Davids’ Big Island Mauna Lani Real Estate

January 24, 2009

Home Valuation Code of Conduct: Buyers Take Notice

Filed under: General,Real Estate Information — David C. Swanson @ 7:02 pm

The Federal Government is attempting to regulate appraisers and mortgage lenders in 2009. How will new regulations affect Big Island buyers? Clearly, there are big changes ahead for the appraisal and mortgage industries. Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) Director James B. Lockhart has recently announced that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac will implement a revised Home Valuation Code of Conduct (HVCC) effective May 1, 2009.

The code is primarily directed at regulating banks and other mortgage lenders and promoting appraisal independence. Mortgage brokers and realtors will no longer be allowed to choose appraisers. Instead, the appraisers will be chosen by the lenders. In the case of lenders’ in-house appraisals, the loan-origination departments will not be allowed to influence the valuation process in any way.

According to Christopher Palmeri of Business Week, “The appraisal industry has justifiably come under fire for its role in the great housing bust. Property appraisals, required by lenders before a loan is made, are supposed to provide an independent assessment of the home’s value. But during the boom, appraisers routinely signed off on a doubling or tripling of home values, sometimes racked up in just a matter of months. Investment properties were appraised at prices that made no investment sense.”http://www.businessweek.com/bwdaily/dnflash/content/jan2009/db20090118_003174.htm?chan=top+news_top+news+index+-+temp_news+%2B+analysis

Palmeri continues, “The new rules only apply to loans bought by or guaranteed by Fannie and Freddie. Lenders who operate independently of those channels do not have to follow them. But since Fannie and Freddie buy or guarantee a huge share of all U.S. mortgages, the changes should have wide application.”

Most professional appraisers strongly disapprove of the HVCC. They fear that the independent appraisers who have always depended on referrals from mortgage brokers will be forced out of business. They believe the HVCC will compel mortgage brokers and banks to hire a new appraisal workforce for independent appraisals, or to use the services of large appraisal management companies (AMCs).

AMCs are a dirty word in today’s appraisal industry. George Dodd, an appraiser based in Virginia, says “the most experienced appraisers (will be) the hardest hit” by the new code “because of our unwillingness to sacrifice integrity and quality by doing business” with management firms [AMCs]. Rather than work for peanuts, Dodd said, “I can flip burgers at McDs for more.” http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/01/09/AR2009010901920.html

AMCs are notorious for demanding that appraisers perform their work for half the usual fee, while at the same time charging lenders and borrowers more for the appraisal. This has a negative impact on the quality of the appraisal as individual appraisers might try to compensate for their lost income by performing a higher volume of appraisals.

Proponents of the HVCC believe that it will hold the appraisal industry to a higher standard and protect the appraisal process against inappropriate influence and coercion. They argue that the impact on appraisers will be minimal and positive. AMCs are mentioned several times throughout the HVCC, in that AMCs are prohibited from pressuring appraisers to reach pre-determined values.

The National Association of Mortgage Brokers and appraisers’ trade organizations have plans to appeal to Congress and Fannie and Freddie regulators to reverse certain aspects of the code, for instance, the code’s ban on broker selection of appraisers. Four of the five federal bank regulators have called for the withdrawal of the HVCC, stating that it could contribute to a greater incidence of inaccurate real estate appraisals and consumer credit problems.

How does all this affect mortgage borrowers? One commonly voiced concern against the HVCC is that the use of less experienced or non-local appraisers could arbitrarily deflate property values further, forcing buyers to come up with larger down payments, creating difficulties with refinancing, and ultimately leading to a higher risk for foreclosures or short-sale contracts. An overvalued appraisal can have severe consequences for a homeowner later on if they have to sell or decide to refinance, and then learn that they owe more for their property than it’s worth.

With the upcoming May legislation and regulations, what is the future? The US government will hold lenders, banks and appraisers in a tighter grip. Will the real estate buyer be more protected or less so? It will be interesting to see how this all unfolds. How do you see it?

January 14, 2009

David’s Big Island Real Estate, Humpback Whales and other Musings

Filed under: General,Humpback Whales — David C. Swanson @ 6:14 pm

The Big Island is beloved for its dramatic natural beauty, diverse eco-climate and rich culture and history. Yet, it remains the least discovered of all the Hawaiian Islands. Visitors and residents usually have their special favorites that include—splendid sunsets falling into the glorious Pacific Ocean; the pristine beaches, both public and “hidden,” along the Kona Coast; ubiquitous rainbows; the enchanting and mysterious Hawaii Volcanoes National Park; Mauna Kea’s Onizuka Visitor’s Center for some of the best stargazing in the world; viewing or hiking into the breathtaking valleys of Waipio, Waimanu and Pololu; the heavenly Hamakua Coast and sleepy Hilo town on the Windward side; swimming with wild spinner dolphins in Kealakekua Bay; the warm springs and black beaches of Puna; the historic City of Refuge (Pu`uhonua o Honaunau); and, the wide ranges and pastoral landscapes of Paniolo Country, just to name a few.

The humpback whales are at the top of my own “Appreciation List” for the Big Island. Whenever I am near the coastline during the months of their seasonal migration, my eyes are peeled for these colossal creatures. I never tire watching them blowing geysers and frolicking, flipping and splashing their tails with the utmost freedom and joy of expression. Communing with whales, even at a distance, is always a heartwarming experience because whales are intelligent beings with whom we share our very delicate and sacred planet. They often remind me to lighten up after an especially stressful day…oh yes, we have those in Paradise, too!

From October until May, the waters of Hawaii are visited by over 1000 humpback whales that have migrated to the warm waters of Hawaii from as far north as the Aleutian Islands of Alaska, as far east as Glacier Bay and as far south as the Farallon Islands off the coast of central California. These humpback whales come to the warm waters of Hawaii where they breed, calve and nurse their young.

This 3500-mile journey from their summer feeding areas takes between one and two months. It ensures that pregnant females and mothers with new-born calves spend the majority of their time in the relatively warm waters of Hawaii. Humpback calves are both conceived and born near the Hawaiian Islands. (The gestation period for the female is between 10-12 months.) http://animals.nationalgeographic.com/animals/mammals/humpback-whale.html

What is a Humpback Whale?

The humpback whale is the fifth largest of the world’s great whales. In 1781, a German naturalist named Borowski gave it the scientific name of Megaptera novaeangliae, which means “Big-Winged New Englander,” referring to the size of the whale’s huge tail fins and the fact that it was once widely sighted off the coast of New England. The more common English name of “humpback” appears to come from the animal’s tendency to round its back when diving.

The humpback whale is grayish-black, blue-black to dark black in color, with pale to white undersides that can show black markings that are varied according to the individual whale. It is with these markings, and particularly those found on the tail, that individual whales can be identified and the population and migratory patterns recorded. 

A humpback whale also has flippers (or pectoral fins) which are located on each side of its body. These flippers are used to turn and steer. Whales are mammals, and these fins are actually modified forelimbs with a bone structure similar to that of the human hand and arm.  

When born, calves weigh an average of 3000 pounds and range from 10-16 feet in length. They can grow to between 40-52 feet in length, with the females being slightly larger than the males. A fully grown humpback weighs approximately one ton per foot, or about 84,000 to 90,000 pounds, on average. Researchers believe humpbacks live between 40-60 years: http://www.imagequest3d.com/photos/humpbackwhale/index.htm

Why should we as realtors need to know more about the humpbacks? Well, factual knowledge is what our clients want! Along with real property, we sell the Hawaiian lifestyle to our clients—the sizzle that goes with the steak! Our clients often want to learn about our eco-systems and the cultural history of the islands, and the whales are one very important symbol and a favorite fixture of our marine landscape.

Realtors are the most trusted resource for real estate information. Especially during this market correction when some of us have a bit more free time than usual, we owe it to ourselves to become “expert” guides to Big Island living. You might want to go out and take a tour yourself: http://www.gohawaii.com/big_island

For those interested in taking a whale watching cruise, check out: http://www.tombarefoot.com/hawaii/whales_bigi.html

For me its balmy airs are always blowing, its summer seas flashing in the sun; the pulsing of its surf is in my ear; I can see its garlanded crags, its leaping cascades, its plumy palms drowsing by the shore, its remote summits floating like islands above the cloud-rack; I can feel the spirit of its woody solitudes, I hear the splashing of the brooks; in my nostrils still lives the breath of flowers that perished twenty years ago.
~Mark Twain, a Biography 

January 13, 2009

David Swanson 2009 Predictions: “Escrow or Bust!”

Filed under: Real Estate Information — David C. Swanson @ 9:53 am

Although everyone had high hopes that the 2008 U.S. housing market would have a soft landing, increased foreclosures and a meltdown of the residential mortgage market caused the housing sector to crash-land. Even worse, the residential mortgage crisis spread to all ownership categories, including our blessed Aloha State. The year 2008 proved to be a real roller-coaster ride for the Hawai’i real estate industry.

While the credit crunch and economic uncertainty have caused investor anxiety and tighter lending standards, the end result was nearly 30% fewer Hawaii real estate transactions than the previous year. Many potential buyers saw their investments evaporate in the global financial crisis, and buying decisions came to an abrupt halt. Many were scared to move forward. “Let’s wait and see what happens,” seemed to be the typical slogan of our prospects. Almost every active Hawai’i licensed real estate agent or broker has some story to share about deals gone bust. 

Some pundits theorize that we are in a buyer’s market under the current market conditions. Is it really a good time for buyers? The answer may be that only time will tell…but, if one of your clients is a consumer who is financially and emotionally ready, certain current conditions are favorable.

Many of our prospects are looking for the best deal. Some are still waiting for the bottom of the market to hit. Resale prices have been moderately moving downward, and buyers have more leverage and more options. After what can only be described as the toughest year for the American housing market in decades, the big question remains, “When does this all begin to turn around in our Hawaiian Islands?”

Hawai’i entered a recession in recent months that will stretch well into 2009, with only a weak recovery expected in 2010, according to the latest in a series of forecasts on the state’s economic outlook. The report released by University of Hawai’i Economic Research Organization is the most recent and gloomiest of economic prognoses published this week:

Carl Bonham, UHERO executive director, had this to say, “From the analysis we’ve done, Hawai’i's already in recession. We’re predicting that things are going to remain bad through the third quarter of next year.”

Moreover, individual forecasters vary in their opinions about how deep the downturn may be. For example, Bank of Hawaii’s forecast calls for visitor arrivals to decline by 0.2 percent next year. Their forecast suggests that a significant recovery won’t begin until 2010. The outlook includes:

· Visitor arrivals will fall by 10.8 percent this year. Hawai’i had 7.27 million visitors last year; each percentage point decline this year represents roughly 73,700 arrivals.

· The biggest decline in vacationers will occur among mainland tourists. UHERO said their visits will be off by 14.2 percent this year. Japan vacationers will be off by 9.8 percent.

Does this information lead to any conclusions or predictions about whether our current active licensed real estate agents and brokers on the Big Island can make a go of it? First, it might be helpful to assess how many active licensed agents are competing for the market share. I have heard many casual rumors that there are 20% fewer active licensed agents and brokers. The truth is perhaps slightly different:

Data from DCCA, REC 2008 Final Report, www.dcca.com/rec shows that the number of new licenses issued in FY 2008 decreased 9% over the prior fiscal year. During FY 2008, 1910 new licenses were issued. Individual broker licenses decreased by 21.1%; new salesperson licenses decreased by 6.9%; and new entity licenses decreased by 9.8%.The overall number of current real estate licenses increased 9.7% by the end of FY 2008. In FY 2008, active licenses increased 2% over last year, while inactive licenses increased 31.1%. There was an 8.9% increase of active licenses of Molokai and a 3.4% increase of active licenses on Oahu. On the islands of Hawaii and Kauai, there were minimal decreases in the number of active licenses.  

Do questions keep coming up at your brokerage office weekly sales meetings as to how you plan to survive and make a living selling real estate? The MLS Sales Statistics Report for the January start shows the entire island in all categories down 82.88% in number of sales, down 93.18% sales volume, and down 74.44% median sales prices.

Are we and our buyers waiting for January 20th for President-Elect Obama’s inauguration to spring-load the economy and drive the housing market out of the downturn?  Don’t take this the wrong way. I promote and envision a new optimism for all of us with the new Presidential administration. For now, I still wake up at night wondering what it will take to change the consumer’s thinking from, “Maybe I could be a buyer someday,”  to “Now really is the right time for me to own a piece of paradise.”

I believe in the power of positive thinking, a mental attitude that expects and thus helps to create good outcomes in all endeavors. The idea is that whatever the mind expects, it finds. My wife and I were discussing a way to creatively visualize buyers opening escrows. The acronym ESCROW came to me: Excellent Service Can Restore Our Wealth.” This mantra reminds me to stay focused on personal and professional self-improvement strategies that will allow me to give the best possible service to my clients.

Will 2009 be a year of “escrow or bust” for you? Please share your comments and thoughts about how to achieve success in a recession economy.

Attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference

~Winston Churchill

January 10, 2009

Mauna Lani Resort-Maybe Some Things You Didn’t Know?

Filed under: Updates — David C. Swanson @ 4:46 pm

I am writing my first, and God forbid, not my last blog. As any beginner, I am excited and also have mixed emotions, as I am anxious to get off on the right foot. I’ve been reading and commenting on blogs for years, but now my head’s the one on the chopping block.

That being said, I wanted to get my feet wet by sharing some factual data that you may or may not know about the Mauna Lani Bay Resort.  It’s always good to refresh one’s memory with useful information to impart to clients, friends, and family members.  As licensed agents, we usually have a great deal of knowledge to offer.  So here goes.

The Mauna Lani Resort sits oceanfront on the finest stretch of shoreline on the Kohala Coast of the Big Island of Hawai’i. Located 23 miles north of the Kona International Airport, this oceanfront resort features the luxurious Mauna Lani Bay Hotel & Bungalows, Mauna Lani Spa and the Francis H. I’i Brown Golf Courses. www.maunalani.com

Here are a few interesting tidbits that reflect why Mauna Lani Bay Resort stands way above most resort destination properties? Pay attention, as this information just may help you win your next game of Hawaiian Trivial Pursuit:

  • CONDÉ NAST TRAVELER Gold List, Best Places in the World to Stay: Mauna Lani Bay Hotel and Bungalows is ranked in the Top 10 in Hawaii and #2 on the Big Island of Hawaii, Jan 2009.
  • 2009 TRAVEL + LEISURE – The World’s Best Hotels Mauna Lani Bay Hotel and Bungalows is ranked #2 on the Big Island and #8 in Hawaii by Travel + Leisure magazine’s T + L 500 List, Jan 2009.
  • 2009 GOLF WORLD TOP 50 and 2009 Reader’s Choice Award: Golf World unveils its first “Best Golf Facilities in the Country.”

Mauna Lani Bay Resort has been named one of the”World’s Top Earth Friendly Getaways” by Conde Nast Traveler magazine and is the only beach resort in the United States named in the collection.  Mauna Lani’s solar energy innovations have earned the resort the distinction of generating the most solar electric power of any luxury resort in the world. Go green!

Did you know that the golf water system for Mauna Lani Resort’s Francis H. I’i Brown Golf Courses pumps more than 3 million gallons of brackish water per day and waters 38 golf holes? During peak hours ,a large amount of the electricity required by the golf operation is provided by solar power. These solar systems spare the environment from thousands of tons of harmful emissions (NOx, SOx and CO2).

Condé Nast Traveler also recognized Mauna Lani Resort’s green sea turtle program as an eco-tourism attraction. Since 1989, in collaboration with Oahu’s Sea Life Park by Dolphin Discovery, Mauna Lani Resort has raised juvenile honus (turtles) in its saltwater ponds until they are large enough to be released in the wild.

Mauna Lani was also the recipient of the Green Business Award from the Chamber of Commerce of Hawaii, the Hawaii Hotel Association, the Hawaii Department of Business Economic Development and Tourism, and the Hawaii Department of Health. The resort also won the Keep It Hawaii Kahili Award for their Kalahuipua‘a Fishponds in the category of Historic Preservation.

Well, there you have it; enough news to keep your brains working.  I have noticed that buyers do want to know why one resort property is better than another. For instance, Mauna Kea Resort has been getting much of the news  releases  lately with their December 2008 soft reopening after renovations for damages from the October 2006 earthquake: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/blogs/hawaii/detail?&entry_id=33536

Final thoughts: Many opinions and emotions exist about 2009 real estate futures in Hawaii and on the mainland.  The state of the economy is forcing most novice investors out of the market due to the perceived dangers.  Savvy investors are picking up properties which they want to own for the long term.  During any recession, the key to investing is managing risk. Warren Buffet lives by his words, “Be fearful when people are greedy and greedy when people are fearful.” Stay tuned for David’s 2009 Big Island Predictions in my next post, “Escrow or Bust”!

Thanks for your interest. Comments are welcome!



January 9, 2009

Aloha from David in Paradise….

Filed under: Updates — David C. Swanson @ 5:26 pm

Aloha and welcome to my new blog, part of the Aloha Living Blog Network. I am very excited to be blogging for my first leap into the blog world.  I trust you too will look forward to my sharing with you both a professional and personal perspective on real estate on the Kohala Coast on the Big Island.