National market report

Commercial and residential real estate news briefs from around the U.S. <br>

Boise
Idaho’s capital city has seen median home prices plummet 34 percent from peak 2007 levels, according to the most recent data available, released by the National Association of Realtors last month. The median home price dipped to $140,100 in the second quarter, down from a high of $212,800. This, in turn, has led to a precipitous decline in construction and real estate job losses in Boise, which is home to a third of Idaho’s residents, according to Bloomberg News. Unfortunately, there’s bad news across the rest of the state as well: Foreclosure-related home seizures jumped 822 percent in the second quarter of the year, according to research firm RealtyTrac.

Boston
Residential sales figures in the greater Boston area show activity falling but home prices rising, according to online real estate services firm HouseSavvy. Sales activity in July fell 20 percent year-over-year in the Boston metro region, even as the average sales price climbed 17.4 percent during the same time period. Walter Hall, founder of HouseSavvy, said that the data could be the result of the first-time homebuyer tax credit, which expired in the spring. “The main reason for the sales price increase — particularly in the face of a big reduction in sales activity — is the big decrease in the number of sales in the lower price range by first-time homebuyers taking advantage of the federal tax credit,” Hall said.

CB Richard Ellis says that nearly 8.1 million square feet of "retail box space" is vacant in the Dallas-FOrt Worth area.

Dallas-Fort Worth
Attention shoppers — big-box retail may be a dying breed in Dallas-Fort Worth. Commercial real estate services firm CB Richard Ellis estimates that nearly 8.1 million square feet of “retail box space” is vacant in the region, the result of massive closures — roughly 200 stores in the last few years, the Dallas Morning News reported last month. And while some of the closures can be pegged to specific, troubled retailers (like Circuit City, which has closed roughly a dozen locations in the region since the recession began), closings have occurred across the board. Unfortunately, once the retail space is slated for big-box usage, it can be difficult to transition it. “Converting a big box into multiple spaces can be a costly proposition,” said Bob Young, of Dallas real estate firm the Weitzman Group.

Denver
While Denver might be known for that Rocky Mountain high, its home sales are down right low, according to recently released data from real estate tracking group Metrolist. The greater metro region saw home sales decline 28 percent in July, compared to the same month a year earlier, according to InDenverTimes.com. While the drop-off in activity — 3,808 single-family homes and condos were sold in July, compared to 5,299 a year earlier — could be attributed to the expiration of the first-time homebuyer tax credit, it still has some in the greater Denver industry concerned. “A 28 percent drop is falling off the cliff,” said Jeff Bernard, a broker and analyst. “I wouldn’t want to be falling off this cliff without a helmet on.”

Detroit
While there’s been plenty of bad news about the Detroit housing market in recent months, it seems that the office sector may be struggling just as much. Around 45 office buildings in downtown Detroit currently sit empty, according to the Detroit News, the result of a roughly 34,000-person job loss over the last year. But it’s not all doom and gloom: Some companies, including tax software group Quicken and insurer Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, have made a concerted effort to repopulate the neighborhood. “We are committed to Detroit,” explained a Quicken spokesperson. The company recently began relocating around 1,700 of its employees from outlying towns to the downtown area.

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Fort Lauderdale
A Massachusetts investment firm has paid $22.5 million for 272 condo units at Olivine at the Township in Coconut Creek, a Fort Lauderdale suburb, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel reported. The units, most of which are rented, were sold in a workout deal with lenders, according to Hampton Beebe, a senior vice president of ARA in Boca Raton. Newton, Mass.-based Forest Properties Management paid $82,720 per unit at Olivine in the deal arranged by ARA, a privately held investment-advisory brokerage firm. There are a total of 372 units at the building, which is near Sample Road. The previous 100 units had sold for an average price of $227,415.

Honolulu
While news of the sales drop-off following the expiration of the first-time homebuyer tax credit has dominated headlines across the country, industry insiders in Honolulu say they’ve barely felt a dip, according to the website Power HomeBiz. Of course, that could be because they also contend that the tax credit didn’t affect them in the first place. “The indication out there is, of course, it has helped — it hasn’t hurt,” said Berton Hamamoto, president of Property Profiles brokerage and a past president of the Honolulu Board of Realtors. But Hamamoto also said it’s been difficult to track the level of first-time buyer activity, leading some to wonder whether it’s had a major effect at all.

The owner of the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza in Los Angeles has announced plans for a mixed-use complex that preserves the famed hotel.

Los Angeles
Developer Michael Rosenfeld, the owner of the historic Hyatt Regency Century Plaza hotel, has announced plans to build a new, $1.5 billion mixed-use complex, according to the Los Angeles Times. The proposal calls for two 46-story skyscrapers to be built directly behind the famed hotel, creating condo and office space. The announcement marks a shift for Rosenfeld, industry experts say. The developer had once drawn the ire of preservationists, after announcing plans to demolish the Century Plaza. He’s backed away from the demolition plan, and the roughly 50-year-old hotel is being worked into his new project, with its lobby set to serve as a connection between the new buildings and the hotel itself. Construction is slated to be completed in 2014.

Miami
The Brickell Bay office that once housed part of BP’s joint command center with the Coast Guard is now largely vacant, after the oil that was thought to be headed to Miami’s shores never arrived, according to the Miami Herald. Now BP and the federal government consider the chance of oil hitting Miami so remote that they are unwinding their Miami post. In June, BP rented the space, which held 120 people; now, the company is downsizing its Miami base and lowering the number of workers to just about 45.

San Francisco
Changes in home prices have varied sharply across the Bay Area recently, according to numerous real estate tracking firms. In San Francisco proper, poorer neighborhoods are seeing sharper declines than richer areas, according to June data from Zillow.com. Neighborhoods in less affluent regions along the city’s fringe have dropped as much as 36 percent from peak levels, the Wall Street Journal reported, while many wealthier areas have declined by as little as 6 or 7 percent from the market’s height. Median prices in nearby San Jose, meanwhile, climbed 26 percent in the second quarter, according to the National Association of Realtors, to $630,000.

Compiled by Amy Tennery