Wednesday, July 21, 2010

40% of Participants Depart Federal Mortgage Aid Program

USA Today

The number of homeowners dropped from the Obama administration's signature program to modify mortgages for cash-strapped homeowners is larger than the number of those receiving permanently lower monthly payments under the program.

The program puts homeowners into five-year programs with lower monthly payments on their mortgages, but first they must provide proof of income and get through a three-month trial period making all payments on time. About 530,000 homeowners, or about 40% of 1.3 million borrowers enrolled, have had their lower mortgage payments canceled, the Treasury Department reported Tuesday.

An additional 398,000 homeowners, or 30% of borrowers, have received the longer-term lower payments on their mortgages.

To qualify, homeowners must be paying about a third or more of their monthly gross income toward their mortgage. They must have a property value less than about $729,000, and they must have incurred some sort of hardship.

For qualifying homeowners, banks will extend repayment periods, drop interest rates to as low as 2% and, in some cases, reduce the outstanding loan value. Homeowners in the longer-term modifications are guaranteed lower payments for five years, then fixed terms at today's low rates for the life of the loan. The typical homeowner is receiving a reduction in the monthly payment of 36%, or more than $500 a month.

Some economists say few are benefiting from the program. "(It) is not helping a lot of people, but for those that have gotten it, it seems to be working reasonably well," says Mark Zandi at Moody's Analytics. "The problem is not a lot of people are getting it."

Others see progress. The total number of homeowners getting longer-term mortgage modifications increased nearly 15% in June. "The housing market and economy are starting to resolve the issues, thought it's going to take years," says Joel Naroff at Naroff Economic Advisors.

For the first time, the government also detailed how many borrowers with modifications are defaulting for a second time. For homeowners with permanent loan modifications for six months, fewer than 6% are 60 or more days delinquent. Fewer than 3% of such homeowners have defaulted at the nine-month mark.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

FeatureTel Named Among Top 100 NC Small Businesses


The Business Leader magazine has recognized FeatureTel, a hosted business VoIP telephone system solutions company in North Carolina as a Top 100 North Carolina Small Business for 2010.

Business Leader provides information, tools, and resources for business executives/owners. The magazine is found on newsstands worldwide with local editions available in certain markets.FeatureTel ( News - Alert) is a fully managed and Hosted VoIP, voice and data communications service company. The company provides businesses across the Carolinas with a cost-effective, feature-rich alternative to traditional voice communication solutions.

FeatureTel earned this recognition mainly because of its implementation of a new telephone service with upgraded functionality for the City of Durham, the establishment of its Channel Partner (News - Alert) program, and its community service. Apart from sponsoring events to benefit Hospice of Wake County, Habitat for Humanity and breast cancer research, FeatureTel provides free phone service to the Triangle Autism Society.

“We are pleased to have been recognized with this award for our business achievements,” said FeatureTel Founder and CEO Paul Levering (News - Alert), “but we are especially proud of our community involvement and what we do to give back.” Levering, a supporter of educational concerns, personally participated as a panelist at the North Carolina School of Science and Math Alumni Forum & Lecture Series last year.

The list of Top 100 North Carolina Small Businesses from Business Leader includes companies with 100 employees or less that do the majority of their business in North Carolina. During the selection process, Business Leader evaluated each company's one-year and five-year revenue growth, business achievements and community involvement. FeatureTel was honored June 24 at an awards dinner in Raleigh real estate, N.C.

In October 2009, the company announced that it recently completed the installation of phones and related services for 1,815 users across the City of Durham’s operations, including police and fire rescue. This is deployment is part of a $1.63 million contract that also includes network equipment upgrades and a three-year service agreement. The previous telephone system of the city required 67 different key systems.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Many Cities Across U.S. Issuing More Housing Permits than during Boom

Reed Construction Data

Des Moines, Charleston, Austin, Columbia and Houston are the strongest large metro housing markets. These are the only cities with a population over 500,000 that issued permits/1000 population at more than three times the national pace over the last year.

Twenty-four smaller cities also had intense housing development at a rate per 1000 population more than three times the national average. This set includes two cities rebuilding from hurricane destruction of homes, several college towns and military base cities, resort and retirement cities in North Carolina and the Rocky Mountains and three market center cities in the Plains states. Several of the resort/retirement cities were part of the 2004-06 housing boom but the rest of the twenty-four cities sat out the boom so they have relatively minor foreclosure and underwater mortgage problems now.

The four large Texas metro areas continue to dominate the list of the largest single family housing markets. Together, they account for nearly 37% of the permits over the last year among the twenty cities issuing the most permits. Las Vegas, Phoenix, Riverside, Tampa, Austin, San Antonio and Orlando are the only housing boom cities still left on the top twenty list. Washington has moved up to third place on the strength of tens of thousands of new federal jobs. Atlanta, the largest housing market for several years has dropped to 7th place due to a weak Georgia economy and a large surplus of unsold homes. Fifteen metro areas, all manufacturing centers without any of today’s high growth industries, have issued less than two permits a month over the last year. Sandusky Ohio has issued no permits and Wheeling West Virginia has issued only one permit.

New York City remains by far the largest multi family permit metro. The recent credit based recession caused much less damage to the New York City economy than expected. Construction activity remains relatively strong partly due to the mild recession and partly because the permitting process is so long and so expensive that developers are always in a catch up mode. Permits are up from a year ago in many college and oil patch towns that escaped both the 2005-06 housing boom and the worst of the ongoing economic recession. San Francisco has returned to the list of top multi family markets due to hiring by its growing technology industries. Other markets that have recently become significant are Salt Lake City (low cost attracts new jobs and residents) and Virginia Beach (a lower cost alternative to South Florida).

Forty-five cities issued more housing permits in the three months ending in March than they did at the peak of the housing boom in late 2005/early 2006. All of these cities are very small markets except for El Paso, Buffalo and Rochester. This should not be interpreted as a list of cities leading the housing market or the economy out of recession. These cities simply missed most of the recession as they did the previous housing boom. Many of them have a locally unique housing demand driver. In El Paso, it is immigration. In Bismarck and Grand Forks, it is a strong farm economy.

Atlanta and Phoenix continue to have the largest declines in homebuilding relative to the peak of the housing boom. The twenty cities on the list are all suffering from the surplus supply created during several years of overbuilding, as with Houston apartments. Excepting, New York City, each of them has an unusually large inventory of homes for sale and a high incidence of foreclosures and underwater mortgages that will keep inventory excessive well into next year and possibly beyond in Florida and the Rocky Mountains.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

IBM To Hire 600 Workers In RTP For Service Center

Raleigh Telegram

North Carolina Governor Beverly Perdue announced this week that a subsidiary of IBM (International Business Machines) will hire around 600 workers during the next two years in Research Triangle Park.

The governor’s office says that the company will invest $3.7 million to open a managed business process service center in Research Triangle Park.  The jobs are being located here thanks in part to tax incentives being offered by state and local governments that could total as high as $7.79 million if IBM hires all of the 600 workers.

“IBM has been a major employer in North Carolina providing thousands of skilled jobs for more than 30 years. We value this company’s ongoing commitment to North Carolina and Research Triangle Park,” said Perdue.

With thousands of workers, IBM is one of the largest employers in Research Triangle Park and one of its first tenants in the facility that was created by the government decades ago to draw high-tech firms to the area.

According to the governor’s office, the salaries for the 600 new jobs will be around $50,000 a year, while the Durham County real estate average is $57,772.

“The new services operation furthers our commitment to the state of North Carolina and our ongoing presence in Research Triangle Park,” said Bob Greenberg, senior state executive, IBM North Carolina in a released statement.

“These are exactly the sort of highly skilled jobs that North Carolina needs to be recruiting in the 21st century economy, and we’re especially pleased that IBM is expanding its presence in Research Triangle Park,” said Rep. Mickey Michaux, (D-Durham) in a released statement.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

High Risk Insurance in NC More Affordable Under Health Care Reform

Public News Service

RALEIGH, N.C. - Quality, affordable health care is easy to take for granted if you have access to it, but it's an enviable commodity for North Carolinians with pre-existing conditions. In the past, medical issues such as cancer or multiple sclerosis prevented people suffering from these diseases from having access to affordable insurance, or even to coverage at all.

That changed 18 months ago in North Carolina with the creation of Inclusive Health, the North Carolina Health Insurance Risk Pool. The organization offers insurance policies to high-risk individuals at only a slightly higher rate than to people without health issues.

Executive Director Michael Keough says the savings for the participants are significant.

"Our rates are capped, by law, at 150 percent of the market average for people who typically would run into rates two to five times higher."

Prior to enrollment, some people were paying premiums as high as $3000 a month for health insurance coverage, Keough says. Enrolling in the state program reduces premiums by 50 percent, on average.

The addition of the federal program, part of this spring's health care reform legislation, will reduce rates even further for people who have had no access to insurance. Out of the 3,900 people currently enrolled in Inclusive Health, roughly 20 percent will benefit from the federal program.

Their savings for Raleigh assisted living will be significant. Currently, a 50-year-old woman in the high-risk pool pays $561 a month. The federal program would reduce her rate to $347 each month, Keough explains.

"The rates for the federal pool are 100 percent - in other words the same - as they would be for a person in the individual market who has no pre-existing condition. So it's a real break and a significant improvement."

The government is banking on the fact that more people will enroll in the more affordable insurance program, making it easier to fund such a costly endeavor.