The Surprising Costs of Downsizing Your Home

© Jamie Grill/Getty Images
© Jamie Grill/Getty Images

When I look at my retirement stash, I have to admit it’s kind of small. When I look at my house, I realize it’s kind of big. And when I consider the two together, I think that maybe I should downsize and use the equity in my house to buy a condo or add to my retirement savings and rent.

Downsizing isn’t for everyone, but it’s one of the few strategies — along with working longer, delaying Social Security or spending less later in retirement — available to near-retirees who find themselves short on retirement savings and don’t have time to catch up, says Steven Sass, of the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College. “The house is a major source of people’s savings. If you don’t want to work longer or give up eating out in retirement, downsizing should be part of the plan.” (Another way to get at home equity is to take out a reverse mortgage)

Do the math. Before you sell your house and move, add up the costs that can chip away at the amount you free up. For starters, fixing up a house to sell often means spending thousands of dollars in repairs and upgrades (new roof, anyone?). Once the house does sell, you’ll pay commissions to real estate agents on both sides of the transaction, usually to the tune of 6% of the home’s value. Packing and transporting enough furniture to outfit a two-bedroom condo will run $1,500 if you move a few miles away and $5,000 or more if you move across the country, according to the calculator at As for the furniture you don’t keep, you could find yourself spending a few thousand dollars to ship the good stuff to your kid across country and paying a hauler to cart away the rest.

Even after the move, you won’t be home-free. Condo association fees run at least several hundred dollars a month, on top of insurance and property taxes, and if the building needs a major improvement, such as a new roof, you’ll get hit by a special assessment to help cover the cost. Renting is more predictable but leaves you vulnerable to annual rent hikes. And whether you rent or buy, you’ll surely want to buy new furnishings that fit the smaller space, says Paul Miller, a certified financial planner in Boca Raton, Fla. “You think you’re freeing up all this money by downsizing, and then you spend thousands to refurbish.”

Other expenses you might not have considered: Instead of the driveway you currently enjoy, you’ll probably have to fork over cash for a parking space. If you can’t squeeze Grandma’s armoire into the second bedroom (or bear to part with it), you’ll pay $100 a month to rent a storage unit. Because you won’t want to stash those old tax records in the second bedroom, you’ll spring for storage space in the building. Moving far away from friends and family? Factor in the expense of traveling back to the old neighborhood a few times a year. As for the next family reunion, that won’t be happening in your two-bedroom condo: Count on covering the cost of renting a beach house.

Of course, moving to a condo or apartment also allows you to cut your utility bills, eliminate yardwork and snow shoveling, and get rid of your mortgage or trade it for a smaller one — and maybe you’ll make your kids chip in for the beach house. Still, be sure to add up the pluses and minuses before you put out the For Sale sign, not after.

“There are a lot of considerations that go into the downsizing decision,” says Miller. “This may be the last move you’re going to make, so you’d better make it a good one.”

Written by Jane Bennett Clark of Kiplinger

(Source: Kiplinger)

Spring Housing Season Kicks Off with Short Supply

Open House signage is displayed outside of a home for sale in Redondo Beach, California.
Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg/Getty Images

On a snowy Tuesday in early February, Jessie and Mark Sciulli toured a home in the northern suburbs of Washington, D.C., that wasn’t listed for sale yet. Relocating their family back home from overseas, the couple was in town for just two days and had to see as much as possible. Their agent didn’t have enough active listings to show, so she went after homes she knew were coming soon.

It is the same story for home buyers nationwide: There is precious, record little for sale.

“I feel like there is not a lot of inventory right now, so that does make us a little bit nervous, because we think there is going to be a lot more offered in two or three weeks, so I’d say for sure we feel that stress,” said Jessie.

Presidents Day weekend is traditionally seen by real estate agents and homebuilders as the start of the spring housing market — the busiest time of year for home sales. The number of listings always rises, and it will this year as well, but inventory is already so low to begin with that even the new listings will not be nearly enough.

“I think inventory is going to remain tight. The closer you are to urban centers, the tighter the inventory, because the demand is strong, and a lot of that stuff gets scooped up before it hits the market,” said Jane Fairweather, a real estate agent in Bethesda, Maryland.

The latest numbers paint an empty picture. Inventory at the end of December nationally was down nearly 4 percent from the previous December, but sales were up nearly 8 percent, according to the National Association of Realtors. The supply of homes for sale was the lowest since the start of 2005, and back then there were far more homes being built to add to overall supply. As for January, the NAR’s listing site,, reported that listings were down a sharper 4.4 percent from a year ago.

In local markets, the January readings are coming in even tighter. Total listings in Charlotte, North Carolina, dropped nearly 24 percent in January from a year ago, with the number of new listings down 6 percent. In Denver, more than 4,000 homes came onto the market in January, but total inventory remained at historically low levels. Buyers scooped up more than came on.

January inventory was down nearly 17 percent in Philadelphia from a year ago, and Washington, D.C., had so few listings it would take less than two months at the current sales pace to exhaust supply. A healthy housing market traditionally has four to six months’ worth of inventory for sale.

“Half the [D.C.] homes sold in January were on the market for 26 days, and the competition among buyers pushed the average percent of asking price received at sale up to 98.6 percent,” according to the Greater Capital Area Association of Realtors. “The $504,250 median price for the month was slightly higher than last year (1.9 percent) and marked the highest January level on record for the District.”

“The inventory question is a puzzle,” said Chris Herbert, managing director of Harvard’s Joint Center for Housing Studies. “If you drill down and say, what’s happening at the lower end of the market, what’s happening in more affordable neighborhoods, those places had a much more dramatic boom-bust in house prices. Even though prices have come back there pretty strongly, they are much more likely to be underwater or low equity, so I think part of it is even though we think we have seen the market heal, there’s still a lot of healing left to do.”

Herbert also points to younger baby boomers, who lost home equity and more in the recession, and who are not trading up as much as their age group historically does. They are staying put in their homes, not adding to much-needed inventory. Add it up and it comes out to less — less inventory, which in turn puts upward pressure on prices.

Sellers, however, appear to be seeing a limit. They are not pricing their homes as aggressively as they did last fall, according to real estate brokerage Redfin. While homes are selling fast, not everything sells, especially if it’s overpriced. Sellers know the only thing worse than not getting top dollar is sitting on the market and becoming a “stale” listing.

“Even with surging home prices, listings were still down in January from a year ago,” said Redfin chief economist Nela Richardson. “Sellers are worried that today’s buyers won’t pay enough for their current home to finance their next-level house.”

Back in suburban D.C., after an exhausting two days and 19 home tours, the Sciullis left without making any offers.

Several of the homes they saw were not listed yet, including their top choice. That home will go on sale soon, but at a price the Sciullis think may be a little high for the market.

“We just have to make sure we’re getting it at a price point that we’re comfortable with and that we can manage,” said Mark.

The Sciullis are going to wait and see if it gets any other offers; if not, they’ll jump on it fast.

Written by Diana Olick of CNBC

(Source: CNBC)


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)

Why Retirees are Moving Again

US News
Provided by US News & World Report

During the recession of 2008 and for a long time afterward, moving dropped off the map, especially for people who were retiring. For some years after the recession began, according to the Brookings Institution, both Florida and Nevada actually suffered out migration – not because so many people were moving out of these states, but because nobody was moving in.

For half a decade retirees stayed close to home. They couldn’t sell their house, so they couldn’t move. Many people were forced to retire early, which meant their finances were even more stressed. Many baby boomers also still had kids in school, and so they didn’t want to move anyway.

But now things have changed. Moving is back in style. In addition to new retirees, there is a backlog of people who retired a few years ago who now want to move out of big expensive states and into warmer, less expensive states.

The traditional retirement havens in Florida and Arizona still pull in many retirees. Last year the Phoenix metropolitan area topped the list of cities gaining population among people 55 and older. Tampa, Orlando and Jacksonville were in the top ten. But the Carolinas are also drawing their share of retirees, and a lot of retiring baby boomers are setting off for smaller cities like Nashville or Austin.

Here are the five main reasons retired people are now moving:

They can finally sell their house. The real estate market suffered a historic slump during the Great Recession, and it has been slow to make a comeback. But now both sales and prices have returned to more normal levels, meaning people in California and the Northeast – and even in the Midwest to a lesser degree – can finally sell their homes. Fewer people are underwater on their mortgage, which means they have more equity, while mortgage rates are still low and credit is easier to obtain.

Their stock portfolios have recovered. Baby boomers were not only frozen in place for half a decade, but they suffered huge losses in their savings and retirement nest eggs, which made them more cautious and less likely to pull up stakes and start a new life. Now that markets are back near historic highs, baby boomers are flush with more funds to use for down payments, moving costs and all the other expenses that go along with starting a new life.

It’s expensive to live in California and the Northeast. Although many states have slowed the rate of increase on real estate taxes – New York, for example, instituted a 2 percent cap – taxes are still high and going higher, even if at a slower pace. Retirees move to get away from high taxes. But there’s also the high cost of insurance, entertainment, heating and all the other necessities of living in the north.

It’s cold. Global warming may have brought a marginal rise in temperatures worldwide, but that’s cold comfort for those who see the outside thermometer stuck at 20 degrees. The unusually cold and snowy winters of the past two years only add to the motivation of retirees to find a more comfortable lifestyle in a warmer climate. A desire for healthier lifestyles also prompts people to seek out a climate where they can hike and bike and play outdoor sports all year round.

They’re going to move anyway, so they might as well go someplace nicer. Many boomers are moving not to retire, but to take advantage of late-in-life job opportunities. They have been downsized from their full-time careers, and are now looking at lower paying, but also lower pressure jobs outside major metropolitan areas. Along with low-powered jobs or part-time positions, they’re looking forward to gaining more leisure time and paying less “overhead” for their lifestyle.

The countertrend. Despite the fact that more people are moving, the majority of retirees still age in place. So don’t feel left out if you want to stay in your old neighborhood and live near your children and grandchildren. And then there is one countertrend. While most retirees head south, there are some who turn north. Northern states from Maine to Washington are losing population among those age 55 and over. But four states – New Hampshire, Vermont, Idaho and Oregon – are appealing enough to actually gain population among people 55 and over.

Written by Tom Sightings of US News & World Report

(Source: US News & World Report)

Why Housing Rebound Hasn’t Lifted Economy Much

David Paul Morris/Bloomberg News

American homeowners are finally digging out of the hole created by the housing crisis. But their housing wealth is playing a much smaller role in the overall economy than it did before the downturn.

Home equity has roughly doubled to $12.1 trillion since house prices hit bottom in 2011, according to the Federal Reserve. As a result, a key gauge of housing wealth—homeowners’ equity as a share of real-estate values—is nearing the point seen a decade ago, before the downturn.

Such a levels once would have offered a double-barreled boost to the economy by providing owners with more money to tap and making them feel more flush and likely to spend. But today, that newfound wealth has had little effect on behavior. While the traditional ways Americans tap their home equity—home-equity loans, lines of credit and cash-out refinances—are higher than last year, they are still depressed.

In the first half of the year, owners borrowed $43.5 billion against their homes with home-equity loans and lines of credit, according to trade publication Inside Mortgage Finance. That was 45% higher than in the first half of 2014, but scarcely a quarter of the amount seen when equity was last as high in 2007.

Meanwhile, cash-out refinances, which let homeowners take out a new mortgage and tap some of the home’s value at the same time, were up 48% in the three months ended in August from the year-earlier period, according to Black Knight Financial Services. But they remain below the level of summer 2013. The average cash-out refinance in the three months ended in August left the borrower with mortgage debt of about 68% of the home’s value—not a risky level by any stretch.

Home equity’s effect on consumer spending is at its lowest ebb since the early 1990s, according to the Moody’s Analytics. The research firm estimates every $1 rise in home equity in the fourth quarter of 2014 would translate to about two cents of extra consumer spending over the next 1 to 1½ years. That was a third of the impact home equity had before the bust, Moody’s said.

The impact is more muted now despite the fact that home equity per homeowner has roughly doubled. At the end of the second quarter, the figure was about $156,700, up from $81,100 in the second quarter of 2011, according to Moody’s Analytics chief economist Mark Zandi. Though the homeownership rate has fallen, the total number of households has increased, meaning the number of households that own hasn’t changed much since the housing bubble burst in 2006, Mr. Zandi said.

Why aren’t homeowners feeling flush again? For one, since rising home prices over the past few years largely have made up for ground lost during the recession, many owners might not even realize they have equity to tap.

The percentage of homeowners who were underwater, or owing more on their mortgage than the home’s value, dropped to 8.7% by mid-2015 from 21% at the end of 2011, according to CoreLogic. Yet the percentage of homeowners who thought they were underwater fell by merely one percentage point to 27%, according to housing-finance company Fannie Mae.

The bust looms large and home equity is seen as more fleeting than it used to be, said Fannie Mae chief economist Doug Duncan.

“Consumers are definitely more conservative financially than they were 10 years ago. They’ve seen that house prices can be volatile,” Mr. Duncan said.

Mortgage lenders also aren’t giving owners access to as much equity as they used to. While it was common during the boom to see loans that took out 100% or even more of a home’s value, now few will let an owner take out more than 80%.

Finally, other kinds of loans are cheaper, removing one incentive to tap home equity.

Six years ago, for example, the average five-year new-car loan had an interest rate of 6.83%, versus 5.56% for a $30,000 home-equity credit line. But in the week ended Nov. 11, the average interest rate for a five-year new-car loan was 4.3%, according to, versus 4.74% for the HELOC.

Home equity as a share of real-estate values at the end of the second quarter was 56%, according to the Federal Reserve, not quite back to the level of 60% seen in the boom. That means Americans’ mortgage debt is still elevated relative to home values, which could be another factor affecting the decision of whether or not to cash out equity.

Could home equity start to flex its muscle sometime soon?

Some economists think it might. One reason: In many metro areas, home prices have overtaken or are about to overtake their boom-era peak.

At the end of the third quarter, about 38% of metro areas had prices above their pre-2009 peak, up from 30% last year, according to Moody’s Analytics and CoreLogic. Another 13% of metros are within 5% of their pre-bust peak.

That’s important, because it means new home equity is being created rather than merely making up for lost ground. It also means fewer homeowners are underwater, freeing them up for a home sale and potential move-up purchase while also making home improvements and renovations seem less like throwing good money after bad.

“We’re at an inflection point,” Mr. Zandi said. “Since the crash, it’s all been about repairing homeowners’ equity but now that house prices are returning to prerecession levels, we will see homeowners’ equity driving consumer spending, home improvements and economic activity.”

Written by Joe Light of The Wall Street Journal

(Source: The Wall Street Journal)

Weekly Market Recap: November 16, 2015

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The week in review

  • Import prices -10.5% y/y
  • Export prices -6.7% y/y
  • Job openings 5.5 M
  • Retail sales +0.1% m/m
  • Producer prices final demand -1.6% y/y
  • Business inventories +0.3% m/m
  • Consumer sentiment 93.1

The week ahead

  • CPI
  • Industrial production
  • Housing starts
  • Philly Fed survey


For the full report, please click on the source link below.

(Source: JPMorgan)

Weekly Market Recap: November 2, 2015

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The week in review

  • New home sales fell to 468K
  • Durable goods fell 1.2% m/m
  • HPI increased 0.1% m/m
  • Pending home sales fell 2.3% m/m
  • Core PCE 1.3% y/y
  • ECI up 2.0% y/y
  • Consumer sentiment fell to 90

The week in ahead

  • ISM/PMI manufacturing
  • Light vehicle sales
  • International Trade
  • Employment situation

For the full report, please click on the source link below.

(Source: JPMorgan)

3 Financial Facts of the Week: October 29, 2015


Fact #1

Nearly 54 million Americans are now doing freelance work, according to a new study conducted by, and an estimated 60% of them made the jump by choice, an increase of 7% from last year.
Source: CNBC

Fact #2
Despite a cooling economy, the number of Chinese billionaires rose by 242 this year to 596, according to The Hurun Report, which follows China’s wealthy. This surpasses the 537 billionaires found in the United States.
Source: Washington Post

Fact #3
In Hong Kong, the average annual rent for a square foot of office space in a high-rise building is $255.50 compared to approximately $153 a square foot in New York City.
Source: MarketWatch

Weekly Market Recap: October 27, 2015

Screen Shot 2015-10-27 at 9.39.44 AM

The week in review

  • Housing starts +1.2M
  • Existing home sales +8.8% y/y
  • PMI mfg. flash 54.0

The week ahead

  • 3Q GDP
  • FOMC meeting
  • Durable goods orders
  • New home sales
  • Employment cost index
  • Personal income & outlays

For the full report, please click on the source link below.

(Source: JPMorgan)