Industry Notes


July 31, 2005

Senate panel OKs bill on oversight of mortgage companies

The Senate banking committee has approved a bill that would tighten oversight of mortgage finance companies Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and shrink their assets.

The measure, sponsored by committee Chairman Richard C. Shelby, an Alabama Republican, was approved last week in an 11-9 vote along party lines. The measure would compel the companies to sell portfolio assets unrelated to their mortgage-bond business.

The panel rejected a bill backed by Democrats that would have given a regulator power to reduce the $1.5 trillion mortgage portfolios of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac without requiring such cuts. A measure approved by a House committee is similar to the defeated Democrat-sponsored legislation.

"The lack of consensus on the portfolio limits and the broad disparities between the House and Senate bills make the passage of GSE regulatory reform unlikely this year," UBS Securities LLC analyst Eric Wasserstrom wrote in a research note after Thursday's vote. GSEs are government-sponsored enterprises.

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac own or guarantee almost half the $7.6 trillion U.S. mortgage market.

Pickersgill to begin $17 million renovation

Pickersgill Retirement Community on Chestnut Avenue in Towson expects to begin renovations in August that will total more than $17 million.

Most of the improvements will be made to the older portion of the facility, which dates to 1959 and includes the assisted-living and comprehensive care areas. As part of the work, the nonprofit organization will add 27 assisted-living units - increasing the number to 136 - but decrease the beds in the nursing-care area from 60 to 41.

Pickersgill, which was founded in Baltimore in 1802 and says it is one of the oldest retirement communities in the nation, has about 250 residents.

Group seeks nominations for 2005 remodeler awards

The Maryland Improvement Contractors Association is accepting nominations from homeowners for its 2005 Remodeler of the Year awards.

MICA recognizes excellence in workmanship in 13 categories including: residential kitchens (less than $50,000 and more than $50,000), residential baths (less than $40,000 and more than $40,000), residential interiors (under and over $50,000), residential exteriors (under and over $50,000), residential specialty, entire house, commercial, historical residential and insurance restoration projects. Winners will be featured in Chesapeake Home magazine.

MICA added the insurance-restoration category last year after hearing from homeowners who experienced damage from Tropical Storm Isabel.

Homeowners who want to nominate a home improvement contractor should send or fax their name, address, the name and address of the contractor and the category of nomination to MICA, 720 Light St., Baltimore 21230, fax 410-752-8295, or e-mail Projects also may be nominated online at www.MarylandRemod htm.

The deadline for homeowner nominations is Sept. 15.

Ryland Homes opens development in Hampden

Ryland Homes has opened its newest community, Clipper Mill, in Hampden.

The homebuilder is selling 34 townhouses with two-car garages in the back from the mid-$300,000s. The Ryland Homes sales center is just off Parkdale Avenue and Druid Park Drive near TV Hill. Information: Kim Fleisher at 410-235-7952.

Ryland also has released for sale the final home sites in its Eagle's Landing at Water's Edge development on the Bush River in Belcamp. These two-car garage townhouses have three bedrooms, 3 1/2 baths, gas fireplaces and decks and sell from the low $300,000s. Information: Yvonne Pettitt at 410-273-2519.

Grayson Homes offers models in Logan's Reserve

Grayson Homes of Ellicott City has opened two models at Logan's Reserve, a 400-acre planned community near Loganville in York County, Pa.

The 136-unit project offers four floor plans for attached villa homes, duplexes designed to look like single family homes.

The homes, priced from the low $300,000s, have three bedrooms, 2 1/2 baths and a two-car garage. A first-floor owner's suite - as well as an optional additional master suite on the second floor - is available in two of the four floor plans. To learn more about Logan's Reserve, visit www.logansreserve .com. For more information about Grayson Homes at Logan's Reserve, call MaryAnne Scarponi at 717-747-9070 or visit

The homebuilder said it is planning a townhouse development next year in Lemoyne, Pa., to be called Copper Ridge.

Book tells juicy stories about the Ansonia in N.Y.

The Ansonia, a landmark beaux-arts residence on Manhattan's Upper West Side, was once home to a swingers' club called Plato's Retreat. Building workers poked a hole in a basement wall and charged deliverymen $2 a peek.

That juicy anecdote comes from Steven Gaines' The Sky's the Limit: Passion and Property in Manhattan (Little Brown, 273 pages, $26.95), a voyeur's guide for those with a fetish about high-priced real estate in America's biggest city.

Gaines likens the "mass hysteria" over Manhattan apartments, condos and co-ops in the 1990s to the tulip mania in Holland in the 17th century. However, tulips never sold for $4,100 a square foot, which is the price investor Jack Silver of Siar Capital paid last year for a $25.5 million duplex in the Time Warner Center.

California home prices remain on record pace

California home prices continued on a record pace in June as sales are still on track to set a new mark, the California Association of Realtors reported.

The average median-price home for all of California was $542,720 and sales increased at an annualized rate of 3.6 percent.

The latter means that if the market matched June's pace for all of the year, 656,310 previously owned single-family properties will change hands.

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