The top 15 cities for recent college graduates for 2012 are:

1. Washington, D.C.
One-bedroom average rent: $1,696

2. New York
One-bedroom average rent: $1,789

3. Boston
One-bedroom average rent: $1,814

4. Minneapolis
One-bedroom average rent: $974

5. Dallas
One-bedroom average rent: $912

6. Atlanta
One-bedroom average rent: $855

7. Chicago
One-bedroom average rent: $1,224

8. Houston
One-bedroom average rent: $910

9. Philadelphia
One-bedroom average rent: $1,070

10. Baltimore
One-bedroom average rent: $1,235

11. Denver
One-bedroom average rent: $1,089

12. Salt Lake City
One-bedroom average rent: $772

13. San Francisco
One-bedroom average rent: $1,653

14. Seattle
One-bedroom average rent: $1,199

15. Oklahoma City, Okla.
One-bedroom average rent: $676

Source: “Top 15 Best Cities for Recent College Graduates,” RISMedia (May 24, 2012)

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Home Owners Try to Curb Rising Insurance Costs

Home owners’ insurance premiums have been on the rise lately with many home owners seeing double-digit hikes and a rise in average annual premiums now over $1,000. Real estate professionals can help show their clients how they may be able to curb their home owners’ insurance costs.

A recent article at Money Magazine offers some of the following tips:

Shop around. “If your rates rose 5 percent or more [in the last year], make sure to call the company for an explanation,” the Money Magazine article notes. “Knowing whether the increase resulted from changes in your risk profile or from broad-based increases in the marketplace will help you negotiate and comparison-shop — which you should do at every renewal or at least every couple of years.”

Look for discounts. For example, bundling your home and auto insurance with the same insurance company could possibly save you up to 15 percent. Insurers often will also give you a discount if you install a security system to your home, storm shutters, or a new roof too.

Evaluate the deductible. Most experts will advise home owners to go for the highest deductible they can afford in order to lower their premiums. But be sure to note that “many insurers are retooling deductibles from set dollar amounts to percentages, which can often represent a substantial change,” Money Magazine notes.

Base your coverage on the right number. Base your coverage level on home owners’ insurance on the recent per-square-foot replacement costs in your area, not on the home’s appraised value, notes Kevin McCarty, president of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners. To obtain that information, check out your local home builders association.

Source: “Save Big on Homeowners Insurance,” Money Magazine (May 24, 2012

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Fourth Week in Row, 30-Year Rates Reach Records

Home buying got even more affordable this week as mortgage rates continue to ride low, breaking records, and increase home buyer affordability.

For the fourth consecutive week, 30-year fixed-rate mortgages, the most popular choice of borrowers, reached a new all-time low while 15-year fixed-rate mortgages held steady at its all-time low set last week, according to Freddie Mac’s weekly mortgage market survey.

“Mortgage rates were virtually unchanged this week with fixed-rate loans remaining at record lows and helping to drive home buyer affordability,” Frank Nothaft, Freddie Mac’s chief economist.

Indeed, housing affordability reached an all-time record high in the first quarter, according to the National Association of REALTORS®’ Housing Affordability Index.

Here’s a closer look at how mortgage rates fared for the week ending May 24, according to Freddie Mac:

30-year fixed-rate mortgages: averaged a new record of 3.78 percent, with an average 0.8 point, dropping from last week’s previous record low of 3.79 percent. A year ago at this time, 30-year rates averaged 4.60 percent.
15-year fixed-rate mortgages: averaged 3.04 percent, with an average 0.7 point, holding steady at the record low it set last week. Last year at this time, 15-year rates averaged 3.78 percent.
5-year adjustable-rate mortgages: averaged 2.83 percent, with an average 0.6 point, also unchanged from last week’s average. Last year at this time, 5-year ARMs averaged 3.41 percent.
1-year ARMs: averaged 2.75 percent, with an average 0.4 point, dropping from last week’s 2.78 percent average. A year ago, 1-year ARMs averaged 3.11 percent.

Source: Freddie Mac
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Mortgage Rates Sink to New Records Once Again

For the third-straight week, fixed-rate mortgages reached new record lows, pushing home affordability even higher for those who can qualify.

“The European debt crisis overshadowed improving economic indicators for the U.S. and allowed Treasury bond yields and fixed mortgage rates to ease for another week,” Frank Nothaft, Freddie Mac’s chief economist, said in explaining why mortgage rates continue to inch down.

Here’s a closer look at how rates fared for the week ending May 17, according to Freddie Mac’s weekly mortgage market survey:

30-year fixed-rate mortgages: averaged a new record low of 3.79 percent this week, with an average 0.7 point, down from last week’s previous record of 3.83 percent. Thirty-year mortgage rates have been below 4 percent since December. A year ago at this time, 30-year fixed-rate mortgages averaged 4.61 percent.
15-year fixed-rate mortgages: also dipped to new record lows this week, averaging 3.04 percent, with an average 0.7 point, dropping from last week’s previous record of 3.05 percent. Last year at this time, 15-year fixed-rate mortgages averaged 3.80 percent.
5-year adjustable-rate mortgages: averaged 2.83 percent, with an average 0.6 point, rising slightly from last week’s 2.81 percent average. Last year at this time, 5-year ARMs averaged 3.48 percent.
1-year ARMs: averaged 2.78 percent, with an average 0.5 point, also up slightly from last week’s 2.73 percent average. A year ago at this time, 1-year ARMs averaged 3.15 percent.

Source: Freddie Mac

Housing Starts Post New Gains, Signs of Healing

Builders broke ground on more homes last month as housing starts jumped 2.6 percent nationwide in April over March, the Commerce Department reported this week.

The single-family sector saw a 3 percent increase in housing starts in April, while multifamily construction projects saw a 3.2 percent rise.

“April’s increase in housing production comes on top of strong upward revisions to the previous month’s data, and is an encouraging sign that we are returning to a gradual, upward trend that should continue in the year ahead as builders respond to improving demand for new homes in certain markets,” Barry Rutenberg, chairman of the National Association of Home Builders, said in a statement. “Unfortunately, overly restrictive lending conditions for builders and buyers are slowing the pace of this trend considerably.”

Regionally, housing starts were mixed. The Midwest and South saw some of the biggest gains in housing starts in April, with the South surging 11.6 percent and 6.7 percent in the Midwest. Meanwhile, the Northeast saw housing starts in April drop 20.7 percent, and by 8.1 percent in the West.

While the new-home sector has seen recent gains, the rate of production is still half of what is considered healthy for a normal market.

Housing permits — a future gauge of home building — dropped 7 percent in April, mostly attributed to a slide in multifamily permits, which dropped 20.8 percent last month. Meanwhile, single-family permits increased 1.9 percent in April. Last month, building permits posted a three-and-a-half-year high mostly from a surge in permits for apartment construction.

Source: National Association of Home Builders and “Housing Starts, Industrial Production Both Rise in April,” Associated Press (May 16, 2012)

Builders Get More Confident About Improving Market

“Firming home values, improving employment, and low mortgage rates” are driving greater optimism over a recovery taking shape in the new-home market, says David Crowe, chief economist for the National Association of Home Builders.

Builder confidence for the market of newly built single-family homes rose five points this month, posting its best reading since May of 2007, according to a measure of builder sentiment by NAHB/Wells Fargo. The index measures builder sentiment on sales conditions and expectations as well as buyer traffic.

“Builders in many markets are reporting that buyer traffic and sales have picked back up after a pause this April,” says Barry Rutenberg, NAHB chairman. “It seems we have resumed the gradual upward trend in confidence that started at the beginning of this year, as stabilizing prices and excellent affordability encourage more people to pursue a new-home purchase.”

Still, housing experts warn the new-home market still has a long way to go toward normalizing, based on historical trends. Builders say consumer access to credit, inaccurate appraisals, and the rise in materials costs for new construction continue to pose major challenges to the industry.

According to May’s index, the largest gains in builder confidence occurred in the Northeast, followed by Midwest and South. The West posted a two-point decline in builder sentiment for May, according to the index.

Source: National Association of Home Builders

Obama to Tout Success of Refi Programs

Obama to Tout Success of Refi ProgramsThe White House is set to announce today figures reflecting a big jump in the number of Americans participating in federal initiatives meant to aid financially strapped home owners and bolster the sluggish housing market.

Officials say the new data underscore the efficacy of programs President Obama has implemented to let more home owners refinance into historically low interest rates.

Obama will use the figures to demonstrate the need for lawmakers to take even more action to give still more Americans the same opportunity.

Source: “Obama to Tout Success of Mortgage Refinancing,” Washington Post (May 11, 2012)

Boom Towns: 7 Fastest-Growing Cities

Texas dominates the list of fastest-growing cities, attracting more residents with its strong employment center, lower taxes, and more affordable housing, according to an article in Forbes.com.

For the second year in a row, Austin, Texas, topped Forbes’ list of America’s fastest-growing cities. The city has a projected economic growth rate of 6 percent a year through 2016, which is more than twice as much as the nation as a whole, according to Moody’s Analytics data.

In compiling its list of America’s fastest-growing cities, Forbes.com analyzed the 100 largest metro areas and reviewed projections for each city’s economic and population growth, median income, unemployment rates, and employment growth.

Here are the top 7 cities that made Forbes’ list of fastest-growing cities:

1. Austin, Texas

Annual economic growth projected from 2011-2016: 6.1 percent
Annual population growth rate: 2.8 percent

2. Dallas

Annual economic growth projected from 2011-2016: 5 percent
Annual population growth: 2.2 percent

3. San Jose, Calif.

Annual economic growth projected from 2011-2016: 4.7 percent
Annual population growth: 0.9 percent

4. Houston

Annual economic growth projected from 2011-2016: 6.1 percent
Annual population growth: 2 percent

5. Salt Lake City

Annual economic growth projected from 2011-2016: 4.4 percent
Annual population growth: 1.5 percent

6. Raleigh, N.C.

Annual economic growth projected from 2011-2016: 3.7 percent
Annual population growth: 3.8 percent

7. Seattle

Annual economic growth projected from 2011-2016: 3.7 percent
Annual population growth: 1.2 percent

Read more about these cities’ growth and see which other cities made the list.

Source: “Bigger in Texas: State has many of US’ fastest-growing cities,” Forbes.com (April 30, 2012)

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REOs Get Pricier, Report Shows

REO prices have risen 5.5 percent over the last year, whereas market sales prices have fallen 2.9 percent, Clear Capital reports in its April housing data index.

Investors are snatching up REOs, fueling price gains for distressed properties. Clear Capital, which measures median price per square foot, finds that REO prices are rising at a much quicker pace than prices for non-REO sales.

“Should investor interest continue to drive the expansion of REO-to-rental programs over the next several months, there could be a significant impact on the market overall in terms of providing a rising floor to home values,” says Alex Villacorta, Clear Capital’s director of research and analytics.

Source: “Bucking Trend, REOs Show Price Gains: Clear Capital,” HousingWire (April 30, 2012)

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U.S. Homeownership Rate at 15-Year Low

The rate of U.S. citizens who live in a home they own fell to 65.4 percent in the first quarter, the lowest point 15 years, the Census Bureau reports.

The rate is down from 66 percent in the fourth quarter of 2011, 66.4 percent in the first quarter of last year, and a high of 69.2 percent in 2004 before the housing bubble popped.

Homeownership among Americans aged 35 and younger has declined to the lowest level since 1994, and the rates for African-Americans (43.1 percent) and Hispanic-Americans (46.3 percent) are at the lowest they have been in years.

Source: “U.S. Homeownership Rate at 15-Year Low,” Los Angeles Times (May 1, 2012)

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