The number of permits for new homes issued in February was the highest since October 2008. Housing starts declined slightly from January.

By Teresa at MSN Real Estate Mar 20, 2012 7:52AM

© Andy Sacks/Getty ImagesBuilders started construction on fewer new homes in February, but pulled more construction permits, indicating that the housing market may be inching out of the doldrums.


The number of building permits issued in February rose 5.1%, equivalent to an annual construction pace of 717,000 homes. That's the highest number since October 2008 and 34.3% above last February's number.


According to the Commerce Department, the number of housing starts fell 1.1% from January, to a rate of 698,000 homes. That was an increase of 34.7% from last February's pace.


Some developers charge a fee every time a home was sold for up to 99 years. The end of federally backed mortgages for such homes dealt the fees a mortal blow.

By Teresa at MSN Real Estate Mar 19, 2012 1:39PM

Woman with calculator and forms (© Image Source/ home-resale fee that some developers wanted to collect each time a home changed hands for up to 99 years was dealt a near-fatal blow by the Federal Housing Finance Agency last week.


The FHFA said that Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and the Federal Home Loan Banks would not back mortgages with the controversial "private transfer fees." Because Fannie and Freddie are behind most new mortgages today, that effectively kills the fees.


The decision was a victory for the National Association of Realtors and the American Land Title Association, which had sought to ban the fees. At least 30 states already prohibit the fees, also known as capital recovery fees. The fees ranged from 0.25% to 1% of the purchase price.


After rising for 5 months, the index of builder sentiment stayed flat in March. That reflects the challenges that still lie ahead, despite some improvements in the market for new homes.

By Teresa at MSN Real Estate Mar 19, 2012 10:43AM

© Kelly Redinger/Design Pics/CorbisThe National Association of Home Builders' housing market index remained unchanged this month, at its highest level since 2007. That means that builders are holding on to their hint of optimism, but are still skeptical.


TheNational Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index remained at a revised level of 28, the same as in February. That's a significant improvement from the 14 seen six months ago,  but still a long way from 50, which is the point at which an equal number of builder see conditions as good or as poor.


With the help of a $125,000 grant, a nonprofit group is attempting to restore the geodesic dome house where the inventor and philosopher lived in Illinois.

By Teresa at MSN Real Estate Mar 16, 2012 1:21PM

@AP R. Buckminster Fuller stands in front of his own Geodesic dome home in Carbondale, Illinois, 1971Back in 1960, inventor and philosopher R. Buckminster Fuller built a dome-shaped home in Carbondale, Ill., in seven hours.


He and his wife, Anne, lived there through about 1971, while Fuller taught at Southern Illinois University. While Fuller did not invent the geodesic dome, he received the U.S. patent and was the one who popularized the concept.


Time has not been kind to Fuller's geodesic dome home. The house was used as a rental property for years until a friend of Fuller's bought it in 1999 with the goal of seeing it preserved. A nonprofit group is raising money to finish restoration and open the home as a museum next year.


Wall of lettuce showcases the trend toward vertical gardening. Inside Chicago's O'Hare International Airport, gardeners are growing lettuce on columns.

By Teresa at MSN Real Estate Mar 15, 2012 1:06PM

Courtesy of Philadelphia Horticultural Society Gardening can be great, but it also can be a real pain in the knees, backs, legs, etc., with all the bending it requires.


Now baby boomers are making gardening bend — or, in this case, not bend — to their desires. The popularity of vertical gardening is rising.


Vertical gardening makes it easier to raise vegetables, herbs and other plants without bending. The recent Philadelphia International Flower Show featured a wall of lettuce that was 9 feet high and 40 feet long, designed by gardening author Amy Goldman.


The list remains volatile, with 31 cities added and 30 falling off. Texas had the most cities deemed improving.

By Teresa at MSN Real Estate Mar 15, 2012 11:13AM

Columbus, Ohio // © Corbis/SuperStockThe National Association of Home Builders reported a slight increase in the number of housing markets deemed improving in March: 99 markets fit the criteria, up from 98 in February.


Among the latest 31 cities to join the National Association of Home Builders/First American Improving Markets Index were Orlando, Fla.; Rochester, N.Y.; Columbus, Ohio; and Austin and San Antonio, Texas. Major cities returning to the list after falling off last month included Anchorage; Iowa City; Washington, D.C.; and Jackson, Miss.


Falling off the list were 30 cities, including Miami, Boston and Memphis, Tenn., which had been new entrants last month.


The economic woes of the 'echo boomers' may keep them out of the housing market. That's not good news, because that generation is key to housing's future.

By Teresa at MSN Real Estate Mar 14, 2012 1:51PM

Who holds the key to the future of the housing market? Look at the hands playing video games in your basement.


According to a new report, the "echo boomers," born between 1981 and 1995, will account for 78% to 80% of sales of owner-occupied homes to people ages 65 and under between now and 2020.


"In the next 10 years, the echo boomers are almost the entire story," said Rolf Pendall, director of the Urban Institute's Metropolitan Housing & Communities Policy Center, at a recent housing conference in San Antonio. Pendall was one of the authors of the report, "Demographic Challenges and Opportunities for U.S. Housing Markets."


A side deal to the $25 billion mortgage settlement releases the bank from penalties if it provides more help to underwater homeowners.

By Teresa at MSN Real Estate Mar 13, 2012 1:27PM

© Radius Images/JupiterimagesIf you have an underwater mortgage held by Bank of America, you may be able to get a better modification deal.


As a side agreement to the $25 billion settlement among the five big banks, the federal government and the state attorneys general, Bank of America has agreed to bigger principal reductions on about 200,000 loans. The reductions could total more than $100,000 each, a bank spokesman told The New York Times.


By granting those larger reductions, Bank of America hopes to avoid about $850 million in penalties.



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