Despite slipping from January's numbers, existing-home sales increased 8.8% from February 2011. Home prices also posted first annual gain since late 2010.
Maybe 2012 won't be quite so apocalyptic after all.
The National Association of Realtors today reported 4.59 million existing-home sales in February, down 0.9% from January's 4.63 million sales but up 8.8% from February 2011. Although February's seasonally adjusted volume was lower than Dow Jones economists had expected, according to The Wall Street Journal, it did mark the highest level for the typically chilly month in five years.
If you also add January's strong sales showing to the equation, the housing market is off to its fastest start since 2007.
HARP 2.0 will provide refinancing to borrowers who owe more than 125% of what their home is worth. To participate, borrowers must be current on payments.
The latest version of the federal Home Affordable Refinance Program went into full swing this week.
The program, which officially began in December but wasn't fully available until this week, now allows homeowners to refinance at today's low interest rates if they are current on payments and hold loans on which they are more than 125% underwater.
The program is limited to homeowners whose loans are backed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. That means no principal will be reduced, but it may be possible to get a lower interest rate and a lower payment. Homeowners who aren't eligible for HARP may be eligible for other modification programs.
The number of permits for new homes issued in February was the highest since October 2008. Housing starts declined slightly from January.
Builders 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.
The 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.
The 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.
Back 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.
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.
The 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.