Property War In a case involving some of Detroit's largest residential developers, a federal jury recently found the defendants, Charter Oak Homes, American Heritage, and Bernard Glieberman of Crosswinds Communities, not guilty of copyright infringement and unfair competition. The suit, filed by Dominic Moceri of Moceri Cos. and Michael Chirco of MJC Homes, alleged that the defendants' high-density Aberdeen plan for a 12-unit condo with attached garages, was unlawfully similar to the plaintiffs' Knollwood plan.—J. Sullivan
Female Factor Women are buying homes in greater numbers than ever. They are also paying more for them than men are. A recent study by the Consumer Federation of America reports that while women represented some 30 percent of all mortgage borrowers in 2005, they accounted for 38.8 percent of subprime borrowers. Roughly a third of women home buyers took out mortgages with interest rates exceeding 7.66 percent (well above the average prime mortgage rate of 5.87 percent), compared to about a quarter of all male buyers. The study, which examined 4.4 million mortgage originations nationwide, also found that the gender disparity increased as incomes rose. Women earning double the median income were 46.4 percent more likely to receive subprime rates than men with similar incomes. In contrast, women whose earnings fell below the median income were just 3.3 percent more likely to receive subprime rates.—J.S.
Changing of the Guard Don Ackerman, chairman of WCI Communities, will not stand for re-election to the board at the Bonita Springs, Fla.–based builder's next annual meeting. He has been handing off his responsibilities to Charles Cobb Jr., the former CEO and managing partner of his own investment firm, whom WCI named as its vice chairman in December. Cobb's company had worked on large-scale projects with developers such as Arvida and LNR Properties. Cobb was also Under Secretary of Commerce under President Reagan.—J. Caulfield
Shattered Glass Andersen Corp. laid off 440 workers in early December, due largely to the ongoing housing slump and steep decline in housing starts. The layoffs are based on seniority, which means the layoff applies only to production workers hired after February 2000. The layoffs took effect Jan. 2 and are at the company's Bayport, Minn., and Menomonie, Wis., operations.—S. Zurier
SOURCE: STAR TRIBUNE
Historic Fabric Habitat for Humanity is teaming with the Institute of Classical Architecture & Classical America on a national project to build traditionally styled affordable homes in historic districts throughout the U.S. A pilot project, now underway, involves the design and construction of three model homes in Savannah, Ga., Rochester, N.Y., and Portsmouth, Va. A pattern book, to be published this winter and distributed to Habitat's 1,800 chapters, will showcase the three model homes, as well as other examples of outstanding affordable housing designs.—J.S.
Transport Tax The Realtor and home builder trade groups in Pennsylvania are opposing a proposed increase in the realty transfer tax that they say could add more than $3,000 to the cost of a new home. The tax increase was proposed by the Pennsylvania Transportation Funding and Reform Commission, which studied the state's mass transit funding and other transportation needs. The Realtors and builders insist that it's unfair to shift the burden for mass transit funding on to home buyers.—S.Z.
Free Leads CirclePix.com, a provider of virtual home tours for Web sites, has launched LeadBee, a free lead generation option for sales agents. Potential buyers must provide some basic information on the virtual tour registration page to view the tour. The information is submitted to the sales agent. Leads also are captured from a 24-hour toll-free information line.—P. Curry
Broken ARMS As ARMs begin to reset, more and more homeowners are defaulting on their loans. About 4.7 percent of homeowners were late on their mortgage payments in July through September 2006, which is up slightly from 4.4 percent in the third quarter of 2005, the Mortgage Bankers Association says. The delinquency rate, which has fluctuated between about 4 percent and 5 percent for the past five years, is expected to rise gradually through most of next year.—N.F. Maynard
SOURCE: USA TODAY
Still Breathing A federal bankruptcy judge granted approval to East Brunswick, N.J.–based Kara Homes to continue drawing on $2.6 million in debtor-in-possession financing. The Dec. 5 court decision allowed Kara to pay operating expenses. A week later, the judge let Kara close on 12 homes it built but had stranded when it filed for Chapter 11 on Oct. 5. Its attorney told the Asbury Park (N.J.) Press that the company would clear $1.2 million from those home sales. That ruling, though, did not address the 300 homes Kara has under contract but not completed.—J.C.
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