Annual craft show is coming Dec. 3-4

The City of Aiken Parks, Recreation and Tourism Department is preparing for the 39th annual Christmas Craft Show at the H. Odell Weeks Activities Center.

The craft show is scheduled for 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday, Dec. 4 and Saturday, Dec. 5 with vendor booths both inside and outside the center on Whiskey Road. The show will feature exhibitors from across the Southeast, and vendors with Thai food, Southern barbecue, the classic hot dog, kettle corn and funnel cakes.

Crafters will have such handmade wares as ceramics, jewelry, artwork, holiday ornaments and decorations, and other unique creations for sale, according to recreation supervisor Lisa J. Hall.

“I think this show gives an opportunity for small businessmen and women with home-based businesses a chance to get out, earn a little bit of money for the Christmas season, and it gives folks who live here the chance to get some last-minute gifts at reasonable prices. It’s just fun; this is the 39th year, so evidently we’re doing something right,” Hall said.

The Christmas Craft Show will also have one very special guest: The big guy in red himself, Santa Claus, will be at the Weeks Center for photographs with children from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday; no outside cameras will be allowed in Santa Land, according to Hall. There will also be a Crafts for Kids activity booth for children on Saturday.

Admission and parking are free. For more information about the Christmas Craft Show, call the H. Odell Weeks Activities Center at 642-7631.

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Evening of Jazz’ to benefit downtown Cultural Center

A benefit concert will be held for the Center for African American History, Art and Culture featuring Preston and Weston and Friends.

The concert, called “An Evening of Jazz,” will be held Friday, Dec. 11, at the Etherredge Center at USC Aiken at 7 p.m. Tickets are $40 per person and $75 per couple.

Preston and Weston features the sounds of Wayne Preston and David Weston and also features vocalist Sandra Simmons.

Jo-Anne Saunders, the development coordinator for the Center for African American History, Art and Culture, said the concert is one of many events being organized to benefit the CAAHAC, which is being constructed on York Street.

According to Saunders, the events are also being held to offer the community a glimpse of what is in store once the doors to the center officially open. She said officials are also planning events in February in recognition of Black History Month and a Juneteenth event in June to coincide with the City of Aiken’s 175th anniversary celebration.

“These events serve as a teaser for when the center opens,” said Saunders.

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One-Fourth of Borrowers Are Underwater

More than 23 percent of people with mortgages owe more on their properties than they are worth, according to a report released Tuesday by research firm First American CoreLogic.

Another 2.3 million homeowners are within 5 percent of being underwater, bringing the total of those who are upside down or close to it to about 28 percent.

About 5.3 million U.S. households have mortgages that are at least 20 percent higher than their home’s value, the First American report says. Borrowers owing more than 120 percent of their home’s value are the most likely to default, First American calculates.

The majority of underwater mortgages are in the following states:

1. Nevada: 65 percent of home owners are underwater
2. Arizona: 48 percent
3. Florida: 45 percent
4. Michigan: 37 percent
5. California: 35 percent

The report also notes that most U.S. homeowners have home equity, and nearly 24 million owner-occupied homes don’t have any mortgage at all, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Source: The Wall Street Journal, Ruth Simon and James R. Hagerty (11/24/2009)

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Some Cities Unaffected by Recession

Some U.S. cities with stable housing and diversified employment have been virtually untouched by the Great Recession.

Analysts say cities that are most likely to leave the recession in the same or better condition than they started it are those where home prices didn’t fluctuate wildly, which spared them the devastating effects of foreclosure, lost jobs, and lost productivity.

If there is a lesson to be learned, experts say, it is that families looking for long-term economic stability should settle in locales with diverse employment and minimal shifts in housing values.

To identify these cities, Forbes magazine ranked the 100 largest Metropolitan Statistical Areas by employment rates, the conventional mortgage home price index, and the average days on the market for properties currently for sale.
The top cities on Forbes list were:

* Omaha/Council Bluffs, Neb.
* San Antonio, Texas
* Austin-Round Rock, Texas
* Pittsburgh
* Harrisburg/Carlisle, Pa.
* Dallas/Fort Worth
* Rochester, N.Y.
* Houston
* Raleigh/Cary, N.C.
* Baton Rouge, La.

Source: Forbes, Francesca Levy (11/19/2009)

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Declining Dollar Brings Foreign Investors

Falling prices for real estate and the declining value of the dollar are luring investors from all over the world to purchase properties for as little as half what they might have paid four years ago.

“This could be a once-in-a-generation opportunity for real estate investment,” says Arthur Wong, whose Calgary, Alberta-based U.S. Real Estate Fund has invested $5 million in properties in the U.S. Southwest and plans to buy millions more.

Buyers from countries like Brazil, Canada, France, and the Netherlands, whose currencies are particularly strong against the dollar, are spending millions on luxury condos in New York City, Las Vegas, and Miami. Foreign buyers also find the warm climates of California, Texas, and Arizona attractive.

Peter Zalewski, a principal with Miami-based Condo Vultures, says he has sold foreign condo buyers seven bulk deals in downtown Miami alone, with investors coming from Argentina, Canada, Colombia, Italy, Norway, and Venezuela.
Source: MSNBC (11/22/09)

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Real Estate Market FAQs

Got questions about where real estate is headed? Here are informed answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about today’s housing market.

When will housing hit bottom?
There isn’t any single answer to this question. It depends on where you live. Home prices are rising again in the most convenient suburbs of such cities as New York and Washington, D.C. In other places that are in less demand, prices continue to fall.

How can I figure out the?
Talking to a real estate professional and/or hiring an appraiser is the best idea. But even after getting a professional opinion, it is hard to tell what a home will sell for until you put it on the market.

Is now a good time for a renter to buy a home?
It could be. Prices in many areas are down significantly from their peak a couple of years ago. Plus, Congress has extended the tax credit for first-time home buyers and added a $6,500 credit for many previous owners of homes who sign a contract to buy by April 30, 2010.

Should I invest in foreclosed homes?
A foreclosure can be a risky buy, even for the most experienced real estate investors. Use caution.

Source: The Wall Street Journal, James R. Hagerty (11/17/2009)

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FSBO Sites Charging for Services

Using a Web site that helps sell-it-yourself-ers doesn’t necessarily mean a free ride.

Increasingly, Web sites like ForSaleByOwner.com, Owners.com, and Fizber.com charge for certain services, including displaying a toll-free support line online, accessing the multiple listing service, and even getting limited assistance from a real estate practitioner.

For instance, ForSaleByOwner.com offers packages that range from $81 a month to a six-month plan for $809. RealtyTrac charges non-subscribers $59.95 a month to advertise a property.

Steve Udelson, CEO of Owners Advantage LLC, which operates Owners.com, urges his customers to pay in order to be included in the MLS. “That’s the gateway. That’s the magic piece,” he says.

Source: Associated Press, Alex Veiga (11/20/2009)

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Fed May Stay in Mortgage Securities

The Federal Reserve isn’t going to go cold turkey from its program to buy mortgage-backed securities, said James Bullard, president of the St. Louis Fed, on Sunday.

The Fed’s purchases of mortgage-backed securities are seen by many as key to keeping rates low and stabilizing the market. The Fed announced earlier this month that the program would end in March.

Bullard said he would like to see the program sustained at a low level as an option for stimulating the economy.

“If the economy came in very weak, let’s say, in 2010—weaker than expected—we would have the option of doing further quantitative easing,” Bullard said. “If the economy came in stronger than expected and inflation expectations started to ratchet up a little bit, we could maybe sell off some of these assets and remove some of the accommodation from our quantitative easing program.”

Source: Bloomberg, Michael McKee and Steve Matthews (11/23/2009)

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Four Tips for Smarter Foreclosure Shopping

Foreclosures can be good deals for homebuyers, but with 1.5 million of them on the market, shopping carefully is important.

Here are some tips for anyone navigating the foreclosure market:

* Don’t pay too much. With so many exuberant buyers, bidding up a property beyond its worth can be easy to do.
* Get to know the banks. Practitioners who establish relationships with asset managers at banks can facilitate good communication.
* Factor in fix-up costs. Most banks would rather sell a property as-is. Buyers should consider what shouldering that responsibility will cost. Touring the properties with a contractor can be a good plan.
* Bid smartly. Help the buyer get the inside track by gathering as much information as you can about other bids.

Source: CNNMoney.com, Les Christie (11/19/2009)

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Increasing Volume of Foreclosures in Pipeline

An additional seven million properties are headed for foreclosure, according to a study in September by Amherst Securities Group.

Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Economy.com, concurs with high estimates of potential foreclosures, anticipating 2.4 million homes in foreclosure in 2010, compared with 2 million in 2009.

Experts say the onslaught is the result of moratoriums lifting, banks overwhelmed by the demand for modifications, and the sheer volume of late payers. Banks also are trying to spread asset write-downs over several reporting periods to maintain a better profit picture.

Source: USA Today, Stephanie Armour (11/19/2009)

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