Another Bleak Sign for Retail – 100% Vacant Prime Plaza in Palm Harbor Florida

In this video I show a 100% vacant prime location plaza on US 19 in Palm Harbor, Florida. Sadly the current depression is breaking many small businesses which is having a negative effect on retail centers throughout the United States.

Depression Stories: Former Law Enforcement Officer

US foreclosure filings surge 48 percent in May

The number of U.S. homeowners swept up in the housing crisis rose further last month, with foreclosure filings up nearly 50 percent compared with a year earlier, a foreclosure listing company said Friday.

Nationwide, 261,255 homes received at least one foreclosure-related filing in May, up 48 percent from 176,137 in the same month last year and up 7 percent from April, RealtyTrac Inc. said.

One in every 483 U.S. households received a foreclosure filing in May, the highest number since RealtyTrac started the report in 2005 and the second-straight monthly record.

Foreclosure filings increased from a year earlier in all but 10 states. Nevada, California, Arizona, Florida and Michigan had the highest statewide foreclosure rates.

Metropolitan areas in California and Florida accounted for nine of the top 10 areas with the highest rate of foreclosure. That list was led by Stockton, Calif. and the Cape Coral-Fort Myers area in Florida.

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Gov’t home price index posts largest drop in 17-year history

A home-price index considered to be the most comprehensive reading of the U.S. market posted the sharpest decline in its 17-year history, and analysts say housing has yet to bottom out.

Rapidly falling home prices in California, Florida and Nevada skewed the national results.

The Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight said Thursday that home prices fell 3.1 percent in the first quarter compared with last year.

It was only the second quarter of price declines since the index started in 1991. The price index first declined on a year-over-year basis in the final quarter of 2007, when it dropped 0.45 percent.

Another widely followed reading, the Standard & Poor’s/Case-Shiller index, has shown larger declines for major U.S. metropolitan areas. But analysts say the government index provides a more comprehensive reading of nationwide housing market.

That’s particularly true for midwestern states, where prices never skyrocketed and have been less affected by the real estate downturn.

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Slumping housing market sinks Home Depot 1Q

The Home Depot Inc. reported a 66 percent drop in first-quarter profit Tuesday due to a large one-time charge and continued weakness in the housing market.

The results, excluding the charge, beat Wall Street expectations despite a decline in overall sales and sales at stores open at least a year.

The Atlanta-based company said it earned $356 million, or 21 cents a share, in the three months ending May 4, compared with a profit of $1.05 billion, or 53 cents a share, a year earlier.

Excluding a charge related to store closings and the shrinking of future store growth plans, Home Depot said it earned $697 million, or 41 cents a share.

Analysts were expecting earnings of 37 cents a share excluding one-time items.

Home Depot said revenue in the quarter fell 3.4 percent to $17.91 billion, compared with $18.55 billion recorded a year earlier.

Sales at stores open at least a year fell 6.5 percent in the first quarter, Home Depot said.

“The housing and home improvement markets remained difficult in the first quarter; in fact, conditions worsened in many areas of the country,” Chief Executive Frank Blake said in a statement.

Home Depot announced this month that was putting the brakes on some of its expansion plans and said it would do what was previously unthinkable — close 15 of its flagship stores. The move, to be completed by July, affects 1,300 employees.

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As homes foreclose in U.S., squatters move in

BROCKTON, Massachusetts (Reuters) – They enter through a broken first-floor window each night to sleep on a moldy bed in the abandoned four-family house at 827 Main Street, part of a new generation of squatters emboldened by America’s housing foreclosure crisis.

“For squatters, foreclosed homes like this are like a camp-ground with free camping,” says real-estate broker Marc Charney, a foreclosure specialist, as he enters the home in Brockton, Massachusetts, and shines a flash-light at a mattress where homeless people have been sleeping each night.

Squatting is on the rise across the United States as foreclosures surge, eviction notices mount and homes go unsold for months, complicating the worst U.S. housing slump in a quarter century and forcing real-estate brokers to enlist the help of law enforcement and courts to sell empty houses.

In some regions, squatting is taking on new twists to include real-estate scams in which thieves “rent out” abandoned homes they don’t own. Others involve “professional squatters” who move from one abandoned home to another posing as tenants who seek cash from banks as a condition to leave the premises — a process known by real-estate brokers as “cash for key.”

“There are people who move in and know exactly who to contact and say ‘If you want this house, why don’t you come out here and offer me cash,”‘ said Detective Erin Camphouse of the Los Angeles Police Department’s Real Estate Fraud Unit.

“It’s just cheaper for the banks to do that rather than going into the courts,” she said. “The squatters are getting sophisticated and turning it on these banks who own the properties.”

She cited another case in which a Los Angeles man recently “leased” three abandoned homes to unsuspecting renters through Craig’s List, the online classified advertising company. The renters paid first and last month deposits, moved their belongings in and lived in the homes for several months.

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Builders get hammered again

Demand for new homes collapsed last year. Next up could be a similar drop in the rest of the construction market — and that could be the latest drag on an already sputtering U.S. economy

Nonresidential construction, which includes office buildings and retail centers, hotels and institutions such as schools, hospitals or government buildings, remained strong through much of 2007.

But a combination of the economic slowdown and tighter credit appears to be putting the brakes on nonresidential projects. Even if work continues on those projects already underway, there are signs that the pipeline of new construction is about to dry up.

“The trend is much weaker,” said Kenneth Simonson, the chief economist for the Associated General Contractors of America, the trade group for contractors outside of single-family home construction. “My conversations with contractors show they’re still quite busy. But their order books are shrinking and they’re quite worried.”

A slowdown in the entire construction market would be bad news for the economy. Investment in nonresidential buildings added an average of $250 billion to the economy every year since 1990. A downturn is also expected to lead to the loss of many well-paying jobs in the months ahead.

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