As a twist on the typical “Best Places To Live” surveys, CNN Money released its 2008 “Best Places to Live and Launch“.
The rankings rate the business friendliness of 296 Census-designated metro areas, and then identify that area’s town that best combine business and pleasure for its residents.
In 2008, the Top 10 Live and Launch cities are:
- Bellevue, WA (pop. 111,608)
- Georgetown, TX (pop. 37,963)
- Buford, GA (pop. 13,576)
- Marina del Rey, CA (pop. 8,891)
- Bethesda, MD (pop. 59,475)
- Portland, OR (pop. 535,421)
- Denver, CO (pop. 555,932)
- Charlotte, NC (pop. 596,123)
- Fort Worth, TX (pop. 595,062)
- Franklin, MA (pop. 29,642)
To view the complete, 100-city listing, visit CNNMoney.com.
When mortgage rates change rapidly, it’s a fiscal challenge to shop for a home and/or home loan.
Lately, mortgage rates have been especially volatile, mirroring the wild moves of the stock market.
Here’s how up-and-down stock markets have been in 2008: Through last week, the S&P 500 Index changed more than 1 percent per day on 28 separate days.
This represents 52 percent of all trading days and is the most volatile measurement since 1938.
Mortgage financing is impacted by stock market changes because when money flows into stocks, it tends to come from bond markets. And, when money leaves stocks, it tends to “gets parked” in bond markets.
Because mortgage bonds set mortgage rates, you can understand how stock market volatility can make it difficult to predict what home loan payments might look like.
Volatility is expected to continue for the next several quarters so if you see a mortgage rate you like today, consider locking it right away — it probably won’t last long.
U.S. Stock Volatility Climbs to Highest in 70 Years, S&P Says
Bloomberg, March 20, 2008
Each month, the Commerce Department and the National Association of REALTORS release national housing data.
Both reports highlight the “median sales price”, the point at which half of the homes in the U.S. sold for more, and half sold for less.
Last month, the median sales prices were as follows:
The very definition of “median”, however, makes this data point useless for national housing statistics.
If a large amount of homes are sold in regions where home prices are traditionally high, the median sales price will trend higher.
If a large amount of homes are sold in regions where home prices are traditionally low, the median sales price will trend lower.
Again, all that the median sales price tells us is the price point at which half the homes in the country sold for more, and half sold for less.
Real estate is a local phenomenon and so grouping the entire country’s supply of homes together makes little sense. A home in San Francisco has little to do with a home in Omaha.
To get a true gauge of your local market, talk to a real estate agent that knows the local market well. You’ll not only get meaningful statistics about a neighborhood, but you’ll get good insights, too.
Consumer Confidence fell to its lowest point in three years and anybody who watches the evening news can understand why.
Each day, news programs barrage Americans with tales of economic woe and American Opinion is largely shaped by the media.
After enough time, the reporting becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.
But, in the Consumer Confidence report, there was a choice piece of data that isn’t getting reported by the news programs and it’s a rather important piece.
Although fewer consumers expect to buy automobiles and appliances over the next six months, those with plans to buy homes is actually higher by 14 percent.
In other words, despite weakening confidence in the economy, an increasing number of Americans are planning to buy homes this season and next.
Consumers may be motivated to buy this year by a number of factors:
- Lower home prices nationwide
- Affordable mortgage rates
- Fear that mortgage products will require larger downpayment
Regardless, the media is choosing to ignore this part of the story. Instead, the news programs are focusing on the negatives — just look at the headlines.
It’s no wonder that confidence is down — bad news is all the American Public tends to hear.
Each quarter, the Census Bureau releases the Homeowner Vacancy Rate, a housing statistic the measures the percentage of homes for sale that are vacant.
A home listed for sale may be vacant for several reasons including:
- The home has been foreclosed and the owner has moved out
- The home seller moved into a new home and not sold his former home
- The home was a rental property and is being sold without a tenant
In Q4 2007, the Homeowner Vacancy Rate matched its all-time high of 2.8 percent.
The statistic can be misleading, however, because Homeowner Vacancy Rates appear to be seasonal and the fourth quarter is more prone to high figures.
As evidence: In 6 of the last 7 years, Q4 posted higher vacancy rates than for the preceding three quarters.
Vacancy rates may increase in the fall because homesellers without a “need” to sell tend to take their properties off the market during the Holiday Season. That leaves an over-weighting of empty homes for sale — precisely what the Homeowner Vacancy Rate measures.
For an interactive version of the chart above, visit the Wall Street Journal Online.
Housing Markets: A Vacant Look
The Wall Street Journal Online
March 21, 2008
Some home improvement projects are just too big to be tackled alone.
Before you start searching Web sites for handymen, though, watch this 3-minute news piece.
Large, online, third-party search services are often reputable (including the company highlighted in the video), but, for peace of mind, the best place to find contractors is from people with first-hand experience.
If you’re in need of help for anything home-related, reach out to me via phone or email. I’m happy to provide quality referrals to handymen and/or contractors anytime.
Since December 2007, mortgage lending guidelines have changed very quickly and often without notice.
Some of the more well-known changes include:
- Broad restrictions on stated income home loans
- Broad restrictions on 100 percent financing
- “Risk-based fees” for credit scores under 740
Some of the lesser-known restrictions relate to property type and occupancy status as well as debt-to-income levels and mortgage payment histories.
Because of the number of changes and their collective scope, home buyers should be prudent and get re-pre-approved for their home loan.
Even if you last spoke with your loan officer four weeks ago, it’s important to know how market changes could ultimately impact your home loan approval.
The market really is that different. Talk to your loan officer about a re-pre-approval today.
The Fed lowered the Fed Funds Rate by 0.750% to 2.250% yesterday.
Because it is tied to the Fed Funds Rate, Prime Rate also fell by 0.750% yesterday. Prime Rate is now to 5.250%.
Holders of home equity lines of credit and credit card debt benefited from the change and will see lower interest costs in next month’s statements.
Mortgage rate shoppers didn’t.
In the statement above — as explained by The Wall Street Journal — the Fed expresses a growing concern of inflation from rising commodity prices such as oil. In part, this caused the mortgage bond market to sell off immediately following the press release’s issue.
Mortgage rates rose close to a quarter-percent yesterday.
The Federal Open Market Committee’s statement leaves the possibility of future Fed Funds Rate cuts open. The FOMC’s next scheduled meeting is a two-day affair April 29-30, 2008.
Parsing the Fed Statement
The Wall Street Journal Online
March 18, 2008
The Federal Open Market Committee meets today and will issue a press release in addition to cutting the Fed Funds Rate at 2:15 P.M. ET.
The verbiage of the press release will be as widely watched as the rate cut itself because markets are curious about how far the Federal Reserve will go to lessen the impact of an economic recession.
With every Fed Funds Rate cut, recession becomes less likely, but the other side of the equation is that the probability of long-term inflation grows.
Like recession, inflation can be bad for the economy, too.
The Fed Funds Rate now stands at 3.000% this morning and the FOMC is expected to lower it by 0.750% or more this afternoon.
Mortgage rates are rising today because cuts to the Fed Funds Rate weaken the U.S. dollar which, in turn, makes mortgage re-payments less valuable to investors.
Springtime means Spring Cleaning and VideoJug’s “How to Clean a Window” teaches you the right way to get your windows sparkling clean and clear.
The 5-minute video lesson explains:
- Why it’s better to clean windows on a cloudy day
- Why to wipe windows horizontally outside, and vertically inside
- Why natural sponges are preferred to man-made sponges for window cleaning
VideoJug features more than 100 videos on keeping a clean home. For Spring Cleaning, it’s a terrific place to start.