Report: Rochester housing market fully recovered –

Report: Rochester housing market fully recovered

by: Velvet Spicer

Rochester’s housing market has recovered nicely since the Great Recession, a new report from shows., an online publisher of mortgage and consumer loan information, ranked 100 housing markets nationwide by analyzing the Federal Housing Finance Agency’s Home Price Index as a basis to determine which markets have fully recovered and which lag the recovery.

Since the last recession, Rochester’s housing market has recovered fully and is nearly 11 percent higher than its peak HPI value of 140.25 during the housing boom.

The HPI data series began in 1991 with a base of 100. So, if Rochester’s average home price was $100,000 in 1990, for example, that would be the basis for a score of 100. Each annual increase or decrease in median home values would be reflected in an increase or decrease in the base score.

The U.S. Census Bureau reported the median value of owner-occupied housing units in the Rochester metro area was $138,900 in 2015. reported the Las Vegas metro area has the largest recovery gap. The region’s housing market is nearly 41 percent lower than its peak value during the housing boom.

The Denver metro area has made the most progress in housing values since the Great Recession; the region is more than 60 percent higher than at its HPI peak during the housing boom.

The Buffalo metro area made the nation’s top 10 with a more than 28 percent increase over its peak housing boom HPI.

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What the Fed rate hike means for homebuyers –

What the Fed rate hike means for homebuyers

by: Kathryn Vasel

It’s a tough market for homebuyers. Prices are high and supply of available homes is low.

And while the Federal Reserve’s rate hike could make home buying more expensive, house hunters shouldn’t start panicking yet.

 The Fed increased its benchmark interest rate by one-quarter of a percentage point on Wednesday.

The Fed doesn’t directly set mortgage rates, but its actions can affect the housing market.

Mortgage rates tend to move with the government’s 10-year Treasury note, which serves as a benchmark for many forms of credit, including mortgages. Interest rates on the notes have already risen since Donald Trump was elected president and on signals the Fed would continue to tighten monetary policy.

But Wednesday’s hike was widely expected, meaning the markets had already priced it in. So many experts don’t see rates moving much higher in the coming weeks.

“The last couple of times the Fed made a move, the rates firmed up in advance of the decision, and when it happened they kind of faded,” said Keith Gumbinger , vice president of

The Fed has now raised rates three times since the end of 2015. Following the first hike in December 2015, mortgage rates started 2016 with a drop for the first few weeks.

Related: Why it takes years to save for a down payment

Plus, rates are still relatively low, and many experts don’t expect them to rise above 5% this year.

Last week, the average rate of a 30-year fixed mortgage climbed to 4.21% — a 2017 high. A year ago, it was 3.68%.

At the current interest rate, buyers will pay $57 more per month compared to a year ago, assuming a $235,000 price tag and a 20% down payment.

That might not be a deal breaker for many buyers, but it could hurt those shopping in more expensive neighborhoods, or those right on the margin of being able to afford a home.

“That is going to create a bit of sticker shock for some buyers looking to buy this spring,” said Len Kiefer, deputy chief economist at Freddie Mac. He expects rates to stay around 4.25% to 4.30% this buying season.

Calculate: How much house can you afford?

Right now, the Central Bank is expected to raise rates three times this year, but if its actions become more aggressive, it could bring a sharper upswing in mortgage rates.

And it’s not just the Fed that can influence mortgage rates.

“The global economic picture is a little warmer and things are pretty good. Markets aren’t just reacting to what the Fed is doing, but the prospects of the rest of the world as well,” said Gumbinger.

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Proposed Batavia apartment project would aid program for veterans graduating transitional housing –

Proposed Batavia apartment project would aid program for veterans graduating transitional housing

by: Jim Krencik

BATAVIA — A residential project revealed Tuesday would add another level of support for veterans seeking stability in Genesee County.

The project is a partnership between Home Leasing and Eagle Star Housing.

The Rochester housing developer and manager intends to construct a four-story, 55-unit apartment building at 552, 554 and 556 East Main Street in Batavia, according to an introductory sketch provided to the City of Batavia Planning and Development Committee.

A quarter of the $12 million facility’s units — which are projected as a mix of studios, one-bedroom and two-bedroom apartments — would be set aside for veterans who are “graduating” from Eagle Star’s transitional housing apartments.

Eagle Star Executive Director Zach Fuller said the project is a first for his organization, which in Pembroke serves up to 16 veterans in the early stages of their recovery from homelessness and unstable living conditions. Fuller believes the proposed project would offer a permanent housing option and access to veterans services in a supportive environment.

“A lot of the guys come into a situation where they need housing that is clean, safe, and to be honest, with other veterans,” Fuller said. “The veterans pick each other up and being with other veterans helps them get through their hardships in their recovery to full integration back into society.

“Our transitional facility (in Pembroke) is at about 90 percent occupancy,” he continued. “The guys coming in from Buffalo and Bath and Genesee County love Batavia. They want to stay here but they need safe, affordable housing. We feel that with Home Leasing, we can make this happen for them.”

Officials from Home Leasing, the firm behind a redevelopment of the old Holley High School, said they would not begin construction until at least 2018. Financing from the state’s Office of Homes and Community Renewal and site plan approval are still in early stages.

At first blush, the planning and development committee supported the mission laid out, but were far less sold on the proposed design.

The targeted property sits nearly across the street from DePaul’s Batavia Apartment Treatment Program. It is currently three homes that Home Leasing is purchasing, with the proposed project a completely new build.

Tuesday’s presentation was an informal discussion, Bob Bringley of Marathon Engineering said before showing a concept drawing and a potential interior layout.

Under the initial pitch, the 1.2-acre site would narrowly fit the facility — which is to the east of an envisioned combined parcel and oriented facing the west. Fifty-nine parking spaces would run along the west and southern sides in an L.

Bringley said the proposal would need variances for the parking levels and setbacks from East Main Street and a property to the east. The four-story design is allowed in the commercial zone with a special use permit, Codes Enforcement Officer Doug Randall told the committee, but they favored a scaled-down building.

“It seems to be a little intense, not really compatible to the neighborhood,” said committee member Ed Flynn, who recommended downsizing the project and changing the look and placement of the structure. “It’s a little over the top … it’s square, it looks like a hotel, a DoubleTree.”

The design also featured balconies for many of the units, raised gardens and a gazebo. Inside, developers said there would be community spaces, fully accessible apartments for handicapped residents and a laundry facility.

It would be ideal for a downtown project, the committee told Home Leasing to murmurs from city officials and residents who stayed after an earlier discussion about the City Centre site.

Adam Driscoll, a development manager for Home Leasing, said the East Main Street site was chosen after other options within the city were deemed unsuitable. Some had wetlands, or weren’t properly zoned.

Attempts to expand the proposed site to a larger acreage have been unsuccessful as of now, but the developers see enough room to realize their vision.

“Ideally, we were hoping for more units,” said Driscoll, who noted the proposed size is near the minimum Home Leasing targets for sites with a full-time, on-site manager. “We’re trying to make this work as best as possible for the demographics and for us as a developer.”

“We’re very proud of what we do,” he added. “We’re mission-based and we care about the community and our neighbors … we want to accommodate the veterans to be able to stay in the area.”

A preliminary market study for the project identified a primary market area within Genesee County, roughly an oval pulled toward Pembroke but largely in Batavia and surrounding towns.

Driscoll and Megan Houppert, a development manager at Home Leasing, said the rental costs for 31 non-veteran one-bedroom apartments are targeted at individuals and families with incomes at 60 percent of the county’s $64,900 average median income.

The project would also include eight two-bedroom units priced at around $850 a month for residents at 60 to 90 percent of the AMI.

“It’s housing for about 11 percent of the population that’s out here,” Houppert said, similar to Conifer’s proposal phase II project on West Main Street Road and the DePaul project proposed further down East Main Street. Both have been factored into the market analysis.

Developers said after the meeting they intend to keep pursuing the project while considering the committee’s recommendations.

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Shopping for a home? You better act fast –

Shopping for a home? You better act fast

by: Diana Olick

If you’re out shopping for a home this weekend, bring your checkbook.

There may still be ice on the ground in much of the nation, but the spring housing market is the hottest it’s been in a decade. Consumer sentiment in both the economy and the housing market is rising and that is translating into strong demand from homebuyers. The trouble is, the supply of homes for sale is incredibly weak and getting weaker. What is for sale is selling fast.

The typical home that sold last month went under contract in 60 days, eight days faster than one year ago, according to a new report from Redfin, a real estate brokerage. Nearly 15 percent of all homes listed for sale in February were off the market within two weeks, up from 11.7 percent last year. This is the fastest February market Redfin has recorded since it began tracking in 2010.

 The speed and the competition are combining to push home prices higher. Redfin recorded a 7 percent annual jump in median sale prices in February. Homeowners now have a lot of equity. In fact, total home equity hit a new peak at the end of last year, according to research by the Federal Reserve.
“While great for homeowners, continuously strong price growth across the U.S. since 2012 has posed significant challenges for first-time buyers, especially given such low supply in affordable price-tiers,” said Nela Richardson, Redfin’s chief economist. “There is a silver lining on the horizon, however. Rising prices and increased equity may tip the scales for homeowners who have been delaying their decision to move up, which could add much-needed starter-home inventory to the market.”

More homeowners think now is a good time to sell, according to the latest housing sentiment survey from Fannie Mae. More also consider now to be a good time to buy as well, but the same is not true for renters. Confidence in home buying is slipping among renters as affordability sinks.

“Inventory conditions are even worse than a year ago, and home prices and mortgage rates are on an uphill climb,” said Lawrence Yun, chief economist for the National Association of Realtors. “These factors are giving many renter households a pause about it being a good time to buy, even as their job prospects improve and wages grow. Unless there’s a significant boost in supply levels this spring, these constraints will, unfortunately, slow or delay some prospective buyers’ pursuit of purchasing a home.”

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ATTOM: Foreclosure activity hits 11-year low

ATTOM: Foreclosure activity hits 11-year low

But foreclosure starts increased in 15 states

by: Kelsey Ramirez

by: Kelsey Ramirez.

by: Kelsey Ramirez.

Foreclosure activity dropped in February to an 11-year low, according to new data from ATTOM Data Solutions, a fused property database.

This decrease marks the lowest point since November 2005, and the 17th consecutive month of annual decreases.

But despite this drop, 10 states still saw an increase in foreclosure activity. States that saw the largest increases include New Jersey with an increase of 16%, Delaware with 14%, Louisiana with 12%, Alabama with 10% and Hawaii with 8%.

And some cities also saw strong increases, contrary to the national trend. Houston, Texas, for example, increased 97% from an abnormally low February 2016. Other cities such as San Francisco and New York City also increased 25% and 9% respectively.

But despite dropping to an 11-year low, foreclosure starts saw an uptick of 7% in February from January, but were still down 13% from February last year. This marks the 20th consecutive month with year-over-year declines in foreclosure starts.

But once again, some states countered the national trend with annual increases in foreclosure starts. The state that saw the highest increase was Alabama with an increase of 40% in foreclosure starts, followed by Texas at 26%, New Jersey at 24%, Florida at 12%, Illinois at 11% and Arizona at 9%.

And in some of these states, increasing foreclosure starts is becoming a trend. Foreclosure starts increased three of the last four months in Texas, two of the last three months in New Jersey, six of the last seven months in Illinois and six of the last 12 months in Arizona.

ATTOM explains there are two reasons why some states are seeing increases in foreclosure starts, contrary to the national trend.

“First is a backlog of legacy distress still lingering in states like New Jersey and Florida along with D.C. as a result a foreclosure process that became dysfunctional during the housing crisis in those states,” ATTOM Senior Vice President Daren Blomquist told HousingWire. “While the share of bubble-era originated loans that are actively in foreclosure is down to 52% nationwide, in DC those bubble-era loans still represent 71% of all foreclosures, while in New Jersey it’s 61% and in Florida it’s 56%.”

But not every state is still working through crisis-era loans. For those that aren’t, there is another phenomena causing an increase in their foreclosure starts.

“Secondly, states that have put the housing crisis and the bad loans originated during the crisis firmly in the rear-view mirror, foreclosure rates bottomed out last year and are gradually beginning to rise, corresponding to gradually relaxed lending standards,” Blomquist said. “This is why we’re seeing consistent increases in foreclosure starts in states like Arizona, where only 39% of foreclosures are tied to bubble-era loans, and in Texas, where only 33% of foreclosures are tied to bubble-era loans.”

“The good news in these states is that even with the rise in foreclosure starts, foreclosure activity still remains below pre-recession levels,” he said.

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Facing a crisis in affordable housing – Democrat & Chronicle

Facing a crisis in affordable housing

by: Editorial Board

You might not see it from your own front porch, but the Rochester region has a housing crisis on its hands.

One of the reasons you don’t know about it could be buried in a section of your town’s zoning ordinance, barring construction of higher density and multifamily housing. That measure keeps developers from building affordable apartments, because they won’t be able to benefit from the economy of scale needed to keep rents low. Efforts to change zoning for affordable housing are typically thwarted by the not-in-my-backyard movement.

This and many other barriers have resulted in a serious shortage of housing for the 167,600 people living below the poverty line — or the even greater number of people who are hovering just above it.

We must, as one poverty researcher from Harvard University notes, “pull housing back to the center of the poverty debate.” That begins at the local level, where the decisions of policy makers, landlords, developers and citizens can have a dramatic impact.

The affordable housing crisis is creating a great burden on our public resources. For example, over the next five years, New York state is set to spend $10 billion of our tax dollars to create housing for low-income residents. Our federal government spends an enormous amount on rent subsidies and other assistance. Even with expenditures like these, government isn’t coming close to meeting the need.

That creates an even greater cost — measured in lives. There are tens of thousands of children in our community who are growing up without safe and stable homes. When the rent doesn’t get paid, they are evicted. Their family moves — often to another rundown apartment in another decaying neighborhood. Or they end up homeless. In the process, they repeatedly switch schools and lose supportive relationships. In short, they follow a tumultuous path that almost guarantees a lifetime of struggle. And we all will continue to face the dire effects of poverty, which remain on the rise in the city of Rochester, as well as the nine-county region that surrounds it.

No, you might not be able to see this from your front porch. But, that does not mean you are powerless to do something about it at the polls. Support candidates who are committed to addressing this crisis.

Editor’s Note: This is the final installment in a three-part series of editorials the Editorial Board published this week in response to a new report from the Rochester Area Community Foundation and ACT Rochester, showing the continued growth of poverty in our nine-county region. The board is seeking to encourage discussion about poverty-related issues by voters and political candidates. To read the entire series, please go to

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Fraudster gets 15 years for bilking 1,000+ distressed homeowners in loan modification scheme –

Fraudster gets 15 years for bilking 1,000+ distressed homeowners in loan modification scheme

Caused more than $3.5 million in losses

by: Ben Lane

A New York man will spend the next 15 years in prison after pleading guilty to charges relating to his part in a scheme that defrauded more than 1,000 distressed homeowners by falsely promising loan modifications.

According to the Special Inspector General for the Troubled Asset Relief Program, David Gotterup pleaded guilty back in June 2016 to conspiring to commit wire, mail and bank fraud.

The charges stem from a scheme involving Gotterup and several others.

According to court documents, Gotterup and his co-conspirators made a series of false promises to convince more than 1,000 thousand distressed homeowners who were seeking a government mortgage modification to pay thousands of dollars each in advance fees to numerous companies owned or controlled by Gotterup.

Those companies included Express Modifications, Express Home Solutions, True Credit Empire, Green Group Today, The Green Law Group, and JG Group.

Court documents showed that Gotterup told telemarketers and salespeople to lie to distressed homeowners by telling them that they were “preapproved” for loan modifications.

The telemarketers and salespeople also falsely told people that they were retaining a “law firm” and an “attorney” who would complete their mortgage relief applications for them and negotiate with the banks to modify the terms of their mortgages on their behalf.

But, in reality, Gotterup and his co-conspirators did little or no work in connection with these fraudulently induced advanced fees, SIGTARP said.

According to the authorities, Gotterup admitted to causing more than $3.5 million in losses.

For his crimes, Gotterup received a sentence of 15 years in federal prison. The court also ordered Gotterup to pay $2,500,050 in forfeiture.

SIGTARP said that restitution to the victims of Gotterup’s scheme will be determined at a later date.

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Rochester spruces up public housing with $410,000 facelift – Democrat & Chronicle

Rochester spruces up public housing with $410,000 facelift

by: Brian Sharp

A four-plex on the corner of Garson Avenue and Fourth Street not far from the Public Market is where the Rochester Housing Authority hopes to start changing perceptions.

“Who says public housing needs to look like public housing?” RHA’s executive director John Hill asks — a rhetorical question, and one he poses often to make his point.

Hill and others plan to gather Tuesday for a ceremonial ribbon cutting at 54-66 Garson Ave. The public housing complex underwent a $410,000 renovation, updating the exterior and interior. In addition to new siding and a new roof, RHA added front porches, lighting and privacy fences around the rear yards, while the inside was completely redone, with new cabinets, fixtures, carpet and flooring. The kitchen and dining room walls were torn out to create a more open floor plan.

Construction started in March of last year, and finished in December.

Garson is the first of several RHA properties in the pipeline for some level of renovation, possibly even a complete rebuild, over the next two or three years. Others include properties on Federal Street, which currently is vacant, on Waring Road and on Shirley Street. All are on the city’s east or northeast side.

Hill was hired last year, taking up a directive of a remade board of directors, and taking charge of an authority that had gone nearly two years without a permanent leader. RHA serves roughly 25,000 people and manages more than 2,400 public housing units in the area. It has an annual budget of more than $80 million.

The authority gets $3.5 million in federal dollars each year to cover maintenance and improvements. What is different is that, going forward, the authority is trying to be more aggressive, with a more robust work plan and moving more quickly. RHA has added staff to tap additional funding sources, including tax credits, and is signing up architecture and engineering firms — including Lothrop Associates, Konopka Architecture and Liro Group — while also seeking a partner developer.

“We need to try to utilize whatever is available to modernize and preserve public housing,” Hill said of RHA’s aging housing stock. “The need is great. Some is under stress. All of it is tired.”

A developer decision is expected in the next 60 days. RHA put out a request for proposals, receiving more than a half dozen responses that are currently being evaluated.

The authority has some 24 public housing sites. Most of the affordable housing is privately owned. RHA does most of its business in Section 8 vouchers. There is a separate push by City Council to get landlords to accept Section 8, with a public meeting expected next month.

As RHA works through its housing stock, the focus will spread across the city. There will be a focus on hiring local residents, buying materials locally: “Whatever we can do to stimulate the economy,” Hill said. RHA’s investments should make its public housing more efficient, and thus more affordable, for the families that live there and for RHA to maintain — while also improving nearby property values and, hopefully, setting a standard, officials said.

“We should be a leader,” said RHA board chairman George Moses, rather than “where you drove by … and, you know, ‘Oh, that’s public housing.'”

RHA does not have a set budget or timeframe for working through all of its properties. Said Hill: “Some of the structures are great, but cabinets, windows and doors are what’s needed (to be replaced).

“We are not going to do a (rebuild) on everything,” Hill said. But “I want people to say, ‘That’s a great-looking piece of property,’ and not even know it’s public housing.”

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Renters’ rights when it comes to property damage – Democrat & Chronicle

Renters’ rights when it comes to property damage

by: Mary Chao

It’s complicated.

That’s what Joel Kunkler, director of landlord tenant services at The Housing Council, said of tenants’ claims when it comes to the windstorm of 2017.

“It’s not the easiest situation,” he said.

Under New York state law, landlords have to abide by a warranty of habitability, which is the expectation that the property will be in livable condition, Kunkler said. That means if a furnace breaks or a roof is leaking, the landlord has an obligation to fix it in a timely manner.

But if it is a power outage and it is up to the utility company to repair, the situation can be nebulous, he said.

“If it’s a brief interruption in service, everyone needs to hunker down and deal with it,” Kunkler said.

When you have extensive damage such as the windstorm, everyone is doing the best they can to get things back in order, said Rochester real estate attorney John Nacca, who is also a landlord. He is busy tending to properties without power to make sure the pipes do not freeze.

Landlords are charged with the legal obligation of doing everything they can to make a home livable. If a tree hit a roof, the landlord has to repair it as soon as possible. If a landlord has empty properties, the tenants may be offered the substitutions, Nacca said.

Tenants also have the right to break the lease if the home is not habitable, Kunkler said. If the property cannot be repaired in a reasonable amount of time, the tenant has the right to be released from the contract.

Lisa Schwingle, who has been renting a home in the village of Pittsford, realizes that the windstorm was an act of God. A tree fell on the roof of her rental home on Wednesday and her landlord quickly came over the next day to temporarily repair the roof before the weather changed.

“Landlord has been great and has been dealing with a lot of damage,” Schwingle said.

Tenants have the ability to buy insurance just as homeowners do, said Ron Papa, president of National Fire Adjustment, which represents policyholders. If the tenant has renters’ insurance, check to see what is covered, he suggested. Some policies may pay for incidentals such as hotels and meals out during catastrophic events, he said.

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State has $14.5 billion in unclaimed funds – The Daily Record

State has $14.5 billion in unclaimed funds

by: Daily Record Staff

New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli on Thursday announced that his office has over $14.5 billion in unclaimed funds and urged New Yorkers to see if any of it belongs to them.

In the state’s 2015-16  fiscal year, DiNapoli’s office set a national record for the third consecutive year for the most unclaimed funds returned in one year, totaling $452 million.

There are currently more than 35 million unclaimed funds accounts, some dating back to the 1940s. Excluding New York City, the majority of people who are owed money can be found on Long Island, where there is over $326 million in 590,983 accounts owed to Nassau County residents and over $240 million (524,316 accounts) for residents in Suffolk County.

Westchester County has over $250 million (448,529 accounts) owed to residents, followed by Erie County (over $113 million owed to 241,221 accounts) and Monroe County (over $82 million owed to 196,890 accounts).

In his annual reporton unclaimed funds, DiNapoli released regional data on the total amount of unclaimed funds paid by county in fiscal year 2015-16. Outside of New York City, DiNapoli’s office paid out the most to Long Island residents (over $58 million to 69,551 accounts), followed by the Capital-Saratoga region ($42.6 million to 15,283 accounts) and the Hudson Valley ($31.6 million to 46,478 accounts).

The majority of unclaimed funds accounts stem from old bank accounts but also include stocks, life insurance, uncashed checks and gift cards. State law requires that abandoned money or securities be transferred to the Comptroller’s office if there is no activity in an account for a period which is typically three years. DiNapoli serves as the custodian of these unclaimed funds until they’re claimed by the rightful owners.

To check on unclaimed funds, click here