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Existing-home sales up 15 percent in June

The latest figures from NAR show that sales of existing homes (single-family houses, condos/co-ops, and townhomes) were up 15.2 percent in June from the year before.

Meanwhile, inventory was down 7.6 percent from a year ago, while median nationwide prices were up 13.5 percent from June 2012. (That’s 16 consecutive months of year-over-year price increases, btw.)

NAR’s headline, for some reason, focuses on month-to-month numbers for sales, but year-to-year numbers for prices. Go figure.

Missing the point, headlines see downs in a positive report

Are you kidding me? Talk about looking for the negative.

"Housing Starts Fall to 10-Month Low" reads the New York Times Reuters headline. But there are two big problems with the story.

Here’s the lede:

U.S. housing starts and permits for future home construction unexpectedly fell in June…

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.*

Cordray confirmed to head CFPB

Back in February we told you not to worry about Richard Cordray’s appointment to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. (There was some concern that if wasn’t confirmed, we’d be back in limbo in terms of mortgage requirements, and that would play havoc with the housing recovery.)

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.

If you just look at June, filings are down 35 percent from the previous year (and 14 percent from the previous month). In fact, June’s filings were at the lowest monthly level since December 2006.

Here’s the chart (click to enbiggenify):

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 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.

So the inventory drop may be slowing. In fact, reports the Wall Street Journal,

Positive coverage of VA housing market

Stacey RicksVAR’s PR guru got a chance to explain the local housing market to Richmond NBC affiliate WWBT (that’s NBC 12 to you and me). She talks recovery, and offers some perspectives from our latest survey. Check her out in the video:

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.

Unfortunately, in the post-Citizens United era, "most important" could easily become "what most big businesses want," rather than "what’s best for the country." Which is why NAR wants to be sure that tax incentives for homeowners — notably the mortgage interest deduction, property tax deduction, and capital gains exclusions — are at the top of the list.

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.

About 70 percent of Virginia Realtors say that housing market conditions were slightly or significantly better the in the first quarter of this year, and a similar share of respondents indicated that the inventory of housing was very low.

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.

  1. South Dakota
  2. Texas
  3. North Dakota
  4. Nebraska
  5. Utah, Virginia

Why? CNBC ranked the states by a number of criteria, essentially boiling down to "where is it cheapest and easiest to have a business." So "cost of doing business" — taxes, utilities, wages, and real estate — is high on the list, and that was our first big stumbling block.