How Microbe Research Could Lead To Healthier Homes

September 2, 2014

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Each one of us has a “microbial fingerprint,” a unique signature of bacteria that we stamp, in the millions, on virtually every surface we touch. It would follow, then, that the environments we most regularly interact with would strongly bear our microbial fingerprints, not to mention the fingerprints of those we’re often with. That fact – and how it might play into our health – is what prompted The Home Microbiome Project, an close-up analysis of how microbes and humans interact inside houses and apartments, conducted by researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy and the University of Chicago. Determining our microbial interactions in our indoor environments could help make for healthier homes. If further research revealed a pattern in this kind of transmission, then homeowners could pinpoint risky bacterial hot-spots. [Read this article]

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Pending Home Sales Rise 3.3% In July To Highest Level Since August 2013

August 30, 2014

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The number of contracts signed for previously-owned homes rose in July, climbing 3.3% over the June level, according to National Association of Realtors data. In July NAR’s Pending Home Sales Index – which tracks signed contracts, rather than closed sales, for previously-owned homes – climbed to 105.9, its highest level since August 2013, when the index stood at 107.1. “Interest rates are lower than they were a year ago, price growth continues to moderate and total housing inventory is at its highest level since August 2012,” said Lawrence Yun, NAR’s chief economist. “The increase in the number of new and existing homes for sale is creating less competition and is giving prospective buyers more time to review their options before submitting an offer.” Taken together, the most recent housing data shows a market that is returning to more normal conditions after the rapid price appreciations seen over the past year. [Read this article]

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Stronger Hiring Boosts Outlook For U.S. Home Sales

August 28, 2014

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Stronger job creation in the United States is making economists more optimistic about the outlook for home resales over the next two years, according to a Reuters poll that showed little change to expectations for house price rises. The annual pace of existing home sales will likely rise to 5.25 million units in the first three months of 2015 from 5.09 million in the current quarter, according to the poll’s median forecast. In May, economists expected much slower gains, with 5.1 million resales expected in the first quarter of next year. Much of the added optimism draws from the six consecutive months through July in which U.S. employers added more than 200,000 jobs. The median says the annual pace of home resales will rise to 5.29 million in the second quarter of next year. “Low mortgage rates and improving labor market dynamics should remain conducive to gradual growth in the housing sector,” Gennadiy Goldberg, a strategist at TD Securities, said in a recent note to clients. [Read this article]

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Some See Price Gap Narrowing Between New, Existing Homes

August 27, 2014

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A persistent price gap between existing homes and newly built homes has given the former an advantage over the latter in recent months. But some economists say that gap will soon will start to narrow. A few economists and builders point to emerging factors that stand to cause new-home prices to increase at a slower rate than existing-home prices. First, the number of foreclosed homes in the resale market continues to shrink, which will help push the existing-home market’s median price upward. Second, builders likely will start building less expensive homes as first-time buyers inevitably return to the market in greater numbers in light of slowly loosening mortgage-qualification standards and stronger wage growth. The supply increase has already started. The supply of newly built homes available for sale increased to 205,000 in July, a four-year high. That’s up 44% from the market’s nadir in July 2012. [Read this article]

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Existing Home Sales Continue To Increase

August 24, 2014

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Existing home sales increased for the fourth consecutive month and the share of distressed sales decreased, making the report positive news for future new home sales because each prospective repeat buyer must sell their existing home before buying a newly built home. Existing home sales increased 2.4% in July, but are still 4.3% below the same period a year ago. The National Association of Realtors (NAR) reported July 2014 total existing home sales at a seasonally adjusted rate of 5.15 million units combined for single-family homes, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops, up from a downwardly revised 5.03 million units in June. Three regions increased from the previous month, ranging from a 3.4% increase in the South to 1.7% in the Midwest. There were significant signs that the market is being embraced by home buyers. For the first time, the distressed sales share fell below 10% since NAR began tracking the series in October 2008. The share of distressed sales decreased to 9% in July from 11% in June and 15% during the same month a year ago. [Read this article]

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Buy A Second Home Now To Live In During Retirement

August 24, 2014

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With over a quarter of a million Americans turning 65 every month and half of all second-home buyers over 46 (according to the National Association of Realtors), the idea of buying a second home now for future retirement is a certifiable trend. If you’re considering this path to retirement, the type of house you choose and what’s nearby makes all the difference. Both should support independent living as you transition from being an active adult to, well, less active. The more “age-friendly” a second home is when you buy, the less time and money you’ll need to put into it when it becomes your principal residence. “As you age, your house should enable, not disable you,” says Rodney Harrell, AARP’s housing expert. Harrell suggests looking at houses with features that offer universal appeal. For example, open floor plans, wide doorways and unobstructed exterior entryways work for everyone but won’t inhibit mobility as you age. [Read this article]

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Why You Should Get To Know Your Neighbors

August 24, 2014

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Social connection at the neighborhood level has long been known to be associated with good mental health, and some aspects of physical health. A new research study published from psychologists at the University of Michigan is the first study to look specifically at neighborhood social cohesion and heart attacks, which hit more than 700,000 Americans every year and cost everyone billions of dollars. “There’s evidence suggesting that negative factors of the neighborhood, things like density of fast food outlets, violence, noise, and poor air quality impact health,” said lead researcher Eric Kim. Kim’s team is focusing on the other side of things: the positive elements of a neighborhood that “might perhaps be protective or even enhancing of health.” Kim suggests that the cardiac prosperity he documented may come through people checking in on one another and noticing health problems, sharing health-related information, lending money and sharing resources, and “eyes on the street” – the sociological principle that people protect people. [Read this article]

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Mortgage Rates Hit 2014 Low

August 22, 2014

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Mortgage rates have dropped to their lowest level in over a year. The average rate for a 30-year loan now stands at 4.1%, according to Freddie Mac. That matched its lowest level since June 2013, when it stood at 3.93%. The average 15-year fixed was 3.23%. The government’s stimulus program has helped keep borrowing costs down. The Federal Reserve has been purchasing Treasury Bonds and mortgaged-backed securities for years, providing a steady market for mortgages. But the Fed has cut back on its purchases, and plans to end the buying program entirely in October, reducing demand for mortgage bonds. That should eventually cause rates to climb. Low mortgage rates and home prices that are climbing more slowly should boost the housing market, said Keith Gumbinger, spokesman for HSH.com, a mortgage information company. “That should provide a solid foundation for home sales this fall,” he said. [Read this article]

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Owning A Home ‘Very Important’ To Nearly Half Of Single Buyers

August 22, 2014

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Almost half of single homebuyers aged 25 to 50 reported that it was “very important” to them to own a home, according to Century 21′s Singles Homebuyer Survey released on August 20. Three quarters of single homebuyers in that same age bracket said that it was “fairly important” for them to own a home, according to the survey. “We are in the midst of a shift in the homebuying population,” said Rick Davidson, president and CEO of Century 21. “This survey shows that homeownership is a major life decision for singles, and that it is just as important a part of the American Dream for singles as it is for married couples.” Century 21 reported that the three biggest factors that motivated single homeowners to buy a home were: they viewed purchasing a home as an investment, they no longer wanted to pay rent, and they believed it was the “right time” to purchase a home. The top three considerations for single homebuyers were how much space would be available, the yard, and how close the home would be to work or school. [Read this article]

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Housing Starts In U.S. Rise To Highest Level In Eight Months

August 19, 2014

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Housing starts surged in July to the highest level in eight months, underscoring the recent pickup in builder optimism as the U.S. residential real-estate market gains some traction. Beginning home construction climbed 15.7 percent to a 1.09 million annualized rate following June’s 945,000 pace, which was stronger than previously reported, the Commerce Department said today in Washington. The level exceeded the highest estimate in a Bloomberg survey of economists, whose median projection called for 965,000 starts. “Recent news on the housing front has been relatively encouraging,” Gennadiy Goldberg, a U.S. strategist at TD Securities USA LLC in New York, said in a research note. “‘With affordability remaining high, mortgage rates still low, and labor market activity accelerating, we expect the housing market trajectory to continue gradually improving in the coming months.” [Read this article]

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