Month: February 2011

Foreclosures make up 26% of home sales

Bank repossessions for home foreclosures are leveling off.

By Les Christie, February 24, 2011

 

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) — Home prices are down but sales are up, somewhat contradictory trends.

Home prices fell nearly 6% during the six months ended Dec. 31, sending values to their lowest levels in the post-bubble period, S&P/Case-Shiller reported on Tuesday. On Wednesday, the National Association of Realtors reported that sales of existing homes rose for the third straight month.

“At least it’s not a double whammy where both sales and prices are dropping,” said Stuart Hoffman, chief economist for PNC Financial Services Group. “Deals are getting done.”

That’s because 26% of all homes sold last year were foreclosures and short sales, according to a RealtyTrac report released on Thursday. That’s down slightly from 2009, but a jump compared to 2008.

Homes already foreclosed on and repossessed by banks, called REOs (real estate owned), sold for an average of 36% less than normal sales, RealtyTrac reported. Meanwhile, the discount for homes sold while they were still in the foreclosure process (short sales) was 15%.

“It’s like the post-holiday sales at Macy’s where they’re trying to clear out unwanted inventory,” said Anthony Sanders, a real estate professor at George Mason University.

Where the sales are

Nevada had the highest percentage of distressed sales of any state at 57%. That was, however, less than 2009, when 67% of sales there were foreclosures. In Arizona, 49% of sales were distressed properties; in California, 44%; and in Florida, 36%.

Foreclosed properties sold for the biggest discount — 50% off — in New Jersey.

These homes have attracted bargain hunters, including individuals or groups looking to buy and hold properties, according to Hoffman. They hope to buy at such a good price that they can rent out the properties and make a profit.

“These folks are cash investors who are going in and offering very low bids,” he said.

NAR reported that all-cash sales went up to 32% of the total, up from 26% a year earlier. It estimated the percentage of investor purchases hit 23%, up from 17% a year ago.

“Unprecedented levels of all-cash purchases — primarily of distressed homes sold at deep discounts — undoubtedly pulls the median price downward,” said NAR president, Ron Phipps.

These investment opportunities are not going away. Nearly 30% of mortgage borrowers are underwater on their loans, owing more than their homes are worth, according to Stan Humphries, chief economist for Zillow, the real estate web site.

These owners are very vulnerable to foreclosure so the number of distressed properties that will go on sale only the next year or two will probably remained high.

Changes at Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac could transform mortgage landscape

The Obama administration aims to phase out Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and to cut the FHA’s market share.

By Kenneth R. Harney LA Times

February 20, 2011

Reporting from Washington

Fixed 30-year mortgage rates in the 5% range? Minimum down payments below 5%? Jumbo-sized home loans for high-cost markets at regular interest rates? Kiss them goodbye — possibly sooner than you might guess.

Take a snapshot of today’s mortgage market conditions and frame it. It’s highly likely you’ll never see anything like these favorable combinations of rates and terms again. That’s the inescapable conclusion emerging from the Obama administration’s white paper on possible remedies for the two ailing giants of housing finance — Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac — along with events underway in the national economy.

The administration’s long-delayed housing report, released Feb. 11, drew a mix of catcalls and mild applause. Apartment developers praised the report’s emphasis on expanding opportunities for people to rent their housing as opposed to the idea that homeownership is something for everybody.

Big banks and their allies in Congress welcomed the prospect that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac — which together account for about 60% of the mortgage market but have cost taxpayers a net $150 billion in bailout money in the last three years — will be heading into oblivion. Consumer and real estate industry groups lamented the phase-out of Fannie and Freddie, both of which supplied steady streams of mortgage money for decades, their recent crashes notwithstanding.

The report offered not only options for Congress to consider in winding down the two companies but also recommendations on more immediate transition measures to achieve a smaller federal footprint in the mortgage market. Some of these transitional steps require no congressional approval, and therefore are likely to affect borrowers and home buyers in the months ahead. Factor these changes into your timing for any loan application or purchase you’re contemplating this year:

•Higher insurance fees on Federal Housing Administration mortgages — another quarter of a percentage point on annual premiums. That’s vitally important to consumers with moderate incomes and assets, especially in the African American and Hispanic communities where FHA loans are the dominant route to homeownership. The report also hints at a possible increase in minimum down payments for FHA loans — currently just 3.5% — but provided no specifics. Congressional approval would be required for any change.

•Significant reductions in maximum loan amounts later this year for both FHA and conventional loans eligible for purchase by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac, unless Congress votes to retain the current statutory $729,750 limit for high-cost areas before its expiration Oct. 1. Loans above each local market’s limit — whatever the reduced ceiling turns out to be — will be considered jumbos and will come with higher interest rates from private lenders.

•Raising the fees Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac charge lenders to guarantee pools of their mortgages for resale to bond investors. Lenders will automatically pass those on to borrowers as a cost of doing business. The report also calls for raising down payment requirements at Fannie and Freddie to 10%.

•Retaining the controversial and costly add-on fees charged by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac that can increase the expense of obtaining even a moderate-size mortgage by thousands of dollars. These add-ons extend to applicants with FICO credit scores of 800 and above who are making substantial down payments. The white paper actually applauded the imposition of these fees, calling them one of several first steps on the path to weaning consumers off reliance on Fannie and Freddie for mortgage money.

The administration not only wants to wind down the two companies over the coming several years but also to severely reduce the size of the FHA’s role — cutting its market share from around 30% today to as low as 10%. Where will the buyers who depend upon the FHA for affordable financing turn when that sharp cut has been accomplished? That’s not clear.

The white paper makes an oblique reference to a major issue bubbling on the back burner that could also push rates up: Regulators are debating what should be a “qualified residential mortgage” under the terms of last year’s financial reform legislation. Loans that aren’t qualified — in terms of down payment size and other criteria — will require extra investments by lenders when they pool them into bonds; that in turn could raise rates for nonqualified mortgages as much as 3 percentage points.

One proposal is to make 20% to 30% down payments the minimum to meet the qualified test. Under the worst-case scenario, you’ll be charged significantly higher rates if you have only enough for a small down payment.

Bottom line: Get ready to pay more for mortgages, no matter what happens to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

 

Home sales grow, aided by more stable prices

By Les Christie, February 10, 2011

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) — Home sales volume rose sharply in the final three months of 2010, aided by more stable prices on a year-over-year basis, a real estate industry group said Thursday.

Sales jumped 15.4% in the fourth quarter to an annual rate of 4.8 million units compared with 4.16 million a quarter earlier, the National Association of Realtors said.

Prices of single-family homes stabilized, rising 0.2% compared with 12 months earlier. The national median for homes sold during the period was $170,600.

“Home sales clearly recovered in the latter part of 2010, and are helping to absorb the inventory, including many distressed properties,” said Lawrence Yun, chief economist of the Realtors’ group.

Sales volume was particularly strong in the West region, up nearly 20% compared with the three months ended Sept. 30.

“A good portion of the sales activity in the West has been driven by investors taking advantage of discounted foreclosures, with high levels of all-cash transactions,” said Yun.

The number of sales fell nearly 20% nationally, however, compared with the same period in 2009, when the homebuyer’s tax credit was in effect.

“The tax credit clearly poached demand from the second half of 2010,” said Jonathan Miller, CEO of Miller Samuel, a New York-based appraiser. “It artificially stimulated sales in the first half and artificially lowered it in the second.”

Many housing market factors were favorable through the end of the year. Prices are very affordable for working families in most markets, interest rates are extremely low and bloated inventories offer a wide choice of properties.

The missing ingredient is a positive economic environment, specifically when it comes to hiring.

“An improving housing market and job growth will go hand in hand,” said Yun. “The housing recovery will mean faster job growth.”

He projects than a 300,000 increase in 2011 home sales will lead to the creation of about 150,000 to 200,000 jobs to the overall economy.

The survey revealed that single-family home prices held up better than those of condos. The national median for condos fell 6.4% compared with 12 months earlier, to $164,200. In some markets, condo prices have rarely been so affordable.

The median condo price in the Las Vegas metro area, for example, was just $60,700; in Phoenix, $68,900; and in Miami, $81,900. Reno, Nev., had the lowest condo prices in the nation, a median of $60,300.

As for single-family homes, Youngstown, Ohio, the old steel town struggling to find its way back into the modern economy, recorded a median of just $62,800 during the fourth quarter. That was a decline of nearly 14% from already bargain-basement prices a year earlier.

Toledo, Ohio at $74,500, Lansing, Mich. at $79,500, and South Bend, Ind. at $76,800 also recorded very low prices. Outside the Rust Belt, Ocala, Fla., was the lowest priced metro area at $80,200.

Honolulu had the highest single family home prices during the quarter, a median of $598,200. San Jose, Calif.’s median was $591,000 and San Francisco’s was $558,200.

California hopes to stave off foreclosures through Keep Your Home program

Feb 10, 2011 recordnet.com

LOS ANGELES (AP) — More than 100,000 struggling homeowners could get help from a $2 billion program that California is launching, including about 25,000 borrowers who owe more than their properties are worth and could see their mortgages shrink.

The Keep Your Home California program, which uses federal funds reserved for the 2008 rescue of the financial system, has the potential to make a sizable dent in California’s foreclosure crisis and help the general housing market. State officials hope to fend off foreclosure for about 95,000 borrowers and provide moving assistance to about 6,500 people who do lose their homes.

Consumer advocates have criticized other attempts at foreclosure prevention as falling short, particularly the Obama administration’s $75 billion program to help troubled borrowers. They were heartened by the scope of California’s effort but concerned it would be hampered if the state can’t get major banks on board.

Out of the five major mortgage servicers — Bank of America Corp., Wells Fargo & Co., JPMorgan Chase & Co., Ally Financial and Citigroup Inc. — only Ally has formally signed on to a key part of the plan: reducing mortgage principal on homes that are “underwater,” or worth less than the size of the mortgage. A Bank of America spokesman said the bank intends to participate but hasn’t yet reached a formal agreement with the California Housing Finance Agency, which designed the program.

Said Paul Leonard, California director for the Center for Responsible Lending, “Two billion dollars in total for the state to provide assistance to help borrowers avoid foreclosure is a substantial amount of money, and we hope that it will have some significant impacts in achieving its goals.

“Cal HFA went out of its way to meet the needs of the financial industry in terms of providing a generous incentive to get them to participate, and even after taking their extensive input into the design, the banks are still not stepping up to participate in what is really a critical element of the program.”

Preeti Vissa, community reinvestment director for the Greenlining Institute, called lender involvement “pretty dismal.”

“The key to this program is how much the banks are willing to participate and be flexible toward homeowners’ needs,” Vissa said.

The size of the Golden State’s foreclosure problem was underscored by data slated to be released Thursday, showing 15,893 California homes seized by big banks last month, the third-worst performance in the nation.

January’s tally was a 32 percent increase from the previous month, though still down 7 percent from January 2010, according to RealtyTrac of Irvine. Nationwide, lenders took back 78,133 properties in January, up 12 percent from the previous month but down 11 percent from January 2010.

“We are not out of the woods by a long shot,” said Rick Sharga, RealtyTrac senior vice president. “Economic factors are what are driving most foreclosures right now, and so the state’s economy being what it is, it doesn’t appear that there is going to be a near-term correction either.”

The state’s new program, which officials plan on detailing in Sacramento on Thursday, aims to address the two central issues facing California’s beleaguered housing market: the state’s stubborn joblessness problem and the massive number of underwater homeowners.

By keeping some cheap foreclosed properties from reaching the market, the program could give a boost to home values in general.

“If they can actually stave off foreclosures and the people stay in the homes, then that is a great thing for the market,” said Stan Humphries, chief economist at Zillow.com. “It would be great because the continuing flow of foreclosures on the marketplace exerts downward pressure on home prices, and it also creates more supply of inventory on the marketplace, so foreclosures are really a double whammy.”

The biggest of the plan’s four parts allocates $875 million as temporary financial help to people who have seen their paychecks cut or have lost their jobs, providing as much as $3,000 a month for six months to cover home payments and associated costs. The second-largest chunk of money, $790 million, is slated for a principal reduction program that would write down the value of an estimated 25,135 underwater mortgages.

Another piece would use $129 million to provide as much as $15,000 apiece to help homeowners get current on their mortgages, and another would take $32 million to provide moving assistance for people who can’t afford to remain in their homes.

The program is aimed at helping low- and moderate-income people who own only one property. To qualify in Los Angeles County, for instance, a family couldn’t earn more than $75,600 a year. The maximum benefit for any household participating in the program is $50,000. Homeowners who refinanced their homes to take cash out of their properties won’t be allowed to participate.

The principal-reduction component would pay lenders $1 for every dollar of mortgage debt forgiven. Many experts have said reducing principal on such underwater loans would go far toward reducing foreclosures because home values have fallen so steeply that homeowners are tempted to walk away from their obligations.

But banks have been reluctant to significantly reduce principal on loans other than on certain kinds of risky mortgages that are now seen as having been highly imprudent.

“You hear a lot of people calling for it, but there are not a lot of people in the mortgage industry who favor it,” said Guy Cecala, publisher of Inside Mortgage Finance. “There are a lot of issues around who deserves principal forgiveness.”

The nation’s largest mortgage investors, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, also aren’t taking part in the principal-reduction program. That’s not surprising, Cecala said, because the two are in government conservatorship and billions of taxpayer dollars already have been spent rescuing them.

Diane Richardson, director of legislation for the state’s housing finance agency, said she expects other lenders to join the principal-reduction program.

“We are continuing to have conversations with other lenders about coming on board,” she said. “So if somebody sees their lender, and it doesn’t show them participating, they shouldn’t assume that they won’t be.” Money will be reallocated to other parts of the program if it isn’t spent on principal reduction.

Even as the state struggles to get big lenders to sign on, the program has prompted complaints that it’s a giveaway to the banks. Critics have said that property values have fallen so steeply that much troubled mortgage debt is not worth what the banks would be paid. Foreclosures on the homes are so costly that the banks will come out ahead financially by writing down loan balances to keep borrowers in the homes, they contend.

 

Federal Housing Finance Agency backs off proposal to ban transfer fees

Many homeowner associations collect the fees when houses or condos are resold and use the revenue for community improvements or to build up reserves.

By Kenneth R. Harney, LA Times

February 13, 2011

Reporting from Washington

Thousands of homeowner associations and condominiums around the country just sidestepped a potentially costly problem: A federal agency this month backed off its controversial plan that would have made obtaining mortgages in their communities much more difficult, and would have dried up a key source of revenue that associations use to pay for improvements and property maintenance.

A proposal in August by the Federal Housing Finance Agency would have in effect banned the covenanted transfer fees that many homeowner associations collect when houses or condos are resold. The fees typically range from 0.25% to 0.75% of the resale price of the house. The revenue is then spent on such things as community improvements — upgrading roads, bike paths, recreation facilities — and building up required capital reserves.

The agency proposed banning the fees from all mortgages eligible for purchase by the major government-controlled enterprises it oversees — Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and the Federal Home Loan Banks. The same proposal also banned loans containing private transfer fees where the money flows not to community improvements but to investors seeking long-term revenue streams.

“This was a really big deal” to persuade the Federal Housing Finance Agency to reverse its position, said Cort Chalfant, senior vice president of Rancho Sahuarita, a master-planned community with 12,000 residents near Tucson.

Chalfant said the 0.75% transfer fee collected on resales in Rancho Sahuarita is spent on upgrading amenities and facilities. Without the fees, the association would have to raise its annual homeowner assessments dramatically — putting financial pressure on homeowners “at a lousy time [economically] to do that,” he added.

Chalfant estimates that if it had been adopted, the federal agency’s proposed rule would have cost the association $10 million over the coming decade, and would have decimated sales and property values since none of the houses would be eligible for conventional mortgages.

Peter Kristian, general manager of the Hilton Head Plantation Property Owners’ Assn., in Hilton Head, S.C., said the effect on his community of 4,100 homes would have been equally devastating. Kristian’s association raises roughly $250,000 to $300,000 a year for public-benefit improvements through 0.25% transfer fees on resales.

When the housing finance agency proposed its initial rule, it was critical of covenanted homeowner association transfer fees for being “unrelated to the value rendered,” and at times applying “even if the property’s value has significantly declined since the time the covenant was imposed.”

The proposal was also highly critical of investor-driven private transfer fee programs, such as one marketed by Freehold Capital Partners, a New York company that imposes 1% transfer fees on home resales for 99 years. The company says it has signed up thousands of development projects worth “hundreds of billions of dollars” around the country. The revenue streams created by Freehold’s private covenants are intended to flow to private participants in the program — the developers themselves, bond investors who provide capital upfront and others.

But the housing finance agency did not distinguish between homeowner associations’ public-benefit transfer fee programs and Freehold-type investor-driven, private-benefit variants in its proposed ban — all would have been prohibited.

Reaction from individual homeowner associations and groups representing them — primarily the 30,000-member Community Association Institute — was swift and intense. The institute polled its members and found that an estimated half of them — representing about 11 million houses, condos and cooperative units — rely on deed-based transfer fees. Owners of those homes would be cut off from most mortgage financing under the housing finance agency’s proposal, worsening the housing crisis that sent Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac into severe financial distress.

The agency’s revised proposal essentially says: Oops, sorry. We were a little too broad-brush the first time around. Now we get it, and we’ll exempt homeowner associations that use the proceeds of transfer fees to benefit the property or community. Purely investor-oriented programs such as Freehold’s, however, would still be barred.

Asked for comment, Bryan Cohen, Freehold’s general counsel, said this is “the wrong time to deprive the hard-hit construction sector” of the financial benefits available through a private transfer fee program.

Bottom line: If your house is one of the 11 million exempted from the latest proposal, you can probably breathe easy. The feds are not going to put you on a banned list.

On the other hand, if you’re thinking of buying into a community where the developer is offering lots or houses with investor-driven transfer fees, you could have a long-term problem. Get full disclosures and legal advice before signing up.

 

Fannie and Freddie phase-out plan due

By Ben Rooney, staff reporterFebruary 9, 2011

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) — The Obama administration will issue a proposal later this week recommending the gradual elimination of government-sponsored mortgage backers Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, a White House official said Wednesday.

The highly-anticipated “white paper,” which is expected to be released Friday, will include three different options for reducing the role government plays in the mortgage market, the official said.

While the paper would mark an important development in the debate over what to do with Fannie and Freddie, a final decision by Congress is not expected any time soon.

After being rescued by the government in 2008, Fannie and Freddie have presented a major conundrum for policymakers in Washington.

The problem is that phasing out the two publicly traded companies could raise borrowing costs for homeowners and jeopardize the fragile housing market.

At the same time, Fannie and Freddie represent a major liability for taxpayers, who are on the hook for about $150 billion in federal aid the two institutions have received.

The issue has become politically charged, with some Republicans blaming Fannie and Freddie for contributing to the recent housing bubble. Democrats argue that the institutions help promote home ownership, especially among low- and middle-income Americans.

Given the political challenges involved and the threat to the housing market, any winding-down of Fannie and Freddie is likely to take place over a period of years.

A representative for Fannie Mae declined comment. Freddie Mac representatives did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The three options in the administration’s white paper were outlined in published reports Wednesday.

The most conservative of the three options would involve no government role in the mortgage market beyond existing federal agencies, such as the Federal Housing Administration, according to the Wall Street Journal.

The two other options relate to the government’s place in the secondary mortgage market, previously filled by Fannie and Freddie. Under one option, the government would backstop mortgages during times of “market stress,” while the other recommends that the government be involved at all times.

In addition, officials could also reduce the maximum loan limit for mortgages that Fannie and Freddie are allowed to buy, and encourage them to raise the fees they charge banks to guarantee mortgages.

Other options that could be discussed in the white paper are gradual increases in the minimum down payments on government-backed loans, and an accelerated reduction in Fannie and Freddie’s loan portfolios.

 

Cash Buyers Lift Housing

Bargain Hunting Boosts Prices in Depressed Cities; Broader Asset Rebound Spreads
By S. MITRA KALITA
Buyers in markets around the U.S. are snapping up homes in all-cash deals, betting that prices are at or near bottom and breathing life into some of the nation’s most battered housing markets.

Cash buyers represented more than half of all transactions in the Miami-Fort Lauderdale area last year, according to an analysis from real-estate portal Zillow.com. In the fourth quarter of 2006, they represented just 13% of deals. Meanwhile, downtown Miami prices rose 15% in 2010 from a year earlier, according to the Miami Downtown Development Authority.

The percentage of buyers in Phoenix paying cash hit 42% in 2010—more than triple the rate in 2008, according to Raymond James’s equity research division.

Nationally, 28% of sales were all-cash transactions last year, according to the National Association of Realtors. The rate was 14% in October 2008, when the trade group began tracking the measure.

The jump in real-estate purchases made with cash is another sign of the revival of animal spirits in the U.S. economy.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 69.48 points Monday, or 0.6%, to 12161.63, and the Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index rose 8.18 points, or 0.6%, to 1319.05.

Monday’s announcements of $13 billion in acquisitions lifted stocks on hopes of more deals, share buybacks and dividends as companies regain momentum in an improving economy.

The two stock indexes have soared more than 80% since early March 2009.

The Federal Reserve reported that Americans increased their use of credit cards in December for the first time since August 2008, showing that consumers are getting less skittish about opening their wallets. Investors also were soothed Monday by encouraging signs in Egypt, including last weekend’s reopening of banks.

Residential real estate has been slower to bounce back than stocks, but the presence of apparent bargains is luring in newly confident buyers.

Richard Stoker, a retired sales executive, recently plunked down cash for two condominiums in Miami Beach, and plans to close on one more in coming days. He loves the complex’s ocean views, four swimming pools and activities such as yoga and Pilates.

But what also motivated the purchase, said the 73-year-old, was that “the prices were just irresistible. Florida’s been hit pretty hard.” To pay the $1.8 million, $1.2 million and $1 million prices on the condos, Mr. Stoker and his wife, Jane, cashed out of some financial investments and sold a Roy Lichtenstein painting and an Alexander Calder mobile.

Mr. Stoker could have taken out mortgages, but decided to pay cash. “It was a good time to lighten up in the art market and take on real estate at a favorable price,” he said.

The harder a market has been hit, say economists, the higher the percentage of cash deals. Last summer, piano teacher Virginia Hall-Busch told a real-estate agent she met through the Rotary Club to keep her posted on deals on historic houses in Stone Mountain, Ga.

A few days later, Ms. Hall-Busch, 62, got a call about a 1918 bungalow with three bedrooms and one bathroom listed for “short sale,” which in the real-estate world means at a price lower than what’s owed on it. The home had been on the market for $159,000, then dropped to $129,000 and then to $79,900.

“I offered them 50,” she said. “I figured, it wasn’t like I needed a place to live. I can afford to be a little cocky here.”

Ms. Hall-Busch closed in October for $52,500 and began renovations within weeks.

“When you have a bad economy, it’s hard on lots of people,” she said. “But right now if you’ve got the money to put down on a house, long term it’s going to be good thing.”

Some of the cash purchases reflect a tight lending environment, where even people with good credit and ample down payments are sometimes turned away for conventional borrowing.

“The rates are great but the underwriting is brutal,” said Henry Schlangen, an agent with real-estate firm Pacific Union International who buys and sells for clients, mainly in Napa Valley, Calif.

“They hang these people upside down and shake them till they see what falls out of their pockets. So people are buying with cash and maybe they’ll ‘refi’ later.”

Mr. Schlangen, who deals in higher-end properties such as vineyard estates, estimated that 95% of his deals last year were all-cash, up from about half in previous years. “The deals that are consummating, these are buyers who feel they got a great deal,” he said, noting a surge of buyers from China.

Cash buyers can often command 5% to 10% more off the asking price than a potential buyer using a mortgage, said Mohammed Siddiq, a real-estate professional in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Sellers prefer cash deals since they close more quickly and avoid risks such as a buyer’s job loss or a bank’s changing its mind.

And while many buyers making low-ball offers dig their heels, Mr. Siddiq said he has started to see bidding wars and slightly increasing prices.

Nationally, it isn’t clear whether prices have bottomed. The Case-Shiller index of housing prices in 20 cities showed a steep decline in prices until 2009, when they appeared to bottom and began to trend upward. But in the second half of last year, prices began falling again. A Zillow index, meanwhile, never noted the uptick.

Since mid-October, Canyon Ranch in Miami Beach, the development Mr. Stoker bought into, has sold 35 units, with a third of the buyers from overseas and many others retiring from the Northeast.

The Stokers have a home in Potomac, Md., but spend most of the year in Florida. Mr. Stoker doesn’t plan to rent out any of his new properties, saying he and his wife will live in one with two dogs, his son might live in another and the third will house an older dog and guests.