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VOL. 123 | NO. 17 | Friday, January 25, 2008

Daily Digest

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Idaho-Based DBSI Buys Houston Levee Galleria Retail

     The partners behind Houston Levee Galleria, a 26-acre retail/office development on the east side of Houston Levee Road between Poplar Avenue and East Winchester Boulevard, have sold three retail buildings in the development for $15.8 million.
     DBSI Houston Levee Galleria LLC bought the property from Houston Levee Galleria Joint Venture, financing the purchase with a $9.3 million loan through Dexia Real Estate Capital Markets. The deal closed Tuesday.
     The buyer, DBSI Houston Levee Galleria LLC is a limited liability company affiliated with DBSI Housing Inc., according to loan documents. DBSI Housing is a member of the Boise, Idaho-based DBSI Group of Companies, real estate companies that finance, acquire, develop and manage holdings across the country.
     Houston Levee Galleria Joint Venture, according to partner Phillip McNeill Sr., is a venture between McNeill, president of McNeill Investment Co., with 50 percent interest; John Trezevant, president of Trezevant Realty Corp., with 40 percent interest; and Spence Ray, executive vice president of McNeill Investment Co., with 10 percent interest.
     John McKinney was the agent for the selling entity, McNeill said.
     The sale included only the three-building center and not the several outparcels that front Houston Levee Road.
     "(The buildings) have basically been complete - except for tenant improvements on some of the leases - the physical buildings, parking, have been complete about six months," he said.
     The retail buildings include 3680 Houston Levee, which is anchored by a 3,600-square-foot Newk's Express Café; 3660 Houston Levee, which contains the 5,600-square-foot Jim's Place Grill restaurant; and 3670 Houston Levee, anchored by a 6,000-square-foot Gould's Day Spa and Salon.
     "We've still got one outparcel between the Back Yard Burgers and the railroad and then behind the center there's about a 5-acre, office-zoned property," McNeill said.
     DBSI representatives did not return a phone call.

Existing Home Sales Drop By Largest Amount In 25 Years

     Sales of existing homes fell in December, closing out a horrible year for housing in which sales of single-family homes plunged by the largest amount in 25 years. The median home price dropped for the entire year, the first time that has occurred in four decades.
     The National Association of Realtors reported that sales of single-family homes and condominiums dropped by 2.2 percent in December to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.89 million units.
     For the year, sales of single-family homes were down by 13 percent, the biggest drop since a 17.7 percent plunge in 1982. The median price for a single-family home dropped 1.8 percent to $217,000.
     That was the first annual price decline on record going back to 1968.
     Lawrence Yun, the Realtors' chief economist, said it was likely that the country has not experienced a decline in housing prices for an entire year since the Great Depression of the 1930s.
     For December, sales were down in all regions of the country. Sales fell by 4.6 percent in the Northeast, 1.7 percent in the Midwest, 1 percent in the South and 2.1 percent in the West.
     The inventory of unsold homes dropped by 7.4 percent, raising hopes that backlogs that had hit record levels were starting to be reduced, a key factor necessary to prompt a rebound in the market.
     While Yun said he expected sales to start to rebound this spring, other analysts said housing is likely to remain in the doldrums throughout most of 2008, reflecting in part the credit crunch, which has caused lenders to tighten their standards, making it harder for prospective buyers to qualify for loans.

SunTrust Q4 Earnings Tumble 99 Percent

     Regional bank SunTrust Banks Inc. said Wednesday its fourth-quarter earnings fell 99 percent due to rising loan loss provisions and a loss related to bailing out investment funds.
     Fourth-quarter net income available to common shareholders fell to $3.3 million, or 1 cent per share, from $498.6 million, or $1.39 per share, during the same period the previous year.
     SunTrust set aside $356.8 million during the fourth quarter to cover rising delinquencies and defaults among loans, more than triple the $115.8 million reserved during the final quarter in 2006.
     During the fourth quarter, SunTrust recorded a $510 million loss tied to the purchase of securities from money market funds managed by a subsidiary of SunTrust and from structured investment vehicles.
     SunTrust also took $45 million in write-downs tied to other securities and mortgages.
     For the full year, SunTrust earned $1.6 billion, or $4.55 per share, compared with $2.11 billion, or $5.82 per share, in 2006.

Atlanta Company Chosen For U of M Stadium Study

     Atlanta-based Heery International Inc. has been selected by the University of Memphis to study the idea of an on-campus stadium.
     The university agreed to the study after some prominent athletic boosters continued to push the idea. The push was a reaction to Memphis Mayor Willie Herenton's call in 2007 for a new Mid-South Fairgrounds stadium to replace Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium. University leadership has supported Herenton's plan.
     Heery International is an architecture firm that also provides interior design, engineering and construction management services. The study will be more about the feasibility of the idea than what a stadium might look like.
     An e-mail from U of M athletic director R.C. Johnson sent to faculty, staff and students said a team from the Atlanta company will be talking with different focus groups comprised of representatives from those groups. The study is scheduled for completion by the end of February.
     Heery's list of collegiate sports projects include a recent $45 million renovation and expansion of the Cotton Bowl stadium in Dallas; eight renovations and expansions of Sanford Stadium at the University of Georgia in Athens; and a design for the renovation of Texas Memorial Stadium in Austin.

Stimulus Package Would Boost Higher-Priced Housing Market

     A component of the government's tentative economic stimulus package announced Thursday would give an immediate lift to buyers and sellers in higher-priced housing markets.
     The package agreed upon by Democratic and Republican members of the House would allow government-sponsored Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to buy mortgages 50 percent more expensive than the current $417,000 limit. The Senate and White House still must sign off on the proposed stimulus plan, which also includes tax rebates for Americans.
     House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Republican Leader John Boehner of Ohio announced the deal Thursday.
     The higher cap of $625,000, to apply for one year, would breathe life into housing markets in New York, California and other pricey areas because lenders would feel more comfortable knowing Fannie and Freddie can buy and package the loans into securities that investors consider to be relatively safe.
     A Freddie Mac spokesman said in an e-mail message that such an increase "would be in the best interest of the market and consumers."
     To address the mortgage crisis, the package also raises limits on Federal Housing Administration loans, which are insured by the government in event of default, congressional aides said.
     Groups representing Realtors, bankers and home builders have been lobbying for such changes for months.

Software Earnings Lands Key Sponsorship

     Memphis-based Software Earnings has become a sponsoring organization of the Electronic Check Clearing House Organization (ECCHO), which created and maintains rules that govern private-sector check image exchange for its members.
     Software Earnings is a developer of check and image processing technologies and services for the financial industry.
     As a sponsoring organization for ECCHO, Software Earnings is authorized to offer image exchange rules coverage to its financial institution customers. The company will participate directly in the ECCHO rules- making process, sharing insights with industry leaders in image exchange and influencing the industry's direction relative to the electronification of payments.
     ECCHO is the only clearinghouse with private-sector image exchange rules. Every depository financial institution in the United States is eligible for membership in ECCHO, which has a member base of about 1,200 banks, credit unions and thrifts.

Herenton Nominated For Best Mayor in World

     An international professional group calling itself City Mayors is hosting an event called the World Mayor Project for 2008, in which mayors from cities around the world are nominated toward the goal of winning the ultimate prize - bragging rights as the world's best mayor.
     Memphis Mayor Willie Herenton has been nominated and is currently on the list of the top 50 contenders, with others including Miami Mayor Manny Diaz and Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. The complete list can be found at www.worldmayor.com.
PROPERTY SALES 101 603 9,602
MORTGAGES 92 538 10,616
BUILDING PERMITS 215 1,282 20,958
BANKRUPTCIES 51 408 6,108