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Economy

Latest Census/HUD data looks pretty good for housing construction

A bit of good news from the Census Bureau and HUD, which released the latest information on residential construction.

Building permits are up, housing completions are up some, and housing starts are probably up, according to the latest data from the Census Bureau.

Here are the data (you can view the PDF of the full report by clicking here):

Building permits were up 16.1 percent (±1.7%) in June compared to the year before.*

Foreclosures, delinquencies, and underwater homeowners all down sharply

Two pieces of good news when it comes to homeowners staying in their homes, and one of them also bodes well for the future.

Let’s start with RealtyTrac, which says foreclosure filings (everything from default notices to actual repossessions) are down in a big way: down 23 percent in the first half of 2013 from a year before.

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Inventory is low — but may be hitting bottom

Low inventory has been a problem lately, and not just in Virginia. But the latest figures from Realtor.com show that, while inventory is still low, signs are showing that it may be bottoming.

According to the report, June inventory was 7.3 percent below what it was a year ago. But here’s the good news: We had been looking at much bigger declines. For example, February’s numbers were down 18.6 percent year to year.

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Call for action: Tax reform is in the works

There’s a big deal going on in the Senate regarding tax reform.

The Senate Finance Committee has decided that the easiest way to change the tax code is to start with a blank slate — that is, start with no deductions at all, then add in the ones that are most important.

REALTORS’ voices heard by the Fed and the media

About a month ago a survey was sent out to Virginia Realtors giving them the opportunity to share what they are experiencing first hand, in the field regarding the housing market.

The survey, conducted in partnership with The Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond, focused on the state of the residential housing market in Virginia and how those conditions changed during the first quarter of 2013.

Virginia slips to #5 on "Top States for Business" list

CNBC’s annual list of "America’s Top States for Business" is out, and Virginia has slipped further — now we’re down to number five (tied with Utah). After finishing first for three years (2007, 2009, and 2011), we dropped to third place last year, and dropped further in 2013.

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Inventory news, good and bad

Good news: May inventory is up 16.9 percent for the year, which is a good, solid number. (See the explanation below.)

Bad news: Inventory is still 14.3 percent lower than last May nationwide.

Inventory typically follows a cycle, increasing through the first half of the year and decreasing through the second half. So by July it might be 15 percent above what it began the year with. By December it might be right back where it started.

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"Unsustainable" price rises won’t be sustained

Home prices can’t keep rising this quickly forever. That’s what Realtor magazine is reporting that CNBC is reporting that NAR has said. (I know, right?)

Here’s the deal: In May, NAR reported that home prices were up 15.4 percent from the year before. And that marked six months of those kind of double-digit price jumps. Said NAR’s chief economist Lawrence Yun, "[I]t cannot continue."

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