covington-farmers-marketThe Covington Farmer’s Market

When: Every Saturday, 8:00am – 12:00pm (noon)
Saturday Dates in May, 2013

May 4, 2013
May 11, 2013
May 18, 2013
May 25, 2013

Where: Downtown Covington, 600 Block of N. Columbia Street, Covington, Louisiana 70433

What: Click Here for More Information.

covington-farmers-marketThe Covington Farmer’s Market

When: Every Wednesday, 10:00am – 2:00pm
Wednesday Dates in May, 2013

May 1, 2013
May 8, 2013
May 15, 2013
May 22, 2013
May 29, 2013

Where: The Covington Trailhead, 419 N. New Hampshire, Covington, Louisiana 70433

What: Click Here for More Information.

By Masako Hirsch, The Times-Picayune
on May 23, 2010 at 6:33 AM

A sealed-bid auction on foreclosed property in the Bedico Creek subdivision in western St. Tammany Parish will be held in November. Few of the 25 or so homes are occupied and only a small portion of the 900 acre tract built around a golf course is developed. Wednesday, October 22, 2008, photos.

Two years ago, a Madisonville subdivision called Bedico Creek folded while still under development, leaving homes half-finished and lots choked with tall grasses. Now, another developer has purchased the community and plans to revitalize it.

David Waltemath, a local developer whose former work includes English Turn Golf and Country Club and Lakewood Estates, bought Bedico Creek from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation and closed on the deal last week. Waltemath said he bought the subdivision because it was an “incredible opportunity at an incredible price,” although the price remains undisclosed.

Construction in Bedico Creek came to a halt in 2008 after the bank seized more than 900 acres from then-developer George McClure. McClure sold lots to home builders, who were to build houses on them. But those builders said McClure never installed basic utility services, built the stately entrance he promised or developed the golf course.

While real estate markets around the country have endured waves of foreclosures in recent years, the 900-lot Bedico Creek community became one of the few examples in Louisiana of a subdivision to suffer a hard fall.

But Waltemath said he thinks the perception of Bedico Creek can turn around quickly, especially based on his finances.

“They were straddled with debt, and we have zero debt,” he said.

In addition, Waltemath said he plans to change the identity of the subdivision. Although Bedico Creek was originally billed as a golf and country club, Waltemath said he will not revive work on the golf course, which was already halfway completed by the time construction stopped.

“No. 1 is, I don’t think golf courses work,” Waltemath said. “There are too many golf courses in our area, and a lot of them are in trouble. We’ve got too many other distractions.”

Waltemath added that there are not as many golfers in the area as there are in places such as California or Florida.

“The numbers didn’t make sense,” Waltemath said.

Instead, Waltemath said he plans to develop the area into parks and walking trails. Golf courses, Waltemath said, are for an “exclusive few,” but green space can be used by everyone in the community.

“No other communities have that,” Waltemath said. “That is going to make us special.”

Ron Lee, president of Ron Lee Homes and the St. Tammany-Washington Parishes Home Builders Association, said he is looking forward to the work. Lee said he believes there is a demand for the type of houses offered in Bedico Creek.

“We’re excited for what they have planned,” Lee said. “Immediately, you’re going to see changes there.”

Lee is also a builder in the subdivision and described it in its current state as a “black eye in the community.”

“What I’ve had to deal with is sitting on land that is not worth what we paid for it. We haven’t been able to move the property,” Lee said. “We hear people talking negatively about it, and I understand. We have to change the perception in the minds of the general public.”

Chris Inman, president of Coldwell Banker TEC in Mandeville, said it will take time before Bedico Creek can get over its past.

“There’s going to be a lot of skepticism before people jump in,” Inman said.

Yet Waltemath has an excellent reputation as a developer, Inman said. “If anyone can do the job right, it’s him,” he said.

Even so, the entire area is facing an oversupply of houses and a lack of demand. This, Inman noted, may prove problematic for Bedico Creek as it has for other developments, since the issue has dragged on for several years.

“I’ve never seen anything like this,” Inman said.

Waltemath, however, is looking at long-term plans for the subdivision for when the market returns.

He said the unfortunate circumstances under which he bought the development have given it the chance to become better.

“It’s going to bring tremendous value to future buyers,” Waltemath said.

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The nation’s housing industry and the economy have just about seen the worst of the painful downturn that greatly intensified since last September’s turmoil in the financial markets, according to economists speaking on April 23 at NAHB’s Construction Forecast Conference.

And despite a continuation of rising unemployment well into next year, although at a slowing pace, housing in this year’s second half is expected to begin gradually leading the economy to higher ground, they said.

“There’s a lot of skepticism out there. This is a very deep hole we’re in,” acknowledged NAHB Chief Economist David Crowe. But he said thereare several reasons to believe that “the housing recession is nearing an end and housing will return on a very slow basis.”

Crowe said that new single-family home sales probably reached their trough in the first quarter of this year, hitting a record low of 320,000 on a seasonally adjusted annual basis, down from about 1.2 million at their peak.

Sales for 2009 are projected to total 364,000, he said, 24% below the 2008 level, and then climb 48% next year to 539,000.

The onset of a recovery in single-family housing starts should trail closely behind sales, with production hitting its cyclical low in the current business quarter at an annual rate of 330,000.

About 360,000 single-family homes are expected to be started this year, he said, a 42% decline from 2008, which will be followed by a 45% rise to 523,000 units in 2010.

Battered even more severely than single-family builders by the shrinking availability of acquisition, development and construction (AD&C) financing, multifamily starts are not expected to show signs of recovery until next year, bottoming out in the third or fourth quarter at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 110,000, he said.

According to NAHB’s forecast, multifamily production will total 130,000 units this year, which would be 55% below last year’s level, and slow 3% further in 2010, to a total of 126,000 units.

Crowe indicated that housing markets are now struggling in all parts of the country as the result of the deepening slump in the overall economy and job losses that have escalated to above the 600,000 level in recent months.

However, he said, prime conventional conforming home mortgage interest rates, which are now at a generational low of roughly 4.75% — along with low home prices and the $8,000 first-time home buyer tax credit — have greatly improved housing affordability, generating a notable increase in prospective home buyer traffic that should begin translating into a pickup in sales.

Moving forward, the housing market should derive strength from pent-up demand and demographics, which hold the potential for strong household growth. Annual household formations are forecasted to average 1.532 million for the period of 2009 to 2013, compared to an average of 1.247 during 2004 to 2008. Providing “an extra push” will be the echo boom generation, the children of the post-World War II baby boom, the oldest of which are now in their late 20s, he said.

Following a 6.3% decline in real growth in the gross domestic product in the fourth quarter of 2008, the worst since the early 1980s, deterioration in this year’s first quarter should be almost as bad, Crowe said, with a drop in GDP of about 5.2%. The current quarter should show that “some of the worst is past,” he said, with a decline in growth of perhaps something just above 1%, demonstrating that consumers are slowly coming back to life and paving the way for a return to positive territory in the following quarters.

Housing a Leading Indicator

“It’s not going to be much of a recovery at all, but some recovery is better than no recovery,” said Maury Harris, managing director and chief U.S. economist at UBS Investment Bank.

As a result of the massive fiscal stimulus package that is now making its way through the economy, a gradually waning credit crunch and the nation’s household savings rate stabilizing at a higher level, Harris said he was projecting 2% positive GDP grown in this year’s third quarter, followed by 2.5% growth in the fourth quarter and 2.2% growth in 2010.

Harris said that the unemployment rate should peak at 9.3% in the fourth quarter of this year before subsiding gradually in 2010, but “you can get a turnaround in housing before employment improvement.” Unemployment typically continues to rise for a period of time after the economy returns to growth.

“Housing is a leading indicator,” he said. “Sales turn up before unemployment peaks….You don’t have to get a big share of the population enthusiastic [about buying a home] before there is a housing upturn.”

He added that all of the major housing price indexes are overstating the decline in the value of housing. The Case Shiller House Price Index, for example, “which gets all the attention,” now has prices on average down 28% from their peak and is likely to hit bottom at the end of the year showing a 33% erosion. The index, however, is “skewed to areas with a lot of foreclosures,” he said.

Sales transaction indexes aren’t providing an accurate picture of “what’s really happening to real estate wealth,” he said, because 45% of existing home sales currently are foreclosures that are not typical of the existing housing stock.

Harris forecasted 530,000 total housing starts this year, followed by production of 720,000 units next year, but he said there was a risk that the AD&C credit crunch, particularly among smaller builders, could result in lower numbers if lending fails to sufficiently ease.

The credit crunch won’t end overnight, he said, “but it is a question of degree and starts to be ameliorated.” UBS analysis of bank lending standards, based on data from the Federal Reserve’s Senior Loan Office Opinion Survey, showed that the share of banks tightening standards on business and household loans started declining early this year, although tightening continued to be more pervasive than at any point in the last two recessions.

Harris added that he was in disagreement with those who forecast that further increases in household savings rates this year will prolong the recession. The savings rate climbed from roughly 0% in 2008 to under 5% now, he said, and “if it goes up to 10% to 11%, kiss the recovery goodbye this year.”

Although savings rose to that level in bad recessions 25 to 30 years ago, he said, “people already have saved more money” and savings will average 6% this year because low interest rates are not especially encouraging and, despite setbacks, Americans continue to have sizable amounts of wealth in their housing and financial holdings.

A Transition to Better Times

“We’ve been through a tough time. It’s been exacerbated by the credit markets shutting down and turning the lights out,” said James Glassman, senior economist for JP Morgan Chase. But by this fall there will be general confidence “that we’re on the road to recovery and the tide is turning.”

Working to stabilize the economy is the fiscal response from the federal government, which he called “appropriate” and “bold,” along with efforts by the Federal Reserve focused on promoting the flow of credit back into the credit markets.

Glassman said there is reason to be hopeful the economy is now moving into a transitional period because “it was blanketed by storms that are now passing.”

A doubling in oil prices between the summers of 2007 and 2008 shifted $2.5 trillion from consumers to producers, slowing down the economy of every developed country by 1% to 2%, he said. Now, although “there is nothing good going on” for consumers, it looks like consumer spending was up in the first quarter, he said, and that can be attributed to the recent collapse in oil prices, which represents a $300 billion annual benefit to consumers.

The “debacle in the housing market” also appears to be passing, he said. Housing prices are no longer inflated and have returned to their normal levels in relation to household income. Glassman added that he was skeptical that there will be much more downward correction in housing prices.

“The minute prices are within reach, people begin to think differently about housing,” he said. “As things become more affordable, people want to own.”

With credit beginning to return, some pent-up consumer demand is being released, he said.

Glassman said that current fiscal and monetary policies to stimulate the economy are not inflationary at a time when joblessness is far higher than it should be and inflation is too low.

He noted that it will take some time to reduce the existing slack in the economy, and “we need a lot of growth to claw our way back to full employment.”

Photos by Morris Semiatin

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Buying a new home can be a stressful BUT WONDERFUL experience – there is so much to think about such as budgeting, location, and all of the extras to accommodate you and your family. After all, buying a new home is not something you do very often. A house not only represents where you live; it also serves a place for you and your spouse to build a family, make memories and call home. So in order to help you in the process of buying the right home, here are a few simple tips to keep in mind before making your selection.

1. Create A Budget – Before you begin looking for a home, it is a smart idea to create budget. It is important to know your income versus your monthly expenses to make sure you do not purchase a home that is out of your price range. A budget will help you to discover what sort of payment you can afford on a monthly basis and still allow you to live comfortably. Creating a budget will help you to stay stress free and will allow you to love your home instead of stressing out about making monthly payments.

2. Get Pre-Qualified – Getting pre-qualified for a mortgage is the next important step. The mortgage company you with whom you choose to do business will give you an idea of what you will be able to borrow from a bank, and will give you an idea of what price range to stay in when looking for a home. If you are unable to get pre-qualified for a certain home price, at least you won’t waste time looking in that price range when you are unable to buy.

3. Create A Wish List – Creating a wish list of you and your family’s needs will make sure you choose the right home to accommodate your family. Decide what is important in finding a home – such as a pool, yard space, bedroom size and number, and the number of bathrooms. Deciding the area in which to live is also important. For example do you want to live near schools, parks, shopping, restaurants, and etc.? A wish list will help you narrow down your home search, so you are not wasting time looking for homes that will not suit your lifestyle.

4. Hire a Realtor – With so many home choices finding one on your own may be overwhelming. Hiring a realtor can help narrow your search. A Realtor’s® job is to show you homes that meet your needs and lifestyle and can eliminate you from looking at homes that are not right for you. Realtors® can also help to negotiate if you find the perfect home but the cost is a bit too high.

5. Create A Journal – While viewing homes it is smart to keep a walk-through journal about your experiences of each home you visit. Creating a journal including positive and negative points of each home helps you to weigh your options. A smart idea is to create a check list or rating list including all of the things you listed in your wish list then rating these features for each home you view. The homes with the highest scores are the ones you may want to consider viewing again before making your decision.

Finding your home should be a fun experience – by following these tips you can experience the true joy of buying a new home in St. Tammany Parish. Finding your perfect home may be just around the corner so Happy House Hunting! If you would like more information about searching for existing homes please visit our Homes for Sale page to find homes ready to purchase from Hearthstone Homes by Ron Lee and Ron Lee Homes.  You can also call us at (985) 626-7619 or e-mail us at info@ronleehomes.com.

Buying your second home is a little different than your first home buying experience. The last thing you want is to have to pay two mortgage notes at the same time. You also don’t want to sell your current home and not a have a new home to move into. The following information is to help you achieve a smooth transition between selling your currently owned home and buying a new home.

Making minor improvements to your existing home to look more appealing to potential buyers is an easy way to help you sell your home faster. These improvements don’t have to cost a large amount of money; simple things such as new paint on the walls or new carpeting can make a big difference to potential buyers. It also helps to ensure that you get asking price for your home. Improvements may seem like an unnecessary cost now, but in the long run these improvements will pay off.

Before you even begin to look for a new home, it is very important that you get pre-qualified for a mortgage. The cost of pre-qualification free and requires no obligation to purchase. The benefit of getting pre-qualified is that you will know what homes you can afford and which ones are out of your price range.

The best way to avoid having to pay two mortgages at once is to buy your new home after your current home is sold. This will eliminate you from feeling pressured into selling your home at a below market value just to get rid of it. Be sure to add a contingency clause to your contract that will give you a reasonable amount of time to move out of your home, so you are not scrambling to find a new place to live.

If your home is not selling as fast as you would like, consider temporarily renting out your current home and then trying to sell it later. A way to avoid this dilemma is to find a Realtor® that offers a guaranteed sale, “trade-up” program. This program guarantees the sale of your present home before you take possession of a new one. In other words, if you find a new home you would like to buy and have not sold your current home, the agent will buy the home from you so that you can make the move without the burden.

At Ron Lee Homes and Hearthstone Homes by Ron Lee, our team of experts will work with you to see how you may best make the transition from your current home to a new home or a new custom home with our company.  Our financial experts and home designers are here to make your home buying and selling experience a happy and worry-free process.  You can Contact Us Directly or Call 985-626-7619 and e-mail info@ronleehomes.com for more information.

The following are links to useful information from government agencies and NAHB that will enable you to monitor the housing market.

To access the latest information available, simply click the links.

Housing starts, sales and interest rate projections through 2009.

Contains current and historical data on fixed and adjustable mortgage rates. Updated weekly.

Highlights the latest data on new-home characteristics released by the U.S. Census Department. Includes links to the complete Census report and other trends researched by NAHB.

Additional breakouts of this data and other trends researched by NAHB are available at www.nahb.org/constructionstats under “Selected Characteristics of New Housing” (dated 4/3/2008).

Housing Starts
Updated monthly and based on a seasonally adjusted annual rate.
New and Existing Home Sales
Updated monthly and based on a seasonally adjusted annual rate.
New and Existing Single-Family Median Home Prices Updated monthly.
Home Price Index
The index measures average home appreciation in more than 250 metropolitan markets. Updated quarterly.
Metro Home Building Permits
Local and state data on housing construction rates. Updated monthly.
Employment Trends for Metro/State Markets
Provides metro and state employment data nationwide. Updated monthly.
Local Economic Impact of Housing
Shows how building 100 homes benefits a typical metropolitan area.
Home Building’s Direct Impact on the Economy
Housing’s Contribution to Gross State Product
Measures how much housing contributes to the economic output of each state.
Housing Market Statistics from HousingEconomics.com
Full array of statistical categories available to NAHB members, a limited number available to non-members.
In-Depth Analysis from HousingEconomics.com
Full array of analysis of factors affecting housing and the impact on the industry available to NAHB members, a limited number available to non-members.

Information Taken From HTA (Home Technology Alliance) Update from the NAHB (National Association of Home Builders) – http://www.nahbmonday.com/hometech/issues/2009-02-18/10.html.

The following are links to useful information about home sales and financing.

Loan Remodification
We are experts at working with banks to successfully modify the terms of your current mortgage loan.

Economists forecast that Louisiana will show growth and stability, while most of the other states show losses during this national recession period.

The United States will experience “a relatively shallow national recession lasting about one year, “ and during that time, Louisiana will have near level job growth in 2009 and a gain of 28,400 jobs in 2010 according to the Louisiana Economic Outlook.

(Report submitted in October, 2008 by LSU Economist Loren Scott, James A. Richardson, M. Dek Terell of LSU, E. J. Ourso College of Business)

According to the report, Louisiana has avoided problems in the housing crisis because the state’s banking industry did not get into the sub-prime loans that helped stall bank-to-bank lending.  Also, housing prices have not been artificially elevated in the state, thereby creating a housing bubble that burst in states like California, Florida and Nevada.

Investing in Real Estate is Historically One of the Safest Financial Investments.

Even in down markets, over the long term home prices still appreciate more than the stock market.  Homeownership can help you build long-term wealth.  On average, the value of a home nearly doubles every 10 years.  In fact, over the past three decades, home values have increased an average of more than 6% per year.*

(*figures obtained from the National Association of Realtors)

Interest Rates are Low.  Loans and Tax Credits are Available.  Selections are Great!

Because of the cool-down in the national real estate market, interest rates have been lowered to encourage activity.  Louisiana’s banks and lenders have available cash to loan to home buyers with good credit.  At the same time, qualified, first-time buyers can receive a $7,500 federal tax credit for a limited time.

Good Selection, Tax Credit, Low Interest Rates, & Loans Available – What is Stopping YOU from Buying a New Home Today?

If you would like to build or buy a new home, now IS a great time to do it in Louisiana.  Take advantage of the financial stability of the state’s housing market in these uncertain economic times.  You can benefit from knowing the facts.

Visit www.LAhomeownership.com for more information.

Why Purchase a New Home?

Buying a new home is one of the smartest purchases you can ever make.

1. Tax Implications: One of the main reasons is that homeownership has many positive tax implications. Because of changes to the tax code passed in 1997, these tax implications are much more favorable for most homeowners today than in the past. Additionally, first time buyers also benefit from a special provision which allow them to withdraw up to $10,000.00 from their IRA accounts if the money is used for a downpayment on a home – penalty free.

2. Warranties: New homes usually come with a one-year warranty on workmanship and materials. Under the Louisiana Home Owners Warranty Law, new homes are also warranted for two years for mechanical (heating/cooling, electrical, etc.) and five years for structural/foundation. New homes also include manufacturers’ warranties on appliances, heating/cooling units and many others.

3. Low Maintenance Costs: New homes come with everything new, including appliances, carpeting and other features. People who buy older homes could find themselves paying for maintenance, repair and replacement from the day they move in. And most new homes come with siding, windows and trim that require little maintenance, saving their owners much hassle and expense.

4. Energy Efficient: New homes consume half as much energy as homes built prior to 1980. New homes have better windows, better heating and cooling equipment, better air filtration systems and better insulation. Energy efficiency benefits the environment, your health and your wallet.

5. Safety Features: Better heating systems, built-in smoke detectors, better equipped electrical power systems and better wiring systems all decrease the risk of fire in a new home. And new homes come with features such as safety glass, that reduces the risk of injury.

6. Low and Simplified Financing Opportunities: There is a broad range of affordable financing options.

7. Low Interest Rates: In 2002, interest rates are lower than ever. There was never a better chance than now to get the best “bang for your buck”. Affording your dream home is now easier than ever before.

8. Value: New homes have a long life expectancy; therefore, they have higher appraisal and more favorable resale values than older homes.

9. Health: Much has been learned about the health risks of certain home building products in recent years. For example,
asbestos and lead have been eliminated in building materials. New systems for controlling radon gas where it is a problem can now be installed.

10. Others: Home Site Selection, Light-enhancing and spacious floor plan options, a choice of interior and exterior finishing, amenities galore and size are just a few other pluses to add to this list.  But more than anything, the pride of new home ownership should really be at the top of this list. Purchasing a new home is the single largest investment most people will make in their entire life. Take your time to look at all of the selections, consider all of your financing options, decide on your location preference and then make your move into your new home and enjoy!