Foreign Buyers on the Rise in California

Real estate sales to foreign buyers and new immigrants surged to new highs in the last year, according to a study released Tuesday by the National Assn. of Realtors, with the Southland being a prime destination.

Overseas buyers and newcomers to the U.S. accounted for $92 billion in home sales in the 12 months ending in March, NAR said. That’s up 35% from the prior 12-month period, and higher than the previous record of $82.5 billion set in 2012. These buyers made up roughly 7% of all U.S. home sales, by dollar value.

The increase was fueled by a 50% jump in activity from Chinese buyers, who bought $22 billion worth of U.S. real estate last year. Experts say many Chinese buyers see U.S. real estate as a better investment opportunity than is often available in China, and in some cases as a safe haven for cash. Many also buy homes here to put their children in U.S. schools.

And Chinese buyers, in particular, have an eye for Southern California. Los Angeles and Irvine were two of their top three destinations, according to the survey, with San Francisco ranking second. Chinese buyers have long been a factor in some parts of Southern California, particularly the San Gabriel Valley; as more come here, they’re spreading to new areas as well.

Los Angeles is the top choice for buyers of several other nationalities, too, according to data tracking searches of Realtor.com. Buyers from India, the United Kingdom, Australia, Ireland and Russia were also most likely to search here. For Mexican buyers, San Diego was the top choice.

The Realtors Assn. said it expects foreign interest in U.S. real estate will continue to grow as the economy grows ever more global.

“We live in an international marketplace, so while all real estate is local, that does not mean that all property buyers are,” said NAR president Steve Brown. “Foreign buyers are being enticed to U.S. real estate because of what they recognize as attractive prices, economic stability and an incredible opportunity for investment in their future.”

Source: LA Times Online

Credit standards going easy on jumbo mortgages

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Demand for non-government loans keeps growing!

Despite overall originations hitting the lowest level since 2010, the past year witnessed a significant increase in the volume of home equity loans and lines of credit, in addition to originating the best-performing mortgages on record, the first report from Black Knight Financial Services, previously known as Lender Processing Services, found. For jumbo mortgages, however, it’s a completely different story.

Two key points about the November numbers stand out according to Herb Blecher, senior vice president of Black Knight Financial Services’ data & analytics division.

“First is that heightened credit standards have resulted in this year being the best-performing vintage on record. Even adjusting for some of these changes, such as credit scores and loan-to-values, we are seeing total delinquencies for 2013 loans at extremely low levels across every product category,” Blecher said.

The second point Blecher emphasized was that overall volumes are down. “We are seeing an increased proportion of the market being supported by non-agency (vs. government) lending – with the share nearly doubling as compared to 2010,” Blecher added.

However, increasing home prices have helped offset some of the drop in originations with demand for home equity loans increasing.

“While first mortgage originations are almost half the levels as one year ago, total home equity lending, including loans and lines, has increased by 70%, and originations of second lien home equity loans have more than doubled,” Blecher said.

In addition, the market also observed a 75% year-over-year increase in the share of non-agency jumbo prime lending.

“Notably, nearly all of these jumbo loans have been originated with no mortgage insurance, which may indicate an increased appetite for risk, as well as an opportunity to expand credit criteria, for originations within the private market,” Blecher explained.

The November data revealed that the population of “refi” mortgages has decreased by about 4 million loans since the end of 2012.

In comparison, just 5.9 million loans meet broad-based refinance criteria. But loosening the credit standards to just a 700 FICO increases the refinance population by almost 17%, or an additional 1 million loans.

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Source: Housingwire

Casa Malaparte, a Surreal Work of Staggering Genius!

Absolutely incredible piece of architecture and beauty!

Could there be a more ravishing work of architecture than Casa Malaparte? “A beautiful thing, forged out of a brutal environment,” is how architect Simon Jacobsen describes this minimalist plinth of a house, built in 1942 atop a craggy promontory on the island of Capri. “It makes you think of Greta Garbo’s famous line, ‘I want to be alone.’ ” Its owner did, by all accounts. Curzio Malaparte was a brash man of letters who fell afoul of Mussolini in 1933 and was exiled to a speck of land in the Mediterranean. Banishment had a paradoxical effect: Upon his release, Malaparte longed for more remoteness and seclusion. After buying a site on Capri’s eastern coastline, he had the noted architect Adalberto Libera draw up plans for a home, but later threw them out in favor of his own vision—a stolid, jutting form, with a lyrical windbreak on top and a tapering exterior staircase. “A house like me,” Malaparte often said. Today the dwelling is owned by the writer’s heirs and most easily seen by boat (or by revisiting Jean-Luc Godard’s 1963 film Contempt, in which the roof provides a sunbathing venue for Brigitte Bardot). Interior designer Steven Volpe got a rare private invitation years ago and remembers walking the tortuous footpath, touring the hauntingly spartan rooms—and, most vividly, climbing to the rooftop. “Up there it was dream-like,” he recalls. “You feel like you’re in heaven.”

 

Source: Architectural Digest