For the first time since 2006, a survey of the nation’s homebuilders found them with a positive outlook about the market. It’s not scientific, but it’s still nice to see.
The Economist took a look at Standard & Poor’s housing data and concluded that there probably isn’t a housing bubble at the moment. And when you see the charts you can see why.
For example, if you start at the end of 1987 (giving it a value of "100"), here is what real house prices look like.
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Once upon a time there were two shamans in a tribe. They both tried to predict how bad the upcoming winter would be. One threw rabbit bones and predicted a harsh winter. The other threw squirrel bones and predicted a mild winter.
The winter was mild, thus proving that throwing squirrel bones was a more accurate way of predicting the weather.
In an unrelated note, there is some speculation that we might be starting to inflate a new housing bubble, as prices are rising more quickly than is typical.
So, are we? Is there a bubble growing?
There are people who insist either yes or no, and have the bones data to prove it. I’m not going down that road. But it’s worth considering the
There are a handful of tax breaks for homeowners who improve the energy efficiency of their homes — essentially, the government reduces your taxes if you make your house greener.
Now a bill introduced in the Senate by senators Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) and Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.) would give a different kind of incentive — it would require lenders to take into account the energy-efficient features of a home when calculating a borrower’s income/expense ratio.
Essentially, it would allow buyers to qualify for a larger loan or a better rate if a home is energy efficient.
The National Flood Insurance Program was in the black until Hurricane Katrina; since then it’s been in debt to the tune of about $20 billion. (Which, of course, illustrates why it’s a government program and not offered by private insurers.)
So in 2012 Congress reformed the program to try to keep it from bleeding money.
For example, homes built before 1968 — when the NFIP started — were given lower, "grandfathered" rates. Those are going to be phased out. And homeowners living where the danger of flooding is so extreme that insurance is unaffordable were given subsidies to pay for it. (Yes, that’s correct. People living in the most-flood prone areas were given lower insurance rates.) Those subsidies are also going to be removed.
The Obama administration has extended its Making Home Affordable program, which includes two sub-programs designed to help homeowners refinance so they can stay in their homes.
Making Home Affordable includes the Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP) and the Home Affordable Refinance Program (HARP). It was set to expire at the end of the year, but homeowners now have until December 31, 2015 to apply for modifications.
HAMP: Lenders are giving incentives from the federal government to modify homeowners’ mortgages.
Nine of Virginia’s 11 metropolitan areas had unemployment drop in April — only Bristol and Danville saw it rise (by 0.7 percent and 0.1 percent, respectively).
Statewide, Virginia had 5.0 percent unemployment, down from 5.2 percent in March — the national rate was 7.1 percent. (Of course, keep in mind that actual unemployment is still higher — closer to 9 percent — thanks to the dopey way the figure is calculated.)
Northern Virginia had the lowest rate: 3.9 percent. Here are some of the other areas:
I find this headline from DSNews amusing: "Freddie Mac: Fixed Rates Soar to Highest Level in a Year."
Yep, interest rates have risen almost a half-percent since the beginning of May. Now they are 3.81 percent (assuming 0.8 points). What’s funny is talking about interest rates soaring to 3.81 percent. I remember being thrilled when I got 7.5 percent on my house in Roanoke, way back when!
The point, of course, is that interest rates are showing signs of picking up.
Maybe that will spur more potential buyers into the market ("Honey, we should do it now before mortgages skyrocket to four percent!").
According to April home sales data, its a great time for homes to be put on the market. The Virginia numbers match the positive buzz humming nationally. Thanks to housing contributing to economic growth and the job market looking more hopeful, the economy seems to be picking up. So, let’s look at the signs for Virginia: