Owners of Disney-Built Homes Not Celebrating

Homeowners are no longer celebrating in Celebration, Fla., the idyllic town built by the Walt Disney Company starting in 1994, where house prices have dropped 38.8 percent or more since 2006. Foreclosures also are up in Celebration, near the Magic Kingdom though there is only one single family bank-owned propery and 11 multi-family bank owned properties in Celebration in the multiple listing service, according to Celebration's in-town Realtor, Kathleen Carlson, owner of Imagination Realty.

Talk about Mickey Mouse real estate.

Carlson could not confirm the total number of Celebration properties in some stage of the foreclosure process, nor confirm the numbers for the shadow inventory of Celebration homes already foreclosed and not yet on the market. Based on data from Legalprise in West Palm Beach, Fla., one in every 20 residents have received a notice of lis pendens, which initiates a foreclosure action. That translates to 180 properties out of the 3,600 homes, condos and villas in Celebration.

She states the high rate of delinquencies are often due to the challenging job market and the fact that people may have "taken out equity loans on their homes in the good times." As single-family home prices jumped to a median high of $667,900 in 2006 many people in Celebration may have taken out thousands of dollars to invest in other real estate, make other major purchases or put their children through college. Not much different then what went on all over the United States. Today that median price is $408,400.

The problem for many of the homeowners today, not only those in Celebration, is that they owe far more on their
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homes than they can afford. Home prices have dropped so significantly that they can't sell without coming up with cash or getting the banks to agree to a short sale.

The lowest-price unit currently on the market in Celebration is a 2-bedroom, 2-bath condominium priced at $95,000. That's down from the $209,000 paid for the property in 2008. The property is currently in foreclosure; the price is listed as a bank-approved short sale.

The highest-priced home on the market in Celebration is a single-family home for $3,900,000. The home was purchased for $1,400,000 in 2003 and currently has a tax-appraised value of $1,421,600. The most recent sale nearby was its next door neighbor, for $2.3 million. That owner may still be suffering from the pixie-dust days of the past, not realistically looking at today's drop in price.

Yet Carlson hears from people everyday who call her because they can now afford Celebration. She fondly calls them the "woulda, coulda, shoulda club." Many of these people looked at Celebration in 2007 and 2008, but couldn't afford to buy. Today, with the steep drop in prices, Celebration has become much more affordable.

Sales show there is a slight up tick in the number of home sales. In 2006 123 single family homes sold with a median price of $667,900. Through December 17, 2010, 131 homes have sold with a median price of $408,400.

Condos and villas have not fared as well. In 2006 131 units sold for a median price of $408,400; and to date in 2010 only 70 have sold with a median price of just $149,500 for a 61 percent drop in value. Carlson cites the delinquency rate for a lot of this drop.

As delinquencies in the condos jump above 15 percent, people have a hard time getting financing for a deal, she explains. More of the delinquencies in Celebration are in the condos and villas than in the single family homes. So if you have the cash, you can get a great deal on the condos. But don't count too much on the Disney magic: Delinquencies are high, so condo fees are going up.

Lita Epstein has written more than 25 books including The 250 Questions Everyone Should Ask About Buying Foreclosuresand The Complete Idiot's Guide to Improving Your Credit Score.

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