Stewart Title merges Nevada offices

Stewart Title merges Nevada offices
Stewart Title continues to tinker with its national footprint.

The title giant recently combined its two Northern Nevada divisions – Legacy Division and Western Division. Legacy was previously Capital Title, and Western was formerly Western Title Company — the latter Nevada’s sixth-oldest company, which was acquired in a purchase of 57 title offices from ET Investments in September 2020.

Together, the combined Stewart Nevada divisions have more than 120 employees.

“We are proud to combine all of our assets to continue to help Nevada property owners with all of their purchase, sale, and refinance needs,” said Sylvia Smith-Turk, division president of Stewart Title in Northern Nevada. “Rest assured, we remain a local company with a steadfast commitment to property owners and our communities in Northern Nevada.”

In addition to its Nevada moves, the company announced earlier this month it acquired Arizona-based Thomas Title & Escrow, a full-service commercial title company. Thomas Title also has offices in Texas, the Stewart group said in a Friday press release.

“Thomas has a strong reputation and a national presence that complements our current operations and creates a market-leader in commercial services,” said Steve Lessack, Stewart group president. “The Thomas name signifies high quality service and customer experience, which makes them a natural fit for us. Since last year, we have targeted investments in markets and people that will build upon our current foundation and better serve customers nationwide.”

Fred Eppinger, Stewart CEO, said that the acquisition is part of the company’s strategy to expand its national commercial presence.

“This acquisition continues to show our commitment to investing in improving scale and competitive position in priority markets and services,” Eppinger said. “With recent acquisitions like Thomas Title, we are adding capabilities and scale that help us create a seamless end-to-end experience in all of our business lines.”

Stewart also recently acquired Cloudvirga, a leading fintech company that powers digital mortgages through its retail and wholesale point-of-sale systems. Ten of country’s top 40 mortgage lenders use Cloudvirga.
The post Stewart Title merges Nevada offices appeared first on HousingWire.

Lennar execs confident building boom will not end soon

Lennar execs confident building boom will not end soon
“These are the best of times,” declared Stuart Miller, chairman of the board for Lennar Thursday. And the homebuilder’s quarterly financial performance backs up what Miller is talking about.

Lennar, best known for producing homes for the middle class, reported $831 million in net income for the months of March, April and May, a 61% increase from the same three months in 2020, which coincided with the pandemic’s onset. Miami-headquartered Lennar made $1.8 billion overall for the first six months of its fiscal year.

The business reported $6.4 billion in revenue for most recent last fiscal quarter, a 30% year-over-year increase.

And Lennar completed construction of a company record 14,493 homes in the past three months, while starting construction on 17,157 abodes.

How long will the good times roll?

By one metric, things could get even better as Lennar could reduce costs. Sky-high lumber prices, which added on average $36,000 to the cost of a home per the National Association of Homebuilders, have finally declined. Lumber futures are down to $1,009 per board feet compared to $1,711 one month ago, according to a Wall Street Journal story published this week.

The trend will provide “some limited relief on lumber costs with July starts and the downward trend holds more significant relief with August starts,” Jon Jaffe, co-CEO of Lennar, said on the call.

Despite the drop in wood costs, Lennar executives said they’re cautious with ramping up with building, due to overall concerns with the material supply chain. With uncertain delivery of materials and high demand, Lennar is “Choosing to sell homes later in the construction cycle to increase margins,” said co-CEO Rick Beckwitt.

The second most prolific homebuilder in the country behind D.R. Horton, the median Lennar home sold for $413,000 in the past quarter. Though the company’s homes are in the market’s middle, Lennar has also targeted expensive areas with housing shortages, for example partnering with luxury builders in San Francisco and Los Angeles.

The one area of Lennar’s business not getting results is its investment in Opendoor, the San Francisco-based instant homebuying platform.

The company’s balance sheet noted a $234 million mark to market loss in the past quarter from a stake in Opendoor, which has lost money and even seen dwindling revenue during the present housing boom.

Nonetheless, Lennar brass repeatedly talked up their investment Thursday.  

“The iBuyer proposition is more compelling,” Miller said, as the “fragile dance” of the traditional home purchase process, “Becomes frustrated by delays.”
The post Lennar execs confident building boom will not end soon appeared first on HousingWire.

New home sales fall due to low inventory and high prices

New home sales fall due to low inventory and high prices
Mortgage applications for new home purchases fell 9% month-over-month in May at a seasonally unadjusted pace ― the second consecutive month sales of new homes have dropped, according to data released Thursday by the Mortgage Bankers Association. Compared to May of last year, MBA’s Builder Application Survey (BAS) revealed purchases are down 5.9%.

On a seasonally adjusted basis, the MBA also estimates new home sales fell at an annualized pace of 4% in May, said Joel Kan, MBA’s associate vice president of economic and industry forecasting. Overall, the MBA estimates new single-family home sales were running at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 741,000 units in May 2021. 

“Since reaching a survey-high 927,000 units in October 2020, the annual pace of new home sales has now fallen around 20 percent, weighed down by low housing inventory and rising prices,” said Kan

Lack of inventory and sweltering home prices have become a market norm for much of the industry, and May’s loan size data reported the trend has yet to abate. According to the BAS, the average loan size rose from $377,434 in April to $384,000 in May ―the fourth consecutive month of rising loan sizes and a new survey high.

By product type, conventional loans made up 743.9% of loan applications, FHA loans composed 14.8%, RHS/USDA loans cam in around 0.9% and VA loans provided 10.4%. 

“Loan balances continue to rise because of a larger share of sales in the higher end of the market, as well as increased sales prices from strong demand and elevated building material costs,” said Kan.

Roughly 54% of homes sold in America during May closed at over listing price, according to data from Redfin, a record.

Housing starts data from the U.S. Census Bureau on Wednesday painted a more hopeful picture of builders catching up to meet new home sales demand. According to the data, housing starts increased 3.6% in May to a rate of 1.57 million. That’s more than 50% above above the May 2020 rate — when the COVID-19 pandemic was at its height in the country — of 1.05 million.

However, construction is still facing headwinds given permits for new developments by homebuilders dropped 3%, largely because lumber and building material costs kept prices high.

“Permits for new construction are typically a forward-looking indicator of new starts, and the homebuilding industry continues to grapple with increasing materials costs and delayed deliveries from suppliers,” said Kan.

MBA’s BAS uses data from builders’ application volume and estimates the sales ahead of the official new home sales the U.S. Censes Bureau releases each month.  In that data, new home sales are recorded at contract signing, which typically occurs with the mortgage application. The official May home sales report is scheduled to release Wednesday, June 23.

The post New home sales fall due to low inventory and high prices appeared first on HousingWire.

Home prices still rising in Phoenix, Austin, Sacramento

Home prices still rising in Phoenix, Austin, Sacramento
Phoenix, Austin, Sacramento, Las Vegas and Miami reported the biggest increase in home prices in May, according to a recent report from Redfin.

Home prices in Austin were up 42.4% year over year in May to $470,000, the biggest increase of the 88 largest U.S. metros. Phoenix, with a 33.3% gain to $400,000, had the second-biggest annual price increase in the U.S., and Sacramento had the fifth-biggest increase. 

Prices in Las Vegas (up 18.4% to $355,000) and Miami (up 24.3% to $409,000) also saw significant year-over-year increases.

“People moving into Phoenix from California, Oregon, Washington and even the Midwest are flooding the market, depleting inventory and pushing up prices,” said Vincent Shook, a Redfin agent based in Phoenix. “So many people can work remotely from anywhere in the country, so they started looking at Arizona versus a place like Los Angeles or Seattle and thought, why stay in such a high-priced market when I can get a larger home in Phoenix for a lower price?”

Nationwide, 31.4% of users looked to move to a different metro area in April and May — roughly the same share Redfin saw in the first quarter and up from 27% from a year earlier.

How 2020 is still shaping the way lenders use data

The Radian HPI is a comprehensive and timely measure of U.S. housing market prices and conditions, and is available just 15 days after each month ends. Using the Radian HPI, data is easy to digest and deriving insights is intuitive.

Presented by: Radian

A homebuyer could purchase three homes in Austin for the price of one home in San Francisco, or two homes in Phoenix for the price of one in Los Angeles, according to Daryl Fairweather, Redfin chief economist. In San Francisco, the typical home sold for $1.54 million in May, up 2.8% from last year.

“Though prices are growing comparatively slowly in San Francisco, the price difference is still staggering,” Fairweather said. “The typical home in San Francisco sold for $1,070,000 more than the typical home in Austin in May. Even though homes in popular destinations are much more expensive than they were a year ago, it’s still well worth it for many people to leave expensive coastal cities in favor of inland metros. That’s especially true if they’re working remotely and keeping the same salary.”

In Los Angeles, the top origin for people relocating to Phoenix and Las Vegas, prices are rising so much that the home-price gap is widening. The typical home in Los Angeles sold for $815,000 in May (up 28.3% year over year), $415,000 more than the typical home in Phoenix.

To date, more than 4,500 homes in Austin have sold for between $25,000 and $99,999 above asking price. Homes are staying on the market an average of 24 days in the Lone Star state capital. In all, nearly 74% of Austin homes sold above their asking price in April, and the metro had the nation’s highest price growth that month.

Phoenix has been a hot spot for movers for years. In fact, over the past 10 years, Arizona has enjoyed the ninth-largest population increase in the past 10 years, up 11.8% from 2010, per a recent U.S. Census report. In 2020, approximately 20% of all Americans moved — and Arizona was the seventh-most popular destination of those movers.

Californians, specifically, have been moving to Nevada in droves since 2017. Low taxes, plenty of sunshine and ample living space are certainly draws for movers looking to escape the financial squeeze of more expensive states.

“Many people look at this surge we’ve been seeing in local home prices and home sales over the past five or six months and say these conditions are defying logic,” said Thomas Blanchard, the most recent president of the Greater Las Vegas Association of Realtors and managing broker for Signature Real Estate Group. “But if you look more closely, you can see that historically low mortgage interest rates and pent-up demand have a lot to do with it.”
The post Home prices still rising in Phoenix, Austin, Sacramento appeared first on HousingWire.

Creating clients for life in a hot purchase market

Creating clients for life in a hot purchase market
Despite rising home prices and a supply crunch, the purchase market is still wildly hot. In light of that, HousingWire sat down with Peter Paglia, Chief Strategy Officer at HomeBinder, to discuss how to create a “Client for Life” in this environment.

HousingWire: As the refi boom simmers down, why should lenders focus on creating clients for life?

Peter Paglia: The Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) predicts purchase volume will set a new record in 2021, hitting $1.67 trillion for a projected growth of 16.4%.  Setting purchase borrowers up to be clients for life creates a competitive edge that will help capture market share as refinance volume slows. Lenders are well aware of the fact that switching from a refinance-driven market to a purchase-driven one requires meaningful differentiation.  The brilliance of HomeBinder’s client for life approach is that it fully engages real estate agents as well.  As the industry migrates to focusing on purchase volume, originators will look to rekindle their relationships with key real estate agents. HomeBinder offers a new innovative tool for the real estate agent as well.  This means originators have a differentiator that is compelling for both the homebuyer and the real estate agent, so it actually creates a double win.

HW: What are some actionable ways they can do so?

PP: Creating a genuine client for life requires consistent and compelling engagement throughout the journey of homeownership.  This is not a simple proposition in today’s volatile environment where we are not only still grappling with the remnants of the pandemic and concerns over future impact, but are also faced with a rapidly changing borrower demographic.  Today’s homebuyer expects immediate, yet personalized, communication that is available on any device 24/7. Having the capacity to reach out to prospective homebuyers in a manner that meets these expectations is a necessity.  The originator’s call to action, therefore, involves a proactive, innovative approach to building relationships that delivers a long-term personalized form of engagement, HomeBinder.

HW: What are the key challenges lenders face when it comes to forming lasting customer relationships?

PP: One of the pivotal obstacles to forming borrower relationships with duration is prioritization. Despite intensive efforts by the industry to move to more customer-centric business approaches, including mandates by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) requiring lenders to ensure consumer protection, industry efforts to serve the customer often wind up on the back burner.  Not for lack of effort, however, resource restrictions, regulatory burden, and rapidly evolving technology, not to mention pandemic impact, often take precedence.  This conundrum frequently results in the purchase of large platform automation that in the end typically delivers watered-down, generic forms of engagement and access to information, providing little and diminishing value over time to the homebuyer.

HW: How does HomeBinder help lenders establish Clients for Life?

PP: HomeBinder provides a centralized and automated home management platform designed for the journey of homeownership. Delivering valuable information and actionable events that repetitively engage the homeowner, HomeBinder enables an ongoing relationship with the client that naturally evolves without requiring minimal intervention from the lender.  The platform itself is branded to the lender yet remains available through the life of the property, fostering significant longevity that keeps the lender top of mind.  Additionally, HomeBinder creates a unique collaboration amongst the various professionals that regularly interact with homebuyers, from the real estate agent to the home inspector, to the home insurer and beyond.

The HomeBinder platform is only available from the lender or other industry providers, creating a sense of exclusivity.  The homebuyer receives the binder in the form of a gift, offering robust maintenance and home valuation tools that are event-driven and informative. They are able to digitally store household documents, have access to information and actions on how and when to maintain areas of the home, as well as search for trusted professionals referred by authorized partners or other homeowners in their local area.  With proven technology and an offering that is highly relevant for today’s homeowner, HomeBinder legitimately creates a valuable client for life.
The post Creating clients for life in a hot purchase market appeared first on HousingWire.

Spruce raises $60 million in Series C funding

Spruce raises million in Series C funding
Spruce announced a $60 million Series C funding round led by Zigg Capital. Existing investors, including Bessemer Venture Partners and Scale Venture Partners, also participated. Read on for more details.

Title Alliance launches new support division

Title Alliance launches new support division
Title Alliance, Ltd., announced its new national title and escrow support division, which will provide administrative services across the Title Alliance family. Read on for more.

Atlantic Bay processes 10,000 eClosings with DocMagic

Atlantic Bay processes 10,000 eClosings with DocMagic
Atlantic Bay Mortgage Group said it has processed more than 10,000 paperless eClosings through DocMagic’s Total eClose Platform, which includes eNote generation, eVault technology, and compliant document production. Read on for more.

Community Title Network opens additional Delaware office

Community Title Network opens additional Delaware office
An attorney with extensive experience in real estate closings will manage the third Delaware office for settlement operations for Ridgway Law Group and its affiliated title agency, Community Title Network. Read on for more.