This page contains a Flash digital edition of a book. 15 FOCUS EASTERN CUYAHOGA


Recent meeting looks at whether the housing market has seen its shadow and has more tough times or whether it’s smoother selling ahead

by Maria Shine Stewart A

clever play on words formed the basis of a spirited panel hosted by the Heights-Hillcrest

Regional Chamber of Commerce in April. Realtor Seth Task of Re/Max,

attorney Michael Caticchio and banker Jeff Steed of Ohio Mort- gage Bankers Association agreed at times, and cordially sparred at others, while discussing “The Real State of Real Estate,” which fo- cused on residential property. Na- than Wills, a trial lawyer, served as facilitator of the breakfast meeting at Mayfield Village’s Hilton Gar- den Inn on Beta Drive.

Hope springs eternal In response to the question:

“What is the state of the current market?” Task replied with an enthusiastic, “Awesome. It’s the greatest buyers’ market in the his- tory of time.” While calling him- self “the optimist of the group,” he tempered his enthusiasm a notch, admitting that new laws regulat- ing lending have had an impact. “These regulations are tough,” he said, “but in the end will help local business.” Buying a foreclosure is not al-

ways the best deal, Task said, countering the assumption that sticker price is all that counts. Some foreclosed properties might need extensive and costly repairs. It may not be the best time for an

empty-nester to try to sell a home. “Hold on to it,” he said. Task’s exuberant imperative to

those considering a larger home is “buy up now.” For those facing economic crisis

or hardship who might need to sur- render their homes, “You need an expert to do a ‘short sale,’” he said. Regarding the vagaries of the

local market, Task offered varia- tions in Cleveland Heights as a case in point. “We can talk about specific areas of Cleveland Heights that have nothing on the market ... and others laden with properties.” In response to the final question

on whether home ownership is a good investment anymore, Task said, “Poppycock. You can still deduct mortgage interest. Com- munities are safer [with a high rate of home ownership]. People take better care of property.” As for those reluctant to sell a

home due to a falling housing ap- praisal, “an attorney once told me ‘pride costs money,’” he said.

Avoid catastrophe “It’s a nightmare. That’s the bot-

tom line,” Caticchio said of the current market. “There are too many homes available ... [and] the sellers are at the mercy of the buy- er. There’s a whole lot of inventory to absorb.” On the bright side, creative ne-

gotiation may prevent some people from losing their homes if they have the courage to speak up and get the proper help. “You can actually go to a bank and pay back less than you owe,”

courtesy of the Heights-Hillcrest Regional Chamber of Commerce

Seth Task, left, talks about the “real state of real estate” while panelists Mi- chael Caticchio, Jeff Steed and moderator Nathan Wills listen during an April breakfast of the Heights-Hillcrest Regional Chamber of Commerce.

gage, based on its lowered prop- erty value and at a more favorable interest rate, and hold on to her house. When foreclosure looms, some

may panic, but “it’s never too late to attempt to save your house,” he said.

Climate has changed “It’s the greatest time in the his-

tory of the world to buy a house,” Steed said in agreement with Task. He acknowledged, however, that the legislative and regulatory envi- ronment, even a “punitive” attitude among legislators, has changed the climate for buying and selling. Whether the decisions come from Columbus, Washington or locally, “it’s difficult to get a loan.” Steed believes that current trends

he said. Although a hardship mea- sure such as a short sale may “kill your credit,” as he put it, eventual recovery may be possible. Caticchio offered a case study of

a client who became disabled, but was able to renegotiate her mort-

run counter to 80 years of legisla- tion. Offering a metaphor, he said, “It’s nothing short of living in the middle of a hurricane.” National legislation has changed

the way that lenders and all in- volved in the process do their jobs. An underwriter, for example, pre- viously might have been able to complete six to eight loans a day, whereas now he or she might be lucky to process three or four. The minimum capital required

for an independent mortgage com- pany to operate has increased ten- fold, from $250,000 to $2.5 mil- lion. This eliminates competition and options for potential buyers, he claimed. When people talk of banks and

lenders as “too big to fail,” Steed questioned whether bigger is al- ways better. As for the root causes of the current climate, he said “consumer fraud” is a “big part of this mess that no one wants to talk about.” Steed has been in the real estate

business for a long time, but has never seen the climate the way it is now. “It is a new environment,” he

said, adding that if anyone is wait- ing for things to go back to “the

It's a nightmare. That's the bottom line. There are too many homes available ... the sellers are at the mercy of the buyer.


It's the greatest buyers’ market in the history of time. SETH TASK realtor

“ “

way things used to be ... [it] won’t happen.”

As well as serving as eastern Cuyahoga contributing editor for the Tri-County Business Journal, Maria Shine Stewart is owner of Shine Writing Services (www. in Richmond Heights.

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