Here’s a Part of the Housing Market That’s Really Booming

Mike Blake/Reuters

The turmoil in the stock market hasn’t hurt homeowners’ plans to spend on their properties this year, according to a new Angie’s List survey.

The survey found that among homeowners who’ve already set their spending budgets for 2016, nearly 79 percent plan to spend as much or more on home improvement projects compared to last year.

That’s good news for service providers, who are also optimistic about 2016. More than 90 percent of them said they expect homeowners to spend as much or more on projects as they did last year.

The survey found that millennials plan to spend as much as or more than older homeowners on home improvements.

The Angie’s List findings confirms a report issued by the Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard University last month, which projected that home remodeling would pick up this summer. The Leading Indicator of Remodeling Activities projected that annual spending on home improvement projects in 2016 could surpass its 2006 peak, on nominal terms.

The report shows expected home improvement spending of $148 billion in the second quarter of this year, followed by $155 billion in the third quarter.

Home-improvement projects are making more sense as an investment than they have in recent years. While most renovations don’t pay off dollar-for-dollar when you sell a home, the return on investment for remodeling projects in 2015 increased to 64.4 percent in 2016, up from 62 percent in 2015 and the second-highest return in the past eight years, according to Remodeling magazine. 

Written by Beth Braverman of Fiscal Times

(Source: Fiscal Times)

 

Where Can You Buy a Mansion for $400,000? Detroit.

Michael S. Williamson/The Washington Post

Erica MacKinnon and Bill Sneed have lived all over the world and spent a couple of years in a rented Los Angeles duplex considering whether to move to Miami or Seattle, Oakland or Portland, Maine.

Instead, nearly a year ago, the business and life partners packed up and headed to Detroit, which they had visited months earlier in search of computer coders for their small commercial digital-animation company.

“We spent three days in Detroit, and we just fell in love with the city,” said MacKinnon, 38. “We couldn’t believe the mix of the location and the water and the people.” They also appreciated the expansive 90-year-old brick homes priced below most nondescript L.A. bungalows.

Those homes, in Detroit neighborhoods filled with 4,000- to 7,000-square-foot beauties, are in hot demand, both by newcomers to Michigan and Detroit suburbanites.

New residents have come to Detroit from Paris, Panama, New York, Washington and San Francisco, lured to the city by its creative vibe, sense of urban adventure and affordable homes — even when they buy abodes with a butler’s pantry and third-floor servants’ quarters.

Buyers think: “Why not trade a two-bedroom apartment in Manhattan and have an 8,800-square-foot mansion in Detroit for half of that?” said Kenan Bakirci, an agent for Max Broock who for almost 20 years has focused on Palmer Woods and Sherwood Forest, two historic neighborhoods in north-central Detroit.

In a city where homes still can cost less than a beat-up Chevrolet, demand has revved up for luxury residences that look as if a Bentley or vintage Cadillac belongs in their garages. These high-end homes in the city’s historic neighborhoods frequently attract multiple offers and often sell above the listing price, real estate agents say.

Detroit is a city of empty lots and faded or abandoned homes, and the poverty rate is more than twice the national average. Many blue-collar workers live in suburban bungalows, and executives own sprawling homes in the suburban cities of Grosse Pointe or Bloomfield Hills.

Many people are not aware of Detroit’s mansion districts, where auto barons and wealthy business owners spared no expense to build homes from 1900 to 1929. Homes in Detroit’s Palmer Woods neighborhood have living rooms large enough to seat 110 at a jazz concert. Some come with carriage houses and basement bars big enough for 50 guests.

“Homes that are move-in ready get heated action — multiple offers within the first week,” said Ryan Cooley, who leads O’Connor Realty and landed Sneed and MacKinnon their home. Some receive eight or more offers, he said.

In September, MacKinnon and Sneed moved into a stately 1923 brick home with room for an art studio for Sneed, guest rooms for visits by nieces and nephews, and a home office for their Yankee Peddler animation and design company. They beat out several other offers for the home in Indian Village, one of the half-dozen Detroit neighborhoods where mansions and luxury homes or condominiums are found.

Betty J. Warmack has sold homes in Detroit, mainly in Indian Village, for more than 30 years and says she has never seen this much demand and multiple offers. “I sold an attorney from New York a house, a psychiatrist from New York a house and a blogger” from Europe bought in Indian Village, a neighborhood on Detroit’s east side that is on the National Historic Register, she said. “It’s quite a comeback.”

 

Valrie Honablue, originally from Panama, relocated to Detroit and found an affordable and spacious home in the city’s Indian Village neighborhood. The house had been vacant for 17 years.
Michael S. Williamson/The Washington Post

 

Homes that four years ago rarely sold for more than $200,000 fetch twice that amount if they are ready for their new owners to move in, real estate agents say.

About 15 homes sold for $500,000 or more last year through October, more than double the seven high-end sales for the same period in 2014, according to Realcomp, which runs the city’s multiple-listing service.

A few carry price tags of more than $1 million, a rarefied amount that only one Detroit home has sold for since 2006. That home, the Alfred J. Fisher mansion in Palmer Woods, went for $1.6 million in 2014 — more than homes in the tony suburbs fetched that year, according to Realcomp. It sold again last year, for $1.55 million to General Motors President Daniel Ammann and his wife, Pernilla, a partner in a New York advertising agency. (A high-profile mansiononce owned by Motown Records founder Berry Gordy Jr. in the Boston-Edison neighborhood was taken off the market in July.)

Austin Black II, a broker and owner of City Living Detroit, says he is amazed at how many executives have decided that it’s time to live in the city of Detroit, because for years they would house-hunt only in the nicer suburbs, where there were 217 million-dollar homes that sold in 2014 and 229 through October, Realcomp data shows. Inventory in the city has been low for months, Black said, with only a handful of homes for sale in prime neighborhoods. It’s gotten so tight, he said, that he has gone door to door in a few neighborhoods seeking people who are ready to put their homes up for sale.

“I have 20 or so clients who are ready and able to purchase a home right now. Inventory doesn’t exist,” Black said.

Demand in the mansion districts is so high and inventory so low, Black and others say, that some buyers are opting for adjoining neighborhoods, with stately but less elegant homes.

The rising home prices may begin to persuade current homeowners to cash in their mansions and elegant abodes, some of which could fetch record or near-record prices. But “because the market is doing so well lately, some sellers get aggressive with pricing” and those homes sell much slower, Black said.

To many, the influx of new residents is one of several signs that Detroit may finally be on a roll.

Quicken Loans Chairman Dan Gilbert, a Detroit native, is one of the city’s largest commercial landowners, purchasing more than 60 properties downtown for $1.3 billion. And the Kresge and Skillman foundations, JPMorgan Chase and others have committed millions of dollars to revitalization.

Still, those efforts are not enough to jump-start the real estate market and undo the prolonged structural decline of Detroit’s housing stock. So city officials have introduced efforts to either raze or auction abandoned houses. And a community bank is experimenting with a program to renovate vacant houses and, if necessary, absorb a loss to sell them to buyers who may not qualify for traditional loans.

The living room in the mansion once owned by Motown Records founder Berry Gordy Jr. in the Boston-Edison historic district. The house had been listed for $1.295 million but was taken off the market in July.
Paul Sancya/ AP

Detroit has neighborhoods that have been ravaged by years of neglect and middle-class flight. It’s a city where dozens of homes are purchased at auction for as little as $1,000 to $7,000. That helps explain why in Detroit and three adjoining cities, homes sold for a median price of $20,183 last year, which is up from the $15,011 median in 2014 and more than double the median price of 2012, according to Realcomp.

Despite an influx of entrepreneurs, artists and hipsters, Detroit’s population fell from 951,000 in 2000 to about 680,250 in 2014. So new residents are moving into a city full of contrasts: Population and employment bases­­­ have declined for decades; crime and insurance for home and auto are high. Yet new restaurants and art galleries are opening, and high-end shops are starting to show up from New York, Germany and elsewhere.

Demand for larger luxurious homes may be an indication of Detroit’s comeback; buying has heated up since the city filed for bankruptcy in July 2013 (it emerged about 17 months later). Tech start-ups and boutiques have opened, and investors from China and Europe started buying commercial properties or blocks of homes, many in marginal neighborhoods.

Sneed and MacKinnon said they knew that the market was competitive and that they wanted a home in Indian Village, citing its architectural beauty and proximity to the Detroit River and Belle Isle, a city park in the middle of the river.

So they moved to Detroit in frigid February and rented a loft near downtown. “I wanted . . . to be ready when spring hit for any houses on the market,” MacKinnon said. “We wanted a beautiful, craftsman, old historic home.”

They looked at eight homes and then saw the one they bought: a 4,878-square-foot property on a double lot filled this past summer with peonies, hostas and wind chimes. The Georgian revival has a big homey kitchen and a beautiful fireplace in the living room, four bedrooms on the second floor, and a third-floor office and fifth bedroom. It was spacious without being grand and just felt right from the moment they walked in, MacKinnon said.

So they were aggressive and offered $430,000 — well above the $395,000 asking price. The owner accepted in two days. They have learned about their home’s history from him: It was built in 1923 at a cost of $12,750 for W.J. Davidson, who worked in General Motors’ executive offices, and was said to be a wedding present.

Despite being self-employed, Sneed and MacKinnon had pre-qualified for a larger loan, so they landed a mortgage quickly using a local lender. Home insurance was a bit trickier, but after shopping around, they are satisfied with the policy’s $2,400 annual premium.

Their new home requires some improvements — paint and hardwood floors, electrical and fire- and security-alarm upgrades — but basically it was ready for them to move in, except for cleaning out items left in the basement and a few small repairs. “We have had personal invites to join Thanksgiving parties and 100-year house parties, which is something that never happened in Los Angeles. Back there we never knew our neighbors,” MacKinnon said.

Family members have come for visits, including MacKinnon’s mother and sister, who have shown up three times, she said. Other guests say they were misinformed about Detroit, from negative headlines, and appreciated the food culture, parks and how easy it is to get downtown.

For some higher-priced deals, buyers need to put down more cash because their homes may not appraise at the prices they are paying, some agents said. Some offer all-cash purchases — an easy choice for New Yorkers who sell their $3 million apartment and buy a $500,000 mansion. About 40 percent of high-end purchases are all-cash sales, Cooley estimates. Nationwide, 27 percent of housing purchases were all cash in November, often by investors, according to the National Association of Realtors.

Valrie Honablue, a psychiatrist who grew up in Panama, paid cash for her first Detroit home in 2010. She was living in Atlanta when she read about Motown’s real estate opportunities. “The prices are so low; something is wrong,” she said. So she drove to the city to see for herself. She bought one in Indian Village. Shortly after moving to Detroit, she left for “the job of a lifetime” but bounced back within two years, drawn by “the people and the possibilities” and the beautiful homes.

Her second Detroit home had been vacant for 17 years when she bought it in June 2014. She got it for a bargain price but expects to spend five or six years renovating it, partly to spread out the improvement costs.

Warmack, her agent, calls her “the pied piper of Detroit.” A dozen people have followed Honablue to the city and bought homes.

Many who move to Detroit bring their jobs or businesses with them. Sneed and MacKinnon are among them.

“We just couldn’t get ahead” in Los Angeles, Sneed said. Now after nearly a year in Detroit, they operate their Yankee Peddler animation company from a loft, own a huge home with oversize gardens, and have made new friends who clue them into culture, festivals, dog parks and more.

“We know we’re taking a gamble. . . . But there’s a passion here,” Sneed said. They have turned into Detroit boosters and are eager to celebrate their home’s 100th birthday in seven years. Said MacKinnon: “I can’t believe I live on this street. It blows me away how beautiful these streets are.”

Written by Vickie Elmer of The Washington Post 

(Source: The Washington Post)

What to Expect When You are…Buying a New Home

© Image Source/Rex Features
© Image Source/Rex Features

Buying a house with that front porch and white picket fence is every American’s dream. However, buying your first home is not all what you would expect. Yes, you sign a contract and pay for your deposit. But there is so much more time and effort to the entire home buying process than most would believe!

If you spot any damage to the house that you are about to purchase, be aware that the seller is not at all obligated to fix these issues before you buy the house! It makes sense that the seller should fix their home just so they could sell it at a higher value, but it is not a requirement for them to do so. However, as the buyer, you can rescind your offer if these required repairs are too costly for you. So if you hire a home inspector and are presented with a long list of issues with the house, you may need to reevaluate the worth of your purchase. Since the seller isn’t forced to fix these problems, the money that is needed for these repairs will just be an added cost to your purchase! Therefore, if you are setting a budget for the maximum amount you are willing to pay for a house, you need to factor in the costs for repairs to that total as well!

In addition to that, if you do not fix the crucial parts of the house that is in need of repair, you may even be dropped from your homeowners insurance! This is serious because sometimes they give you a limited timeframe where you need to finish your repairs, and you might not be able to afford the costs of these repairs just yet. So be sure that you read the fine print when you are applying for a homeowner’s insurance and are aware of all of the policy measures. But first, before you even settle on a specific homeowners insurance provider, make sure that they will cover the basic but important things that you will need. These may include, floods, break-ins, earthquakes, etc.

Another thing you might not be expecting is that even if you get an inspector to check for needed repairs in your potential home, which is pretty costly, it won’t even be as thorough as you would prefer. Home inspections are pretty expensive. Usually, most buyers are so eager to speed up their timeline that they fail to do their research and compare the fees between inspectors. So the opt for the first one that they find, which may not be the cheapest. And even if a regular home inspector completes a sweep-through of the house, you might need specialized inspectors to check the more detailed parts of the house. However, just because a home inspector said your house doesn’t have any significant issues, doesn’t mean that you are free from any worries, especially if the house is an older one. These inspectors have a limited scope as to what they can see since they are not allowed to break through the walls to check the internal structure. Therefore, you need to consider the fact that the projected worth and safety of the house is not a guarantee.

When buying a house, there will be many aspects in this process that you will not be expecting. Overall, it will be very time consuming and you will face many obstacles if you are not prepared. So before you decide to accomplish every American’s dream of buying your own house, make sure you do your research and have the proper amount of money that it realistically entails!

(Source: HSH, Select Underwriters)

10 Best States for Helping Home Buyers

© AP Photo/Nick Ut
© AP Photo/Nick Ut

Most Americans want to achieve the dream of homeownership, but for many, that dream is fraught with financial obstacles. That’s why all 50 states and Washington, D.C., offer specific home-buying-assistance programs to help residents turn homeownership into a reality.

HSH.com recently created a database of the home-buying-assistance programs in every state. From that database, we have assembled a list of the states which offer the most robust set of programs to their residents.

What makes a set of programs the best? We rewarded states with home-buying programs open to the majority of borrowers with the most points — four points per program. Down-payment assistance was assigned the second-most significant weight — three points per program. Finally, all of the other ancillary programs were awarded equally — one point per program.

We divided the programs into several categories: first-time and/or repeat buyer purchase programs, down-payment assistance, mortgage credit certificate, energy efficient, home improvement, veterans, disabled homebuyers, and job-specific.

For states that had a tie score, we used higher population (the ability to help more residents) as the tie-breaker.

Here is HSH.com’s list of the states with the best home-buyer programs:

10. MONTANA

Score: 18
Number of programs: 7
Montana has the third-lowest foreclosure rate in the U.S., according to CoreLogic’s March 2015 National Foreclosure Report. Perhaps it’s all the support the state lends to first-time buyers. Montana offers seven statewide programs: three purchase programs, one down-payment-assistance program, a program designed to construct, acquire or rehabilitate homes for disabled buyers, a low-rate program for veterans, and a mortgage credit certificate.

9. MISSISSIPPI

Score: 19
Number of programs: 7
The Mississippi Association of Realtors acknowledges that while low inventory and added regulation are holding the local market back to a certain degree, the state is making considerable progress following the downturn. To help more residents achieve the dream of homeownership, Mississippi offers seven statewide programs: two purchase programs, three down-payment-assistance programs, a program for low-income disabled first-time buyers, and a mortgage credit certificate.

8. IOWA

Score: 20
Number of programs: 7
The spring home buying season has been good to Iowa so far with both prices and sales on the rise. There’s no better time for potential buyers to utilize the home buying programs the state offers. Iowa offers seven statewide programs, including three purchase programs, two down-payment-assistance programs, a program specifically designed for veterans, and a mortgage credit certificate. Down-payment assistance is available statewide to both first-time and repeat buyers.

7. CALIFORNIA

Score: 20
Number of programs: 8
First-time homebuyers face tough conditions in California as affordability continues to decline. To help improve affordability, the state offers two first-time and repeat purchase programs, three down-payment-assistance programs, a mortgage credit certificate, a program specifically designed for California teachers, and an effort to promote energy conservation by providing buyers with the opportunity to finance energy-efficient improvements.

6. IDAHO

Score: 22
Number of programs: 7
Idaho offers its homebuyers three first-time and repeat purchase programs, three down-payment-assistance programs, and a mortgage credit certificate. Idaho’s purchase programs serve many different audiences: FHA, VA, USDA, manufactured housing, 30-, 20- and 15-year conventional loans, and FHA 203(k) loans.

5. NORTH DAKOTA

Score: 23
Number of programs: 8
The oil boom in North Dakota has begun to attract many new residents to the state. In an effort to turn those residents into homeowners, North Dakota offers three first-time and repeat purchase programs, three down-payment-assistance programs, a low-rate program for single parents, veterans, the disabled and/or the elderly, and a home-improvement program.

4. COLORADO

Score: 25
Number of programs: 9
The population boom in Colorado is certainly one of the factors contributing to the state’s limited housing inventory – there simply aren’t enough for-sale properties to accommodate the demand. But the state is certainly doing its part to assist home buyers. Colorado offers four first-time and repeat purchase programs, two down-payment-assistance programs, two programs for buyers with disabilities, and a mortgage credit certificate.

3. NEW YORK

Score: 25
Number of programs: 10
According to CoreLogic, New York is one of eight states that reached new home-price peaks in April, further ratcheting up the pressure on buyers to purchase a property before prices and mortgage rates move even higher. To help alleviate some of the pressure on buyers, New York offers three first-time and repeat purchase programs, three down-payment-assistance programs, a veterans program, two home-improvement programs and a recapture-tax program.

2. WYOMING

Score: 28
Number of programs: 9
Wyoming has begun to see an influx of buyers from surrounding states who want to take advantage of the lower real estate and income taxes. To help these new buyers capitalize on the ownership opportunities the state has to offer, Wyoming offers five first-time and repeat purchase programs, two down-payment-assistance programs, a home-improvement program, and a mortgage credit certificate.

1. PENNSYLVANIA

Score: 28
Number of programs: 11
Pennsylvania is the top state on our list, offering the most home-buyer-assistance programs. Pennsylvania offers four first-time and repeat purchase programs, two down-payment-assistance programs, two programs for disabled home buyers, two home-improvement programs, a program specifically designed for certain professionals (such as teachers and first responders), and a mortgage credit certificate.
Methodology
Using a weighted average system, HSH.com assigned a score to each of the 50 states and Washington, D.C. States that offered first-time and repeat buying programs were awarded most generously (four points per program). Down-payment and/or closing-cost assistance options were weighed as the second-most important feature (three points per program). Finally, all the other ancillary programs were awarded equally (one point per program). We divided the programs into several categories: first-time and/or repeat buyer purchase programs, down-payment assistance, mortgage credit certificate, energy efficient, home improvement, veterans, disabled homebuyers, and job-specific. For states that had a tie score, we used higher population (the ability to help more residents) as the tie-breaker.

Written by Tim Manni of HSH.com

(Source: HSH)

5 Home Upgrades That Just Aren’t Worth It

Myth: All upgrades will add value to your home.

Fact: You may never recoup the full cost of some home upgrades.

If you’re hoping to increase your home’s value (above and beyond the cost of an upgrade itself), you should know that some updates that are valuable to you may not be valuable to potential buyers.

Here are five of the most common upgrades that cause homeowners to lose money.

1. Putting in a pool

Pools can be hit-or-miss when it comes to added value. You may see some return, but often it’s not enough to pay for the pool itself.

In fact, adding a pool to your home could be a major turnoff to some buyers. Buyers with small children may be concerned about safety risks, those looking for a low-maintenance yard won’t want to deal with the hassle and upkeep of cleaning a pool, and buyers who are on a tight budget may not have the extra cash to deal with the added expense.

If you live in a warm-weather climate where people are inclined to use a pool year-round, you’re more likely to get a favorable response from buyers.

If you’re looking to add a pool, don’t forget that you’ll need to operate and maintain the pool yourself, and this comes with a sizable extra cost. Your likelihood of recouping the money you spent on maintenance, in addition to the installation costs, is pretty low.

2. Highly custom design decisions

Contractors remodeling kitchen

© George Peters/Getty Images Contractors remodeling kitchen

Your idea of a dream kitchen probably isn’t everyone’s idea of a dream kitchen. Unless you plan to stay in your house for many years to come, think twice about renovations that are too personalized.

If you install a kitchen backsplash, you might recoup the cost, because the difference between “no backsplash” and “backsplash” is noticeable. But the specific type of tile might not matter to buyers. Similarly, choosing a beveled countertop edge that’s complex and ornate, rather than a basic beveled edge, can turn off buyers whose tastes don’t align with yours.

In fact, these custom features may wind up costing you come listing time, as many buyers will factor in the money they’ll need to spend to change the house to suit their own tastes. If you’re going to upgrade your kitchen just for the sake of selling, stick with neutral, builder-grade design decisions.

3. Room conversions

Woman in closet. Edwin Remsberg/Getty Images

© Edwin Remsberg/Getty Images Woman in closet. Edwin Remsberg/Getty Images

Buyers will be looking for certain basic staples when they tour your home: typically, three bedrooms, two bathrooms, and a garage. Getting rid of these expected spaces (or altering them into something unusual) may harm your resale value.

Every bedroom, for instance, is coveted space that can bump your listing up into the next bracket. Buyers are looking for a two-bedroom, three-bedroom, or four-or-more-bedroom home.

You might not need that extra room and dream of knocking down a wall to create a giant walk-in closet. Or perhaps you’d prefer to cover the walls with soundproof foam and convert it into a recording studio.

Unfortunately, most buyers likely won’t share your interests. Instead, they prefer an extra bedroom for children or guests.

4. Incremental square footage gains

Messy basement.

© Angela Wyant/Getty Images Messy basement.

Sizable square footage gains — like finishing your dingy basement so it becomes an additional livable floor — can be a boon in buyers’ minds. But tiny, incremental changes may not give you much of a return on your investment. (You may love your new sunroom, but it’s not likely to drastically increase your home’s overall value.)

Adding square footage in a way that doesn’t flow well with the floor plan can also backfire. Sure, a half bath on the first floor would be useful, but if buyers have to pass through the kitchen to get to it, the half bath loses some of its appeal.

5. Overimproving

An American 'McMansion'.

© Karen Hatch/Getty Images An American ‘McMansion’.

No one wants to buy a megamansion on a block full of split-levels. When your upgrades feel overboard for your neighborhood, you alienate buyers on two fronts: buyers who are drawn to your neighborhood won’t be able to afford your home, and buyers who can afford a home of your caliber will prefer to be in a ritzier area.

Keep the “base level” of your neighborhood in mind. Tour some open houses on your block to see how your neighbors’ kitchens look before you invest a small fortune in granite countertops and high-end fixtures. Being a little nicer than the other houses around you can be a selling point, but being vastly more luxurious is not.

Pursue these upgrades for your own enjoyment — but don’t trick yourself into believing you’ll more than recoup the cost of the improvement in the form of additional home value. You can always opt for the projects that have the best potential to draw in a buyer instead!

Written by Trulia of Money

(Source: Time)

10 Places Where Homebuyers Can Still Find Deals

© Jonathan Ernst/Reuters
© Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

Buying a house?

In most of the country, buyers have the advantage over sellers in the housing market. In April, 59% of counties in RealtyTrac’s monthly Home Sales Report reported that homes sold at less than market value, on average. In 27% of counties, homes sold at above market value, and in 14% homes sold for almost exactly their estimated worth. The data comes from 315 counties with a population of at least 100,000 and at least 100 home sales in April.

The places where it’s a seller’s market aren’t much of a surprise: Six of the 10 counties with the best seller’s markets are in California and two are in the D.C. area, which are known for their high costs of living and tight real estate markets. The top buyer’s markets, however, are a bit more mixed, though they’re mostly east of the Mississippi River (the farthest west being on the river) and in the South.

It’s important to note that the data only includes sales in which the sales price and estimated market value is available, and 14 states do not require the sales price to be included on the sales deed — the most-populated non-disclosure state is Texas. (That doesn’t mean there’s no data from those states, rather, some data may not be available because of the laws.)

So if you’re looking to buy a home and hope for a better deal, here are the top 10 buyer’s markets in the country.

10. MUSCOGEE COUNTY, GA.

Average sale price, as a percentage of estimated market value: 86.6%

Muscogee County is in western Georgia, along the Alabama-Georgia state line. Its only city is Columbus and is roughly 100 miles southwest of Atlanta. The average sales price of a home or condo in Muscogee County was $96,183 in April.

9. WESTMOORELAND COUNTY, PA.

Sale price percentage of market value: 86.5%

Greensburg, the county seat of Westmooreland County, is about 35 miles east of Pittsburgh (about an hour drive) and is considered part of the metropolitan area of that city. The average market value of a home in Westmooreland county was $110,476 in April, but buyers on average paid $95,596.

8. WASHINGTON COUNTY, TENN.

Sale price percentage of market value: 86.1%

Sitting just west of the Cherokee National Forest, Washington County is known as the “Birthplace of Tennessee,” because it is Tennessee’s oldest county. It was established as part of North Carolina, which now shares its eastern border. In April, homebuyers paid an average of $137,586 for a home in Washington County.

7. UNION COUNTY, N.J.

Sale price percentage of market value: 85.8%

Union County is part of the New York Metropolitan Area, so it unsurprisingly has one of the highest average market values on this list of great buyer’s markets. The average home sale price was $271,845 in April, compared to the $316,975 average market value.

6. IREDELL COUNTY, N.C.

Sale price percentage of market value: 85.3%

The county’s largest town is Mooresville, best known for its race track and as the home to dozens of NASCAR teams, and it’s located just about 30 miles north of Charlotte. Homebuyers paid an average of $177,933 for a home in Iredell County last month.

5. CHITTENDEN COUNTY, VT.

Sale price percentage of market value: 85.2%

About a quarter of Vermont’s population resides in Chittenden County, the county seat of which is Burlington. Of the 10 most buyer-friendly housing markets, Chittenden has the highest prices. Homes sold for an average of $273,842 in April, and the estimated average market value was $321,379.

4. BARTOW COUNTY, GA.

Sale price percentage of market value: 84.3%

Bartow County is about 45 miles northwest of Atlanta, though it is considered part of the Atlanta metro area. Homes sold for an average of $125,047 in April.

3. BEAVER COUNTY, PA.

Sale price percentage of market value: 82.0%

Like Westmooreland County, Beaver County is also near Pittsburgh — the county seat, Beaver, (both are named after the Beaver River) is about 35 miles northwest of Pittsburgh. Homes are pretty inexpensive here, selling for an average of $95,631in April.

2. BALTIMORE, MD.

Sale price percentage of market value: 77.7%

Baltimore is an independent city and does not belong to a county (one of three cities in the country like that, outside of Virginia, where there are dozens of independent cities). The average home sold for $99,673 in April.

1. ST. LOUIS, MO.

Sale price percentage of market value: 76.6%

St. Louis is also an independent city and the only place on this list that is west of the Mississippi River. With an average market value of $85,979 in April, St. Louis has one of the lowest property values of any of the 315 counties in the RealtyTrac report. With the average home price at $65,877 in April, St. Louis is about as much of a buyer’s market as you can get.

If you’re planning to buy a home in the next year, now is the time to start looking at your credit reports and credit scores to make sure your credit is in good shape by the time you search for your new home.

Written by Christine DiGangi of Credit

(Source: Credit)

The 10 Worst Cities for First-Time Homebuyers

NEW YORK (TheStreet) — Location, location, location — the first three rules of real estate. And with interest rates so low, it can be tempting to jump into buying home both feet first. But beware — there are places where you should think twice about buying a home, at any price.

There are plenty of cities and towns where buying a home isn’t a good idea; many are in California, according to WalletHub, a financial resources Web site.

WalletHub compared the 300 U.S. cities to determine the attractiveness of their first-time home-buyer markets, in its latest report. Among the 18 key metrics considered: housing costs, real-estate taxes, and property crime rates, were of top considerations.

WalletHub ranked a city based on its housing affordability, real-estate market and living environment, which included factors like violent crime rate, school systems and jobs availability, among other things.

WalletHub Sources: the U.S. Census Bureau, the Council for Community and Economic Research, Zillow, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Experian, CoreLogic and WalletHub research.

Here are the 10 worst cities where sinking you’re hard-earned money into a house may not be worth it.

10. Inglewood, Calif.A cyclist rides past a La Quinta Holdings Inc. hotel location in Inglewood, California, U.S., April 7, 2014.

© Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg A cyclist rides past a La Quinta Holdings Inc. hotel location in Inglewood, California, U.S., April 7, 2014.

Housing Affordability Rank: 284
Real Estate Market Rank: 267
Living Environment Rank: 230

Approximately 12 miles southwest of Los Angeles is Inglewood, Calif. Inglewood has a population of approximately 112,000, according to 2013 Census data.

The median household income in Inglewood for the five years through 2013 was $43,394, below state’s median of $61,094. Roughly 22% of the city’s population fall below poverty level.

9. Salinas, Calif.

© National Steinbeck Center, Esmeralda Montenegro Owen/AP Photo

Housing Affordability Rank: 266
Real Estate Market Rank: 252
Living Environment Rank: 286

Approximately 60 miles south of San Jose is Salinas, Calif. Salinas has a population of approximately 156,000, according to 2013 Census data.

The median household income in Salinas for the five years through 2013 was $49,264, below state’s median of $61,094. Roughly 21% of the city’s population fall below poverty level.

8. Paterson, N.J.

© Mel Evans, File/AP Photo

Housing Affordability Rank: 298
Real Estate Market Rank: 219
Living Environment Rank: 182

Approximately 20 miles west of New York City, Paterson has a population of approximately 146,000, according to 2013 Census data.

The median household income in Paterson for the five years through 2013 was $32,707, below state’s median of $71,629. Roughly 29% of the city’s population fall below poverty level.

Paterson ranked as the city with the lowest median annual income as well as one of the top 10 cities with the lowest median home-price appreciation, according to WalletHub.

7. Miami

© Luke Sharrett/Bloomberg

Housing Affordability Rank: 300
Real Estate Market Rank: 241
Living Environment Rank: 180

Miami has a population of approximately 418,000, according to 2013 Census data.

The median household income in Miami for the five years through 2013 was $30,375, below state’s median of $46,956. Roughly 30% of the city’s population fall below poverty level.

6. New York City

© Daniel Schoenen / imageBROKER/REX Features

Housing Affordability Rank: 270
Real Estate Market Rank: 299
Living Environment Rank: 133

New York City has a population of approximately 8.4 million, according to 2013 Census data.

The median household income in New York for the five years through 2013 was $52,259, below state’s median of $58,003. Roughly 20% of the city’s population fall below poverty level.

5. Oakland, Calif.

© Proehl Studios/Corbis

Housing Affordability Rank: 271
Real Estate Market Rank: 296
Living Environment Rank: 261

Oakland is located roughly 12 miles east of San Francisco. It has a population of approximately 406,000, according to 2013 Census data.

The median household income in Oakland for the five years through 2013 was $52,583, below state’s median of $61,094. Roughly 20.5% of the city’s population fall below poverty level.

4. New Bedford, Mass.

© The Standard-Times, Peter Pereira/AP Photo

Housing Affordability Rank: 297
Real Estate Market Rank: 279
Living Environment Rank: 248

New Bedford is located roughly 31 miles east of Providence, R.I. and about 60 miles south of Boston. It has a population of approximately 95,000, according to 2013 Census data.

The median household income in New Bedford for the five years through 2013 was $35,999, below state’s median of $66,866. Roughly 24% of the city’s population fall below poverty level.

3. Miami Beach, Fla.

© Dylan Rives/Getty Images for W South Beach Hotel & Residences

Housing Affordability Rank: 292
Real Estate Market Rank: 228
Living Environment Rank: 290

As beautiful as it is, Miami Beach is WalletHub’s third worst city for first-time homebuyers. Miami Beach is a quick 10-mile ride from downtown Miami over Biscayne Bay to the beaches. It has a population of approximately 91,000, according to 2013 Census data.

The median household income in Miami Beach for the five years through 2013 was $43,316, below state’s median of $46,956. Roughly 17% of the city’s population fall below poverty level.

Miami Beach was one of the top 10 cities with the highest property crime rate, according to WalletHub.

2. Richmond, Calif.

© Paul Sakuma, file/AP Photo

Housing Affordability Rank: 262
Real Estate Market Rank: 293
Living Environment Rank: 294

Richmond, Calif., is located roughly 18 miles north of San Francisco. It has a population of approximately 108,000, according to 2013 Census data.

Richmond’s median household income for the five years through 2013 was $54,589, below state’s median of $61,094. Roughly 18.5% of the city’s population fall below poverty level.

1. Compton, Calif.

© TheStreet

Housing Affordability Rank: 291
Real Estate Market Rank: 295
Living Environment Rank: 260

Compton is a city located in south Los Angeles. It has a population of approximately 98,000, according to 2013 Census data.

Compton’s median household income for the five years through 2013 was $42,953, below state’s median of $61,094. Roughly 26% of the city’s population fall below poverty level.

Written by Laurie Kulikowski of The Street

(Source: The Street)

First-Time Buyers Push Home Sales to a 5-Year High

Copyright Mark Moz/Flickr
Copyright Mark Moz/Flickr

U.S. home resales surged to a 5-1/2-year high in May as first-time buyers stepped into the market, the latest indication that housing and overall economic activity were gathering steam in the second quarter.

The National Association of Realtors said on Monday existing home sales increased 5.1 percent to an annual rate of 5.35 million units, the highest level since November 2009.

That left sales this year on track for their strongest performance since 2007.

“It suggests that the U.S. housing market recovery is back on track after the missteps earlier this year. We expect this upbeat tone in the housing recovery to continue as the favorable domestic fundamentals begin to reassert themselves,” said Millan Mulraine, deputy chief economist at TD Securities in New York.

Last month’s increase unwound April’s surprise drop in purchases, which economists had dismissed as a blip given that forward-looking indicators on home sales, including mortgage applications, had been fairly strong during that period.

The Realtors group revised April’s sales pace up to 5.09 million units from the previously reported 5.04 million units. Economists polled by Reuters had forecast home resales rising to a 5.26 million-unit pace last month.

First-time buyers accounted for 32 percent of transactions, the largest share since September 2012. Still, the share remains well below the 40 percent to 45 percent that economists and realtors say is required for a robust housing market.

May’s sturdy home sales report added to last week’s data on building permits in portraying an upbeat picture of the housing market. It joined strong retail sales, consumer sentiment and employment data reports in suggesting a building up of momentum in the economy after output contracted at the start of the year.

The strengthening economic outlook keeps the Federal Reserve on course to raise interest rates later this year.

U.S. stocks extended gains on the housing data. Market sentiment was also buoyed by hopes of a deal to avert a debt default by Greece. The housing index (.HGX) was up 0.76 percent. The dollar was little changed against a basket of currencies, while prices for U.S. Treasury debt fell.

Strong demand for accommodation, especially among young adults as they find employment, is giving the housing market a steady pulse after a lackluster performance over the last few years. Tightening labor market conditions are also starting to spur stronger wage growth, boosting demand for housing.

Economists hope that housing will strengthen enough to take up some of the slack from manufacturing, which is being stymied by the lingering effects of a strong dollar and spending cuts in the energy sector, and support the economy this year.

“The  continued resilience in existing home sales gives further support to the notion that much of the Q1 weakness in resales was weather-related,” said Derek Lindsey, an analyst at BNP Paribas in New York.

While the stock of homes for sales is improving, supply remains fairly tight and continues to limit choice for potential buyers. Last month, the inventory of unsold homes on the market increased 3.2 percent from April to 2.29 million units. Supply was up only 1.8 percent from a year ago.

At May’s sales pace, it would take 5.1 months to clear houses from the market, down from 5.2 months in April. A supply of six months is viewed as a healthy balance between supply and demand.

With supply well below what it was at the height of the housing market boom in 2006, the median price for a previously owned home increased 7.9 percent from a year ago to $228,700. House prices this year could exceed the peak set in 2006, the Realtors group said.

While the strong house price gains could reduce affordability, they are raising equity for homeowners, encouraging some to put their houses on the market.

Realtors and economists say insufficient equity has been forcing potential sellers to stay longer in their homes. A survey by the Realtors association showed homeowners on average staying in their homes for 10 years instead of the typical seven years.

Written by Lucia Mutikani of Reuters

(Source: MSN)

Looks Like Millennials are Finally Boosting the Housing Market

© Hinterhaus Productions/Getty Images
© Hinterhaus Productions/Getty Images

A greater share of U.S. millennials say they’re likely to buy a home this year, adding to evidence that first-time buyers are finally entering the real estate market and fueling a jump in sales.

A Realtor.com survey of site visitors taken in mid-June showed that about 65 percent of respondents between ages 25 and 34 said they intend to buy a home within the next three months, up from 54 percent in January, according to data released Wednesday at the National Association of Real Estate Editors conference in Miami. The share of millennials visiting Realtor.com with the goal of buying a home increased to 23 percent from 21 percent at the start of the year.

Young buyers, traditionally top drivers of housing demand, are helping to bolster the U.S. housing recovery after years of being hampered by student debt and tight credit. An improving economy, surging rents and the prospect of higher mortgage rates are luring in more homebuyers, especially older millennials starting families.

“We are in the midst of the millennials really seriously getting into the market, and that’s the difference on the existing-home side,” Jonathan Smoke, chief economist at Realtor.com, said during a panel discussion at the conference.

First-time buyers accounted for 32 percent of existing-home sales in May, matching the highest share since 2012, the National Association of Realtors reported this week. Millennials have pulled ahead of the older Generation X as the largest segment of purchasers, according to the trade group.

Marriage, Rents

Life-cycle issues such as marriages and births of children are driving millennials into the homebuying market, as are falling prices for new houses and rising rents, Smoke said.

The share of millennials looking for rentals fell to 20 percent this month from 26 percent in January, according to the survey by Realtor.com, which is operated by News Corp.’s Move Inc. unit. The survey results are based on more than 12,000 respondents from the start of the year to June 15.

The prospect of rising mortgage rates is helping to push younger buyers off the fence, Franklin Codel, head of mortgage production at Wells Fargo & Co., said on the NAREE panel. The average rate for a 30-year fixed mortgage has climbed to 4 percent after falling to as low as 3.59 percent this year, according to Freddie Mac.

In Wells Fargo surveys of potential homebuyers, 93 percent of millennials indicate they want to own a home at some point in their lives — despite some people’s beliefs that young Americans are less interested in buying properties and more willing to be lifelong renters, Codel said.

“It’s just a question of when and preparedness,” Codel said.

Student Debt

One factor limiting millennial purchases is the “tremendous amount” of student debt they’re burdened by, said Dennis Carlson, deputy chief economist at Equifax Inc.

Americans under the age of 30 had a total of $369 billion in student debt last year, up from $146 billion a decade earlier, according to data from Equifax released Wednesday.

“I don’t think it’s the only issue holding millennials back,” Carlson said at the panel, adding that unemployment and underemployment are keeping some young people from making property purchases.

First-time buyers are likely to have the most impact on the existing-home sales market because prices for new houses tend to be higher. They’re entering the new-home market from a “virtually nonexistent” level, and remain constrained by tight credit, Stuart Miller, chief executive officer of Lennar Corp., said on the homebuilder’s earnings conference call Wednesday.

“The doubling up of the millennials during the downturn will ultimately unwind and give way to household formation,” Miller said. “We’ve already seen evidence that this is beginning to happen.”

Written by Prashant Gopal and Daniel Taub of Bloomberg

(Source: Bloomberg)