Is It Really That Hard to Get A Mortgage?

July 25, 2014

in News,Tips

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It has become a common refrain: “It’s too hard to get a mortgage.” But is it true? If it’s possible to get a mortgage with a 3.5% down payment and a credit score in the mid-600s, how could anyone say that credit is still tight? Wage earners who have decent credit, stable and easy-to-verify incomes and who are seeking loans on simple single-family dwellings can qualify for FHA-backed loans with the minimum 3.5% down payment. Getting a mortgage for this group of buyers might be easier than is commonly believed, although FHA mortgage insurance has become more expensive. When people talk about “tight credit,” they may instead be referring to people who may have irregular or harder-to-document incomes: A salesman who earns a lot of his income in commission; a consultant who had meager income two years ago; or a small business owner who took lots of tax deductions to lower her taxable income. And it could include retirees who have meager incomes despite having lots of assets. [Read this article]

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CoreLogic: Student Loans Not Depressing Home Ownership

July 25, 2014

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One of the pet reasons for explaining the lack of demand for houses among millennials is the presence of ever-escalating student loan debts. The thinking goes that college graduates are so mired in debt that they either cannot afford to buy or are too afraid to run up more debt, and so they stay living with their parents or find cheap places to rent. However, Mark Fleming, chief economist atCoreLogic, draws the conclusion that while student loan debt undoubtedly affects financial decisions for those post-college, there is zero empirical evidence to back up the claim that these debts are keeping young people from buying their first homes. For one thing, Fleming says, the monthly payback amount anyone has to spend on a student loan is based on a percentage of income. This percentage has remained virtually unchanged since the mid-1990s, but then, so have earnings – and members of Generation X didn’t shy away from buying houses just because of these obligations. “Going to college still increases one’s earning potential,” Fleming said. “For those who had to finance college with loans, the burden of repayment relative to income remains the same today as in the 1990s.” [Read this article]

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The Porch Is Making A Comeback

July 25, 2014

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Decades after it began disappearing from the American architectural landscape – felled by the advent of cars, air conditioning, and the backyard barbecue – the porch is back. In June, the Census Bureau reported that 63% of new single-family homes completed in 2013 had porches – up from 42% in 1993. “The wealthier we feel, and the more feature-rich we desire our homes to be, the more likely they are to have a porch,” said Ed Hudson, marketing research director of Home Innovation Research Labs, a subsidiary of the National Association of Home Builders. More than an exercise in nostalgia, the return of the porch signals a deep need for social connection, according to Robert A.M. Stern, dean of the Yale School of Architecture and a pioneer of new urbanism. “The porch friendlies up the house,” said Mr. Stern, who describes it as “a place between the privacy of the house and the public world of the street.” [Read this article]

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Healthy Housing Today: A View From The National Healthy Homes Conference

July 25, 2014

in News

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The modern American healthy housing movement has its origins in late 19th century New York City, when reformers worked to improve the unsafe and unsanitary living conditions in tenement buildings, particularly for immigrants living on the city’s Lower East Side. Since that time, knowledge of indoor air quality has expanded exponentially. But we still have a lot to learn and accomplish, and we are now also focused on newer issues, such as the effects of climate change on our homes, pest management, asthma prevention, and recent technologies to save energy and manage pollutants. Lead paint, banned in 1978 but still present in older homes, is a “classic” healthy-housing problem that has been the focus of government attention for decades and remains a pressing issue affecting Americans at all income levels. [Read this article]

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By 2060, The American South Could Be Three Times As Urbanized

July 25, 2014

in Markets,News

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Southern city planners and conservationists, look alive: New predictions map the future spread of urban sprawl in Dixie, and it is immense. Basing their model on past growth patterns and locations of existing road networks, researchers at North Carolina State University projected the region’s expansion decades into the future. According to their forecast, the Southern urban footprint is expected to grow 101% to 192%. The South’s explosive population growth over the past 60 years can only be expected to continue, the researchers report. And more likely than not, so will its typical development pattern of sprawling, automobile-dependent suburbs. Planners and city leaders should start acting now to managing infrastructure and natural resources in the area. [Read this article]

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The Foreclosure Fade, And What It Means For The Housing Market

July 23, 2014

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The U.S. housing market appears to be finding its footing after a sharp rise in mortgage rates last summer. The National Association of Realtors reported that sales of previously owned homes rose 2.6% in June to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.04 million units. That’s the third straight monthly gain and the highest level since last October. Housing became less affordable last summer after rates jumped from around 3.5% in May 2013 to 4.5% by July 2013. Since then, however, rates have drifted a little lower, and buyers and sellers have had time to readjust their expectations. There’s another important factor that explains the housing market dynamic right now: the foreclosure crisis has faded. So-called “distressed” sales accounted for just 11% of sales in June, down from 15% last year, 25% in 2012, and 30% in 2011. The foreclosure fade is great news for the housing market, as it means homeowners don’t have to compete with banks to sell homes – and eventually, builders will have to ramp up construction to satisfy new demand if job growth continues. [Read this article]

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Where 3 Generations Of Americans Are Moving

July 23, 2014

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More and more millennials are settling into the suburbs, while baby boomers and toddlers are enjoying city living. You’d think millennials, the tech-savvy generation roughly ages 20 to 34, would favor big cities. But America’s young adults were actually more drawn to the outer suburban rim of major metropolitan areas in 2013 than the year prior. Whether they’re seeking more affordable housing or more living space, millennials clearly favor commuting to major cities like Houston and Orlando rather than living in the heart of downtown. The number of millennials living in big-city suburbs and small cities grew about 1.3 percent, versus about 1.2 percent in big cities. As for America’s baby boomers, they’re heading to cities with warmer climates as they begin retirement and start downsizing. Their numbers are growing most heavily in both big cities and their dense suburbs, where their population in each area rose about 2.1%. [Read this article]

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Four Reasons The Housing Market Could Improve In The Second Half Of 2014

July 23, 2014

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The housing market’s performance over the first six months of the year left a lot to be desired. But while the Federal Reserve says the housing market has “lost traction,” based in large part on this year’s underperformance in residential construction and low household formation, Redfin expects the market in urban areas to regain its footing over the second half of 2014. The pace of sales, prices, foot traffic and inventory all point to steady progress into late summer. After an abysmal first quarter that drove a disappointing first half, housing will be playing catch-up for the year. It’s true that the market looks stunted compared with last year’s high investor activity, double-digit price appreciation and near-record inventory lows. But there’s a big difference between 2013’s abnormal real estate market and the market now, which is beginning to look more balanced. Though it won’t be a seamless transition, we believe the housing market is positioning itself for a stronger finish in the second half of the year. Here are four reasons. [Read this article]

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Housing Buoyed By 20-Year High For Vet’s Loans

July 23, 2014

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During his third deployment in Afghanistan, Air Force Staff Sgt. Claude Hunter was so eager to return to the U.S. and buy a house that he signed a contract for a property that his agent showed him over Skype. Hunter got back in time to close the deal, paying $219,000 in May for the four-bedroom Waldorf, Maryland, house that he financed with a U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs mortgage. It didn’t require a down payment. “On Facebook, my friends have started posting: ‘I got my VA loan, I got my house,’” said Hunter, 31. “Everybody is just ready. A lot of them have done their jobs overseas and are coming home.” America’s fragile housing recovery is getting a boost from military buyers using VA mortgages as the U.S. draws down troops after more than a decade of combat in Iraq and Afghanistan. About 4.7 million full-time troops and reservists served during the wars and many are now able to take advantage of one of the easiest and cheapest paths to homeownership. The program’s share of new mortgages, at a 20-year high, is also increasing as other types of government-backed loans have grown more costly. [Read this article]

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When It Comes To Housing, Maybe Millennials Aren’t So Different After All

July 23, 2014

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Millennials get flack for postponing marriage, living with parents and shying away from homeownership. But what’s less discussed is how, to some extent, they’re just responding rationally to their local housing markets. Nearly half of Americans between the ages of 23 and 34 who lived in metro areas with “ideal housing conditions” in 2012 were married (46.1%), versus around a third who lived in “unfavorable” housing conditions, according to a new study. In a separate study last week, Jed Kolko, chief economist at Trulia Inc., argued that demographic changes, such as delaying marriage and parenthood, account for nearly all of the declines in homeownership among young adults. But many of these demographic shifts may simply postpone home-buying, rather than eliminate it. Like mom and dad, many millennials, once they finally marry and have kids, may want that white picket-fence, too. “There probably hasn’t been a huge shift in millennials’ attitudes toward homeownership,” Mr. Kolko says. [Read this article]

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