Category Archives: Real estate

MSN features WaterWalk condo as a ‘winter fun’ home

A WaterWalk condo in downtown Wichita is featured nationally as one of MSN Real Estate’s “12 homes for winter fun.”

According to the MSN website, the stand-out feature of the $509,900 condo is its “unique fireplace that’s perfect for winter get-togethers with friends and family.

Other properties listed in the feature are a nearly $1 million home in Big Sky, Mont., and a $22.5 million home in Rancho Santa Fe, Calif.

Report says mortgage activity is on the rise

Mortgage applications were up in the first quarter of 2012, and so was the average credit score of applicants, according to a report from MortgageMarvel.com.

The report says mortgage applications nearly doubled compared to the same period a year ago, and the average credit score rose to 733 from 716, “indicating that personal finances may be improving as well,” the report says.

Fighting over Walmart

The Kansas City Star reports this morning about a feud between two Johnson County cities over where to locate a Walmart.

Roeland Park is accusing neighboring Mission of poaching its Walmart to jumpstart its long-delayed $200 million Gateway project. Roeland Park officials are complaining to state economic officials because the Gateway development has applied for STAR bonds from the state.

“The city of Roeland Park definitely supports redevelopment in any of our sister cities,” Mayor Adrienne Foster told the Star’s Kevin Collison. “What we do not support is when our Number 1 sales tax generator, Walmart, is removed from our city in order for another city’s development to move forward.”

 

No sale at Intrust Bank Arena

Imagine the surprise Friday morning when SMG and Sedgwick County officials learned that someone had put Intrust Bank Arena up for sale on LoopNet, a popular commercial real estate marketing web site.

For a quarter on the dollar – $47.2 million, far less than the arena’s $200 million price tag.

“I’m absolutely flabbergasted,” said Ron Holt, assistant Sedgwick County manager, when he learned about the listing Friday morning.

And A.J. Boleski, the manager of the arena for SMG, was even less amused.

Boleski called the man who placed the ad, Florida businessman Delawrence Blue, and asked the listing be taken down. By noon Friday, it was gone.

Contacted by the Eagle Friday morning, Blue never offered a concrete explanation for the sales listing.

But he did admit that he wasn’t trying to sell the arena. His goal: A professional basketball franchise in Wichita in the wake of the National Basketball Association lockout.

Blue said he wanted to place franchises in Wichita, Pittsburgh, Las Vegas, Seattle, Hato Rey, Puerto Rico and Sunrise, Fla., populating them with ex-players like former Philadelphia 76ers star Allen Iverson.

Two rubs: Blue said he has no ownership groups and no arenas, but he expressed a preference for working with SMG.

Boleski, on the other hand, said he’s never heard of Blue or the league. He said that Blue told him he chose SMG because the company puts square footages and other key arena information on its website.

A strange episode for a Friday morning.

“It’s just bizarre,” Boleski said.

How long will aviation be a Wichita mainstay?

The August edition of Money magazine contains a fairly significant plug for Wichita: The city ranks 14th on the magazine’s list of most affordable housing markets.

There’s a lot of truth to that. Home-buyers will always get more for their money in Wichita than on the coasts

But … the reason why sounds a lot more like yesterday than today, sadly:

“Today, aircraft manufacturing is an economic mainstay, with Learjet, Cessna and Hawker Beechcraft all based in town, while Boeing and Airbus maintain facilities … Those industries offer well-paying jobs, which is reflected in Wichita’s high median income.”

At least for the time being, eh?

Read more on this story in Tuesday’s Business Today.

Here we go again

After Tuesday’s breaking news that Hawker Beechcraft has been searching for “alternate locations,” I was pretty certain that the blowback from the local residential real estate industry wouldn’t take long.

I hate being right.

Sure enough, a message arrived this morning from a residential broker concerned – and rightfully so, I might add – about the impact Hawker’s destabilized Wichita presence will have on the Wichita housing market.

The message was concise: Please quit reporting about Hawker’s deliberations because it will hurt the Wichita housing market. The implications are clear and, quite frankly, accurate: When Wichita loses jobs, buyers become cautious and homes don’t sell.

It’s not the first time that the residential crowd has cast a wary eye toward the messengers down here at the Worldwide Businessplex. As home sales plummeted over the past two years, it was suggested frequently that we stop reporting those numbers. One industry e-mailer even suggested that we falsify them because we were “killing my business.”

We don’t want to kill anyone’s business. But friends, we’re in the business of reporting the ups – and downs – of Wichita’s business climate. Sadly, when a major airplane builder begins casting its eye to other locations, it’s news.

I would MUCH rather write about skyrocketing home sales. But when they fall, we’re going to write about that, too.

The Hawker news is troubling, for sure. But as more than one residential broker has told me over the years, “We’re Wichita. We’re resilient. We’ll bounce back.”

Keep the faith.

Tell your statistics to shut up

There’s an old Peanuts cartoon with the beleaguered Charlie Brown on the baseball field, absorbing another beating. One of the characters begins quoting a line of statistics, and is told, “Tell your statistics to shut up.”

Nice analogy on how numbers can say whatever you want them to say, a subject that’s been bouncing around the newsroom as we weigh how to best report the highs and lows of the Wichita housing market.

There’s a different set of numbers out there called “pending home sales,” or sales gone to contract. The National Association of Realtors produces a Pending Home Sales Index, and trumpets it as a “leading indicator of housing market activity.”

Check this link for NAR’s definition of a pending home sale.

The pending sale numbers first reared their heads down here at the Eagleland Businessplex last year as the Wichita housing market began its slide downward from record levels. It came as a small portion of the local residential industry began to implore the Eagle to put a more positive spin on the declining monthly home sales numbers.

Today, a year later, we tend to look at the pending sales numbers this way: A contract is not a sale until the deal closes. NAR states in its link that it believes 80 percent of all pending sales close; after some anecdotal checking locally, agents and brokers put that number at 65 to 70 percent in Wichita.

Thus, we’re not inclined to attach much value to a “pending home sale” report. If the deal closes, it’ll show up in the Wichita numbers a month or two later. But I’m interested in your feedback. Let me know what you think about the pending home sale as a reliable measure of real estate activity.

Think housing has bottomed? Not so fast, my friend

It’s everywhere in the media: The U.S. housing market has bottomed out. The worst is over.

Well, with apologies to Lee Corso, not so fast, my friend, as this AP story from the last week indicates.

Excellent analysis, and it fits well with a growing fear among Wichita brokers and agents: Sales may bottom again if the government doesn’t renew or expand its tax credit program for homebuyers.

We’ve talked a lot about the fundamental strengths of the Wichita market – pricing, inventory, values.

But, I have my doubts that this market is ready to breathe on its own.

Your thoughts?

Getting out of Dodge, in Kansas City

Here’s one of the more interesting Internet real estate stories I’ve seen lately – as much for the bizarre analogy it begins with as the fact that Kansas City is the leader in abandoned cities in the country.

I guess that when you consider the number of deadbeats that Todd Haley and Scott Pioli are shipping out of KC, the top slot is a lofty perch that should only be solidified over the next few months.

Oh, to be Brian Waters’ realtor …

Home buyers: Go see your friendly (government) lender

Government-backed home loans have reached 36 percent, the highest figure since 1990 as borrowers confronted with tight private lending have nowhere else to turn, as this Bloomberg article points out.

That’s up almost 10 percent from June 2008, according to the article.

Real estate pain shifting?

A couple of Reuters real estate stories indicate the pain of the economic downturn may be shifting.

A British analyst says commercial real estate prices fell by double digits in the first quarter.

And a second calls today’s National Association of Realtors housing sales report for April an indication that the market has bottomed out and the recession is ending.

The second story is overly optimistic in the eyes of Wichita’s residential brokers and analysts, who say the local market has a long way to go to recover.

And no recovery is likely until job security increases in the Wichita area.

Layoff insurance rears its head in home sales

I’m surprised it’s taken this long for someone to take the auto industry’s “buyer reassurance” plan and translate it into the homebuying industry, but it has:

LifeStyle Builders and Developers, Inc., a Richmond based homebuilder, has announced a new job loss mortgage protection program, Mortgage Guardian. Under this program, if a homeowner becomes involuntarily unemployed, $1,500 of their mortgage will be covered for up to six months.

“For anyone who has even thought about buying a new home, now really is the best time to take action. There is a large selection of available inventory, and prices are at an all-time value. However, with today’s economic climate, many people are hesitant to take that step towards home ownership. We hope that our Mortgage Guardian program will ease the stress and concern about possible job loss, and give homebuyers the confidence to take advantage of today’s great real estate deals.” said Lloyd Poe, owner of LifeStyle Builders.

LifeStyle Builders’ Mortgage Guardian offers coverage for 12 months from the closing date, and a maximum benefit of $1,500 per month, in cash, payable to the homeowner, for up to six months. An additional feature is a $10,000 Accidental Death Benefit. LifeStyle Builders will automatically include Mortgage Guardian with all contracts written after May 1 at no cost to the new homeowner.

Since analysts and brokers agree that declining consumer confidence is the biggest challenge before the Wichita housing market, it shouldn’t be long before a homebuilder duplicates this program here.