Cousins Buys Terminus Complex

Terminus

Cousins Properties, Inc., an Atlanta, Ga.-based real estate company, acquired Post Oak Central, a Class A office complex in the Galleria submarket of Houston, Texas, for $232.6 million from institutional investors advised by J.P. Morgan Asset Management. The company also formed a joint venture with institutional investors advised by J.P. Morgan Asset Management to purchase both Terminus 100 and Terminus 200, neighboring Class AA office towers in Atlanta’s Buckhead submarket, and acquired the remaining 80 percent interest in Terminus 200 from a fund managed by Morgan Stanley Real Estate Investing.

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Pending home sales dip in August due to supply shortage

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Contracts to buy previously owned U.S. homes slipped in August due to a shortage of lower priced inventory in most of the country, an industry group said on Thursday.

The National Association of Realtors said its Pending Home Sales Index, based on contracts signed in August, fell 2.6 percent to 99.2, but was 10.7 percent higher than last year.

July’s reading was revised up to 101.9, the highest level since April 2010, when buyers were racing to use the home-buyer tax credit before the deadline, the group said.

“The performance in month-to-month contract signings has been uneven with ongoing shortages of lower priced inventory in much of the country,” the association’s chief economist, Lawrence Yun, said in a statement.

(Reporting by Rachelle Younglai; Editing by Neil Stempleman)

Did Freddie Mac bet against homeowners seeking to refinance?

By Elliot Njus, The Oregonian

Taxpayers bailed out Freddie Mac and its sister mortgage giant Fannie Mae to the tune of about $185 billion, so naturally a January report suggesting Freddie may have conspired against homeowners seeking to refinance raised hackles. But a government watchdog reported Wednesday the problematic investments it cited were simply a prudent hedge.

Investigative journalism nonprofit ProPublica and NPR alleged in a joint report Freddie was investing in a derivative that would pay off more if mortgageholders kept paying high rates. At the same time, it was making it more difficult for borrowers to refinance into lower rates.

On Wednesday, the watchdog said there was no evidence of collusion. Some reports suggested Freddie had been cleared of all charges, but the report does admits the investments may have created an incentive for Freddie to keep borrowers in their current loans. From The Wall Street Journal developments blog:

The report explained that Freddie had retained the inverse floater positions because there was stronger demand for other securities. …

While Freddie Mac’s trading unit could, in theory, misuse internal data and interfere with refinancing, the inspector general found “no evidence of collusion” between those sides of Freddie Mac’s operations. [more]

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Real Estate Recovery: See it, Believe it… and Then Invest in It!

Submitted by Wall St. Daily as part of our Contributors Program

A smart investor recognizes that the market is a forward-looking beast. He also knows that the market regularly scales “walls of worry,” and that prices rise before everyone realizes a recovery is imminent.

The average investor? Well, he sits on the sidelines and, in turn, misses out on significant profits.

Don’t believe me? Look no further than the real estate sector for proof…

Be Greedy When Others Are Fearful

Back in February , when I predicted the real estate market hit rock bottom, my inbox overflowed with venom for making such a preposterous claim. Hundreds of readers unsubscribed, too.

Of course, homebuilding stocks were already telegraphing a recovery. But nobody wanted to believe it because home prices were still falling across the country. They let the “wall of worry” blind them from the opportunity.

As I wrote at the time, though, “prices are going to be the last thing to bottom out.” Well, they just officially did.

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FHA loosens condo rules

Responding to lender, condominium association and consumer outcry that the existing FHA condominium lending guidelines are too strict, the Federal Home Administration (FHA) has announced a round of changes which will hopefully make it easier for borrowers to qualify for FHA condo loans. The full FHA announcement can be found here.While some of the changes are a step in the right direction, I think overall they are a mixed bag, as FHA left some of the most onerous provisions intact. I’m skeptical that these new changes will have a major impact on condominium sales, but of course, any loosening of the strict requirements is a positive move.

Condo fee delinquency rule increased to 60 days overdue
FHA is softening its stance on delinquent monthly condo fees and home owner association (HOA) dues. FHA is now allowing up to 15 percent of a project’s units to be 60-days delinquent on condo fees, up from just 30 days delinquent under the prior rule.

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Expanded investor purchasing allowed

Under the new rules, investors can come in and buy more units in a project than they could previously. They can now buy up to 50 percent of the project units, up from just 10 percent before, but with an important caveat: the developer must convey at least 50 percent of the units to individual owners or be under contract as owner-occupied.

Owner occupancy limits and total FHA financing percentage unchangedThe biggest disappointment of the new rules is that the main impediment to FHA condo financing remains unchanged, and that’s the 50 percent rule. Before any new buyer can obtain FHA financing, 50 percent of a project’s units be sold to third party buyers. This is what I’ve called the Catch-22. FHA provides the most first time home financing, so how can a developer expect to sell out his project if he cannot offer initial FHA financing? I agree with the National Association of Realtors and the Community Association Institute on this one. Get rid of the 50 percent rule or decrease it to 25 percent or less.Another restriction that hasn’t changed is the number of units that can have an FHA-backed loan. Only half the units can have FHA financing, so a borrower can’t get FHA approval if his unit would put the number of FHA financed units over 50 percent. That limitation remains unchanged, and that’s a killer for a lot of projects.

Spot approvals remain dead
Mortgage lenders used to love FHA “spot approvals” which could by-pass the involved standard FHA approval process in order to get individual unit financing. Problem was is that they love spot approvals way too much, and they got abused. FHA did not resurrect spot approvals from the dead on this go-around. Maybe they will be back when the economy gets better.

More commercial space OK
Projects can also have more space devoted to non-residential commercial uses than before. You see this a now in Boston with Starbucks and a bank office on the ground floor of a new condominium building. Up to this point, only 25 percent of project space could be used for commercial purpose. Now 50 percent of the project can be commercial, although certain authority for approval is reserved for the local FHA office. This will benefit the newer mixed use projects in urban markets.


Fidelity insurance coverage required

Important for all condominium professional management companies. If the condominium engages the services of a management company, the company must obtained its own fidelity coverage meeting the FHA association coverage requirements or the association’s policy must name the management company as an insured, or the association’s policy must include an endorsement stating that management company employees subject to the direction and control of the association are covered by the policy. This is a substantial change to the previous requirements that required management companies to obtain separate fidelity insurance for each condominium.

Housing Recovery Continues to Blossom

This is great news and should not be surprising. New construction is exploding all over the country, especially here in Atlanta. Commercial and residential developments continue to pop all over the city, especially high end custom homes.

Builders started on new homes at an annual rate of 750,000 in August, up 29.1% compared to a year ago. If sales keep growing, it may help end the economic doldrums.

By Les Christie @CNNMoney

The U.S. housing industry — crucial to any jobs recovery — showed more signs of strength, according to two reports issued Wednesday.

The Census Bureau said housing starts and permits rose substantially in August. Separately, sales of previously occupied homes climbed 7.8% from a year ago, according to the National Association of Realtors.

Builders started on new homes at an annual rate of 750,000, up 29.1% compared with a year earlier. They applied to build another 803,000 new homes on an annual basis, a 24.5% jump compared with August 2011.

Home builders have become increasingly bullish — a confidence index from the National Association of Home Builders reached its highest level since June 2006.

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The Biz Beat Atlanta’s economic recovery 46th best in U.S.

by David Markiewicz

Metro Atlanta’s economy continued to rebound in the second quarter, but its rate of recovery, like that of the nation as a whole, slowed, a new study shows.

The area ranked 46th overall among 100 metro areas measured in the Brookings MetroMonitor index of economic recovery.

Brookings analyzed four areas: percent employment change; percentage point change in unemployment rate; percent change in gross metropolitan product; and percent change in house prices.

Metro Atlanta mostly went backwards in those measurements in the second quarter of 2012 compared to the first quarter.

— Employment grew 0.2 percent in the second quarter, down from 0.7 percent growth in the first quarter.

— Output grew 0.7 percent, the same as in the first quarter.

— The unemployment rate increased slightly after declining in the first three months.

— Housing prices continued to fall in the second quarter, but by 3.7 percent, compared to 4.1 percent in the first quarter.
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