Latest NAHB Index Reading Shows Recovery Continues To Spread

April 11, 2014

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Of the approximately 350 metro markets nationwide, 59 returned to or exceeded their last normal levels of economic and housing activity, according to the most recent National Association of Home Builders/First American Leading Markets Index (LMI). This represents a net gain of 11 metros year over year. The index’s nationwide score ticked up to .88 from a March reading of .87. This means that based on current permit, price and employment data, the nationwide average is running at 88 percent of normal economic and housing activity. Meanwhile, 28 percent of metro areas saw their score rise this month and 83 percent have shown an improvement over the past year. “I think the big news here is that regions outside of the energy states continue to gain ground,” said NAHB Chief Economist David Crowe. “The job market continues to mend and with that we will see a steady release of pent up demand of buyers.” [Read this article]

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Working At Home: Who Claims The Home Office Deduction?

April 11, 2014

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Often cited as a “red flag” for audits, the home office deduction is in fact a legitimate business deduction with particular importance for certain careers and small business owners. Moreover – from the housing economics perspective – IRS data concerning the deduction, along with Census data reporting who works at home, can shed light on an important and growing role for homes: workplaces for business owners and telecommuters. There’s no doubt that the practice of working at home is on the rise. According to data from the Survey of Income and Program Participation, in 1997 7% of workers (9.2 million individuals) reported working at home at least one day a week. By 2010, that total had grown to 9.4% (13.4 million), an increase of more than four million or 35%. Not surprising, workers in industries that involve more individual independence or technology tend toward greater use of the deduction. For example, educators, the information technology sector, professional services (lawyers, accountants, architects, etc.), and those in the arts and entertainment sectors are all more likely to claim the home office deduction. [Read this article]

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March Employment Report Shows 19,500 Real Estate-Related Jobs Created

April 11, 2014

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The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics released its March employment report, with total non-farm payrolls increasing by 192,000 from January and the unemployment rate holding at 6.7 percent. Real estate-related payrolls grew by 19,500, an increase of 2.6 percent year over year. The change in real estate-related employment for February was revised upward from an increase of 19,000 jobs to 22,000 and the change for January remained at 55,000 jobs. Based on these revisions, real estate-related employment grew by 96,000, or 1.1 percent, over the last three months. March construction employment grew by 19,000 jobs from the prior month, a 2.9-percent increase year over year. Financial services employment increased by 1,000 jobs from February and was up 0.7 percent from a year ago. [Read this article]

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Top 10 Markets For First-Time Home Buyers In 2014

March 29, 2014

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The study examined five key factors that make particular markets ideal for first-time buyers: market popularity, prices, inventory, time on market and unemployment rates. Florida had the most market of any state, with the metropolitan areas of Tampa-St.Petersburg-Clearwater, Orlando and Jacksonville all making the list. “As we head into home-buying season, these markets show favorable conditions for first-time buyers, which is encouraging because these buyers are crucial to the housing market,” said Steve Berkowitz, CEO of Move Inc. “First-time buyers have a widespread impact on the local housing markets. In transitioning from renters to owners, new buyers pay property taxes and other fees and taxes associated with homeownership that benefit local schools and services.” Other markets on the list include Fort Worth, Dallas, Raleigh-Durham and Phoenix. [Read this article]

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Home Prices In 20 U.S. Cities Rose 13.2% In Past Year

March 29, 2014

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The S&P/Case-Shiller index of property values in 20 cities increased 13.2 percent from January 2013, the smallest gain since August, after rising 13.4 percent in the 12 months through December. Compared with the prior month, prices rose 0.8 percent. Price appreciation on a year-over-year basis has eased in recent months as higher mortgage rates and unusually severe winter weather slowed demand for properties. Smaller increases in asking prices will help improve affordability, providing support for the residential real-estate market, which has been a source of strength for the economy. “The housing recovery may have taken a breather due to the cold weather,” David Blitzer, chairman of the S&P index committee, said in a statement. “Expectations and recent data point to continued home-price gains for 2014. Although most analysts do not expect the same rapid increases we saw last year, the consensus is for moderating gains.” [Read this article]

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NAHB Reveals Most Popular Features Found In New Homes

March 29, 2014

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During New Homes Month in April, the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) is sharing with home buyers the most popular features in new single-family homes in 2014. Builders from across the country were surveyed on what features they were most likely to include in a typical single-family home this year, revealing that convenience, livability and energy efficiency are top priorities. “Newly constructed homes can suit the specific requirements of today’s home buyers,” said NAHB Chairman Kevin Kelly. “And now is a great time to consider buying a new home, as consumers can take advantage of competitive home prices and low interest rates to find the perfect new home for their families.” The features that are most likely to be included in a typical single-family home this year are:
(1) a walk-in closet in the master bedroom, (2) low-e windows, (3) a laundry room and (4) a great room. Energy efficiency is a key theme with Energy-Star rated appliances, programmable thermostats and Energy-Star rated windows at the top of the list. [Read this article]

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Grinning Screws Bring Glee To Humdrum Home Improvement Projects

March 29, 2014

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For those who don’t exactly qualify as “handy” or normally approach toolboxes with a sense of reluctance and fear, even the simplest home improvement projects can result in giant headaches and minor injuries. Sure, there’s that sense of pride and accomplishment once you’ve put together that bookshelf or installed those blinds without any sort of huge mishap. But getting to that point isn’t always easy. Screw :) is meant to turn those home improvement-related frowns upside down. These merry emoji screws may not be all that practical (you have to use a custom smiley face screwdriver, naturally) for most grunt-inducing projects. However, the cutesy screws could come in handy for special projects in which you want the screw heads to be more visible. [Read this article]

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Mortgage Rates Fall, But Could Be Headed Up Soon

March 22, 2014

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Mortgage rates continued to bounce around, refusing to pick a course, according to the latest data released by Freddie Mac. But news that the Federal Reserve has begun to lay the groundwork for increasing interest rates likely will have an impact going forward. For the past month, mortgage rates have fluctuated, rising one week and then falling the next. After last week’s uptick, the 30-year fixed-rate average dropped to 4.32 percent with an average 0.6 point. It was 4.37 percent a week ago and 3.54 percent a year ago. “Mortgage rates eased this week as housing starts declined 0.2 percent in February to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 907,000, below consensus forecast,” said Frank E. Nothaft, Freddie Mac vice president and chief economist. The rate on the 10-year Treasury note rose following the Fed’s announcement and, if this holds, interest rates may begin to trend higher going into next week. [Read this article]

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Study Finds Housing Recovery Fully Taken Hold Nationwide

March 22, 2014

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RealtyTrac has released an analysis of housing market health in 410 U.S. counties in two-year increments over the past eight years, finding that 96 percent of county housing markets are better off than they were four years ago when foreclosures peaked in 2010, but only eight percent of county housing markets are better off than they were eight years ago in 2006 before the housing price bubble burst. The analysis also found that 80 percent of the county housing markets were better off than two years ago in 2012, when median home prices hit bottom, and 30 percent were better off than six years ago in 2008, at the front-end of the Great Recession. The analysis looked at four different key categories of housing market health: home price appreciation, affordability, percentage of bank-owned (REO) sales, and the unemployment rate. “The housing recovery has taken root in hundreds of counties across the country and almost all local housing markets are better off than they were four years ago when foreclosure activity peaked in 2010,” said Daren Blomquist, vice president at RealtyTrac. [Read this article]

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Millions Of Renters Say They Really Want To Buy A Home This Year

March 22, 2014

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In all but one of 20 metro areas Zillow surveyed, 5% or more of residents said they wanted to buy a home over the next 12 months. The desire is particularly strong for renters: 10% of them want to buy. That would translate into 4.2 million first-time buyers, double the number who purchased in 2013. Renters in Miami, Atlanta and Las Vegas expressed the most desire to become homeowners, according to Zillow’s index. Prices in the South Florida metro area are still about 40% off their highs and the median price of homes sold lately is well under $180,000, much more affordable than other major cities. [Read this article]

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