees.

San Jose stands out as the clear leader — no real surprise, given its preeminence in the fields of computer and semiconductor manufacturing.

These are the key factors in its rise to first place:

• Nearly 12 percent of San Jose’s private-sector businesses are classified as high-technology, the biggest concentration in America. The precise ratio in San Jose is 117.1 high-tech companies per 1,000 private-sector firms, nearly triple the U.S. average of 40.2 per 1,000.

• Employment trends are even more lopsided. San Jose has 182.5 high-tech jobs for every 1,000 private-sector jobs. That’s 47 percent higher than the ratio for any other market — and 329 percent above the average for the entire study group.

• One-sixth of all adults in the San Jose area, 16.9 percent, hold master’s or doctoral degrees. Washington is the only market with a higher percentage.

Washington, in fact, ranks second in bizjournals’ overall high-tech standings, followed by Boston, San Francisco-Oakland and Seattle. Each of these areas has more than 160,000 high-tech jobs, and at least 10 percent of all local workers hold advanced degrees.

Bizjournals used raw data from two recent reports by the U.S. Census Bureau to analyze the high-tech capabilities of every market with more than 500,000 residents.

The study focused on so-called Level I high-tech industries, a group defined by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics as businesses where at least a quarter of all employees are directly involved in technology-oriented work. That includes the aerospace, computer, control-instruments, pharmaceutical and semiconductor industries and scientific research-and-development services.

This definition of high-tech jobs is more restrictive than others used by some private analysts, yet it still encompasses more than 4 million positions in the 100 markets.

The following is a quick rundown of the 10 metros whose high-tech sectors earned the highest ratings:

1. San Jose — Victory was never in doubt. San Jose was the only metro to rank among the top 10 markets in each of the study’s five categories.

2. Washington — Don’t be surprised. The federal government is no longer the Washington area’s sole economic support. Suburban Fairfax County, Va., has become a particularly strong high-tech hub.

3. Boston — The Boston metro rose to high-tech prominence in the 1980s. Remember all the stories about the Route 128 corridor? It continues to benefit from a well-educated workforce.

4. San Francisco-Oakland — It’s hard to tell where the San Jose area ends and San Francisco-Oakland begins. The two metros have 340,000 high-tech jobs between them.

5. Seattle — Microsoft is the linchpin of Seattle’s technology sector, but it’s certainly not the only local success story. The market has more than 5,000 high-tech employers.

6. San Diego — This is the third California entry in the top 10, more than any other state. Only five metros surpass San Diego’s ratio of 91.2 high-tech jobs per 1,000 private-sector jobs.

Source: Scott Thomas, bizjournals





Jacksonville No. 76 Among High-Tech Cities

13 05 2009

San Jose and Stockton, Calif., are just 78 miles from each other, yet they’re worlds apart in high-tech expertise.

San Jose — epicenter of internationally renowned Silicon Valley — is the nation’s most technologically adept metropolitan area, according to a new bizjournals study of 100 U.S. markets. Stockton ranks dead last.

Bizjournals created a five-part formula to identify metros blessed with the highest concentrations of high-tech companies, technology-oriented jobs, and workers with advanced degrees.

Jacksonville ranked 76th, with 12,670 high-tech jobs and 1,397 high-tech companies. Jacksonville had more than 23 high-tech jobs per 1,000 private sector jobs and just under 40 high-tech companies per 1,000 private companies. Almost 7 percent of adults 25 or older have master’s or doctoral degrees.

San Jose stands out as the clear leader — no real surprise, given its preeminence in the fields of computer and semiconductor manufacturing.

These are the key factors in its rise to first place:

• Nearly 12 percent of San Jose’s private-sector businesses are classified as high-technology, the biggest concentration in America. The precise ratio in San Jose is 117.1 high-tech companies per 1,000 private-sector firms, nearly triple the U.S. average of 40.2 per 1,000.

• Employment trends are even more lopsided. San Jose has 182.5 high-tech jobs for every 1,000 private-sector jobs. That’s 47 percent higher than the ratio for any other market — and 329 percent above the average for the entire study group.

• One-sixth of all adults in the San Jose area, 16.9 percent, hold master’s or doctoral degrees. Washington is the only market with a higher percentage.

Washington, in fact, ranks second in bizjournals’ overall high-tech standings, followed by Boston, San Francisco-Oakland and Seattle. Each of these areas has more than 160,000 high-tech jobs, and at least 10 percent of all local workers hold advanced degrees.

Bizjournals used raw data from two recent reports by the U.S. Census Bureau to analyze the high-tech capabilities of every market with more than 500,000 residents.

The study focused on so-called Level I high-tech industries, a group defined by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics as businesses where at least a quarter of all employees are directly involved in technology-oriented work. That includes the aerospace, computer, control-instruments, pharmaceutical and semiconductor industries and scientific research-and-development services.

This definition of high-tech jobs is more restrictive than others used by some private analysts, yet it still encompasses more than 4 million positions in the 100 markets.

The following is a quick rundown of the 10 metros whose high-tech sectors earned the highest ratings:

1. San Jose — Victory was never in doubt. San Jose was the only metro to rank among the top 10 markets in each of the study’s five categories.

2. Washington — Don’t be surprised. The federal government is no longer the Washington area’s sole economic support. Suburban Fairfax County, Va., has become a particularly strong high-tech hub.

3. Boston — The Boston metro rose to high-tech prominence in the 1980s. Remember all the stories about the Route 128 corridor? It continues to benefit from a well-educated workforce.

4. San Francisco-Oakland — It’s hard to tell where the San Jose area ends and San Francisco-Oakland begins. The two metros have 340,000 high-tech jobs between them.

5. Seattle — Microsoft is the linchpin of Seattle’s technology sector, but it’s certainly not the only local success story. The market has more than 5,000 high-tech employers.

6. San Diego — This is the third California entry in the top 10, more than any other state. Only five metros surpass San Diego’s ratio of 91.2 high-tech jobs per 1,000 private-sector jobs.

Source: Scott Thomas, bizjournals





Home Sales Up in Jacksonville and Statewide

13 05 2009

Existing single-family home sales were up 7 percent in Jacksonville during the first quarter 2009, and the statewide numbers were even better. Condominium sales in Jacksonville dropped 9 percent, according to the Florida Association of Realtors® (FAR.)

Some 2,231 single-family homes were sold during the first quarter compared to 2,080 sold during the same period 2008. Median sales prices dropped 17 percent in the Jacksonville area to $151,800. A total of 235 condos sold during the first three months of 2009 in Jacksonville compared with 258 during the same period last year. Median sales prices for condos were down 13 percent in Jacksonville, to $125,700.

Single-family homes statewide were up 25 percent to 31,412 and the median sales price dropped 30 percent to $141,000. Statewide condos sales increased 19 percent to 10,143 and median sales price dropped 38 percent to $110,100. The statewide numbers mark the third consecutive quarter of growth for single-family sales and the second consecutive quarter of growth for condo sales.

The Fort Myers-Cape Coral area had the biggest increase of single-family home sales in the state at 141 percent and biggest decrease in median prices at 58 percent. Tallahassee had the biggest drop in home sales at 29 percent.

Orlando had the biggest increase in condo sales in the state at 148 percent and the biggest decline in median price at 62 percent. Tallahassee had the biggest decline in home sales at 69 percent. The state capital also saw a 29 percent decline in condo median prices.

Fifteen of Florida’s metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs) reported increased existing-home sales in March and 13 MSAs also showed gains in condo sales. It marks the ninth consecutive month that a majority of markets have reported increased sales.

Florida’s median sales price for existing homes last month was $141,300; a year ago, it was $201,700 for a 30 percent decrease. Industry analysts with the National Association of Realtors® (NAR) report there is a significant downward distortion in the current median price due to many discounted sales, including a large number of foreclosures. The median is the midpoint; half the homes sold for more, half for less.

The national median sales price for existing single-family homes in February 2009 was $164,600, down 15 percent from a year earlier, according to NAR. In California, the statewide median resales price was $247,590 in February; in Massachusetts, it was $252,500; in Maryland, it was $253,200; and in New York, it was $210,000.

NAR’s latest housing industry outlook reported that entry-level buyers are seeking bargains, which resulted in sales of distressed properties accounting for 40 to 45 percent of February’s transactions. “Given the downward distortion in price comparisons due to distressed sales, it’s important for owners to keep in mind that this doesn’t equate to a similar loss of value for traditional homes in good condition,” said NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun.

Source: Florida Association of Realtors





Home Sales Up in Jacksonville and Statewide

12 05 2009

Existing single-family home sales were up 7 percent in Jacksonville during the first quarter 2009, and the statewide numbers were even better. Condominium sales in Jacksonville dropped 9 percent, according to the Florida Association of Realtors® (FAR.)

Some 2,231 single-family homes were sold during the first quarter compared to 2,080 sold during the same period 2008. Median sales prices dropped 17 percent in the Jacksonville area to $151,800. A total of 235 condos sold during the first three months of 2009 in Jacksonville compared with 258 during the same period last year. Median sales prices for condos were down 13 percent in Jacksonville, to $125,700.

Single-family homes statewide were up 25 percent to 31,412 and the median sales price dropped 30 percent to $141,000. Statewide condos sales increased 19 percent to 10,143 and median sales price dropped 38 percent to $110,100. The statewide numbers mark the third consecutive quarter of growth for single-family sales and the second consecutive quarter of growth for condo sales.

The Fort Myers-Cape Coral area had the biggest increase of single-family home sales in the state at 141 percent and biggest decrease in median prices at 58 percent. Tallahassee had the biggest drop in home sales at 29 percent.

Orlando had the biggest increase in condo sales in the state at 148 percent and the biggest decline in median price at 62 percent. Tallahassee had the biggest decline in home sales at 69 percent. The state capital also saw a 29 percent decline in condo median prices.

Fifteen of Florida’s metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs) reported increased existing-home sales in March and 13 MSAs also showed gains in condo sales. It marks the ninth consecutive month that a majority of markets have reported increased sales.

Florida’s median sales price for existing homes last month was $141,300; a year ago, it was $201,700 for a 30 percent decrease. Industry analysts with the National Association of Realtors® (NAR) report there is a significant downward distortion in the current median price due to many discounted sales, including a large number of foreclosures. The median is the midpoint; half the homes sold for more, half for less.

The national median sales price for existing single-family homes in February 2009 was $164,600, down 15 percent from a year earlier, according to NAR. In California, the statewide median resales price was $247,590 in February; in Massachusetts, it was $252,500; in Maryland, it was $253,200; and in New York, it was $210,000.

NAR’s latest housing industry outlook reported that entry-level buyers are seeking bargains, which resulted in sales of distressed properties accounting for 40 to 45 percent of February’s transactions. “Given the downward distortion in price comparisons due to distressed sales, it’s important for owners to keep in mind that this doesn’t equate to a similar loss of value for traditional homes in good condition,” said NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun.

Source: Florida Association of Realtors





Home Sales/Construction Spending Stabilize

6 05 2009

Pending home sales and construction spending both increased in March, according to the National Association of Realtors.

Pending home sales rose 3.2 percent in March, due in large part to first-time buyers taking advantage of affordable home prices. Construction spending increased 0.3 percent, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce. Public construction (1.1 percent) and private construction (0.1 percent) both increased.

The Pending Home Sales Index published by the National Association of Realtors increased to 84.6 in March, up from February’s level of 82.0. March’s figure is also 1.1 percent higher than the same period in 2008, when it was 83.7.

Lawrence Yun, the group’s chief economist, said in a statement it would probably take “a few months” for the market to gain momentum.

“We need several months of sustained growth to demonstrate a recovery in housing, which is necessary for the overall economy to turn around,” Yun said.

The index was up 8.5 percent in the South and 3.9 percent in the West. It fell 5.7 percent in the Northeast and 1 percent in the Midwest.

The Pending Home Sales Index is a forward-looking indicator based on home sales contracts signed in March, basically the number of home sales in progress.

Source: National Association of Realtors





Home Sales/Construction Spending Stabilize

5 05 2009

Pending home sales and construction spending both increased in March, according to the National Association of Realtors.

Pending home sales rose 3.2 percent in March, due in large part to first-time buyers taking advantage of affordable home prices. Construction spending increased 0.3 percent, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce. Public construction (1.1 percent) and private construction (0.1 percent) both increased.

The Pending Home Sales Index published by the National Association of Realtors increased to 84.6 in March, up from February’s level of 82.0. March’s figure is also 1.1 percent higher than the same period in 2008, when it was 83.7.

Lawrence Yun, the group’s chief economist, said in a statement it would probably take “a few months” for the market to gain momentum.

“We need several months of sustained growth to demonstrate a recovery in housing, which is necessary for the overall economy to turn around,” Yun said.

The index was up 8.5 percent in the South and 3.9 percent in the West. It fell 5.7 percent in the Northeast and 1 percent in the Midwest.

The Pending Home Sales Index is a forward-looking indicator based on home sales contracts signed in March, basically the number of home sales in progress.

Source: National Association of Realtors








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