Housing starts surge

There’s a ton of demand out there for apartments as many Americans turn to renting as opposed to buying homes. With this demand, more apartments will be built and that’s having an effect on housing starts.

U.S. housing starts surged to a 1-1/2 year high in November and permits for future construction were the highest since March 2010 as demand for rental apartments rose, offering hope for the weak housing market.

The Commerce Department said on Tuesday housing starts jumped 9.3 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 685,000 units, the highest since April last year.

October’s starts were revised down to a 627,000-unit pace from a previously reported 628,000 unit rate.
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Building permits, a gauge of future construction, rose by 5.7 percent. The increase was spurred by more apartment permits.

New homes have an outsize impact on the economy. Each home built creates three jobs for a year and $90,000 in taxes, according to the National Association of Home Builders.

Although the overall housing market remains weak, rising demand for rental apartments is boosting the construction of multifamily homes.

Falling house values and stringent lending practises by banks are pushing Americans away from homeownership.

The rate is still below the rate needed for a healthy economy, but the trend is in the right direction.

It will be interesting to see how this trend plays out, and it offer business opportunities for people who can exploit these trends. The buying vs renting debate on real estate is definitely tilted now towards renting with the tight bank lending practices.

  

Has Donald Trump destroyed his brand?

Miss Universe Organization President Paula Shugart and co-owner of the Miss Universe Pageant Donald Trump (R) meet with the Miss Universe 2010 contestants at the Events Center in the Mandalay Bay Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada on August 22, 2010. The Miss Universe 2010 competition will air live on the NBC Television Network at 9 PM ET. UPI/Patrick Prather/HO

Donald Trump has put his brand on all sorts of products as he leverages his success over the years in real estate along with the his status as a reality TV celebrity. Yet he turned many people off with his bizarre and mean-spirited attacks on President Obama. He questioned Obama’s birth certificate, and then moved on to questioning Obama’s qualifications to get into Harvard Law School.

Basically, he came across as a jerk. Then, Obama smacked him down by releasing his birth certificate, mocking Trump in front of the Washington press corps and then interrupting “Celebrity Apprentice” with the news that Navy SEALS had killed Osama bin Laden.

Meanwhile, the press has started to dig into Trump’s business dealings, shining a light on some of Trump’s less impressive ventures. Trump is getting sued by some who purchased condos thinking they were Trump projects, only to find later when the project folded that Trump was just licensing his name.

These stories are now all over the media. So it begs the question – did Trump screw up with his high-profile, mean-spirited attacks on the President? Is this going to hurt his brand? I always thought he was a clown, but he didn’t bother me. Now, I have no interest in supporting anything he’s associated with. Others I’ve spoken to feel the same way.

It will be interesting to see how this plays out . . .

  

A double-dip recession in the housing market?

Things keep getting worse in the housing market as foreclosures glut the market and depress prices. It’s so bad that some are calling it a double-dip recession in the housing market.

If the numbers showing housing prices slumming it around their spring 2009 lows aren’t troubling enough, then the surrounding context certainly is. The federal government spent trillions of dollars lifting housing — the recession’s great instigator — out of its trough. And now that home prices have collapsed again, the feds have far fewer tools available to prop them up again.

This does not bode well for the entire economy, but it just shows how long it’s going to take to work through all the excesses of the mortgage bubble. In Las Vegas, the foreclosures are now spreading to upscale homes as well, giving high rollers the opportunity to come in and scoop up real estate gems on the cheap.

Fortunately, there is one silver lining, as young people now actually have hope of getting an affordable home if they have decent income. With all the bad news out there for young people in the job market, at least there’s some good news. Unfortunately, many people are paying the price for the excesses of the past decade.

  

Dealing with the foreclosure crisis in Cleveland

This video describes how the city of Cleveland, and one housing court judge, are dealing with the massive foreclosure crisis. In particular, the city is tearing down condemned homes and making the owners and the banks cover the cost.

  

Mortgage rates keep falling

How low can home mortgage rates go? They keep falling.

The interest rate for a 30-year mortgage fell for the eighth time in nine weeks, according to a widely watched survey, with the record lows triggering the highest volume of home refinancing in 15 months.

Freddie Mac’s weekly report on lenders said solid borrowers with 20% down payments or home equity were being offered 30-year fixed-rate loans at an average of 4.42% this week, down from 4.44% a week earlier. The borrowers would have paid 0.6% of the loan amount in upfront lender fees.

The average 30-year interest rate recorded by the survey has not risen in nine weeks, although it remained flat at 4.57% for the weeks ending July 8 and July 15.

One reason is the terrible housing market. Homeowner confidence in the real estate market has dipped again.

Homeowners(i) are more pessimistic about the short-term future of home values in their local market than they have been in the past three quarters, according to the Zillow second quarter Homeowner Confidence Survey(ii). One-third (33 percent) believe home values in their local housing market have not yet reached a bottom, while 38 percent believe they have already reached a bottom.

Clearly, the foreclosure crisis has a long way to go.

  

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