Each week we take a look at how much house you can expect to get at a specific price point. This week, we’re looking at homes priced around $500,000.
New Seabury, MA
103 Summer Sea Road, New Seabury MA
For sale: $495,000
This expanded Cape Cod with a contemporary, open floor plan is situated on an expansive lot in New Seabury. Vaulted ceilings, skylights, oversized windows and a first-floor master suite are some of the features of the 4-bedroom, 3.5-bath home.
13136 NW Dumar St, Portland OR
For sale: $499,900
Nestled on a quiet cul-de-sac in Portland, this home has new carpet, granite counters and stainless steel appliances. The 1984-built home has 2,603 square feet of living space, 4 bedrooms and 2.5 baths.
37 Tall Oaks Trl, Austin TX
For sale: $495,000
This grand stone home sits on almost 2 acres of flat, “manicured” land in Austin. The home features 5 bedrooms, 4 baths and 4 living spaces in a 4,072-square-foot floor plan.
1328 N 39th St, Renton WA
For sale: $499,950
Renton is a suburban city located south of Bellevue and Seattle. This home is just two miles from the freeway and measures 2,900 square feet with 4 bedrooms and 2.5 baths.
Mission Viejo, CA
26342 Naccome Dr, Mission Viejo CA
For sale: $499,000
Updated and remodeled, this Mission Viejo home includes an entertainer’s backyard featuring a patio and pool with waterslide and spa. The 1,860-square-foot home has 4 bedrooms and 2 baths.
In recent years, we’ve heard a lot about homeowners’ mortgage debt and how it is impacting the housing market as a whole. In particular, we keep hearing about persistently high levels of negative equity, which happens when a homeowner owes more on their mortgage than their home is worth.
But there’s a flip side to that coin. Yes, a large number of homeowners are struggling to manage their mortgage debt. But, perhaps surprisingly, even more homeowners have no mortgage debt at all.
Almost 21 million Americans, or 29.3 percent of homeowners, own their homes outright, unencumbered by a mortgage, according to a recent Zillow® analysis of mortgage data. Analyzing data through the third quarter of 2012, Zillow found that 20.6 million homeowners nationwide own their homes free and clear of mortgage debt.
Using the same data, Zillow found that slightly more than 14 million U.S. homeowners with a mortgage were in negative equity, or underwater, in the third quarter.
Similar to negative equity, the free-and-clear homeownership rate is largely driven by home values – but in a different way. Underwater borrowers are pulled to the surface as home values rise. But we found that in areas with proportionally lower overall home values, free-and-clear homeownership rates are likely to be higher. This makes sense – smaller loan amounts are easier to pay back more quickly.
Demographic factors including the age and credit rating of primary borrowers also influence free-and-clear homeownership rates. Zillow found that 65- to 74-year-olds are most likely to be free-and-clear (20.5 percent), followed by 74- to 84-year-olds (17.9 percent). This is attributed to the fact that the longer someone owns a home, the longer they have to pay off their mortgage. Interestingly, when examining free-and-clear ownership rates as a percentage of homeowners in various age groups, Zillow found 34.5 percent of 20- to 24-year-old homeowners are free of mortgages.
Among homeowners who own their homes outright, 44 percent have a high VantageScore – representing their credit rating – between 800 and 900. Only 15.5 percent of homeowners with the highest credit rating of 900-990 are free-and-clear.
“So far we have used our unique data on how much homeowners owe on their homes primarily to identify underwater and delinquent groups of homeowners,” said Zillow Chief Economist Dr. Stan Humphries. “But looking at those homeowners who are free-and-clear is important, too. Homeowners unencumbered by a mortgage may be more flexible than indebted homeowners, and therefore more apt or willing to list their homes or enter the market for a new property. By determining where these homeowners are located, we can also gain insight into potential inventory and demand in those areas, as well.”
Markets barely moved this week, and there was no new data of note except the monthly survey by the National Federation of Independent Business tracking small-business-owner confidence.
NFIB economist Bill Dunkelberg called the current Small Business Optimism Index value of 88 “a recession-level reading.” The index has had some better days recently, but is in the same basic place it has been since early 2008. The NFIB work is so sound, so long-running (same format since 1973) that those claiming a stronger national recovery under way have some explaining to do.
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau created by the Dodd-Frank spasm released its long-awaited Thou Shalt Not to the mortgage industry. After more than a year of probing, at who knows what taxpayer cost, the CFPB report and new rules found not one single mortgage practice under way today that should be stopped. A witch hunt worthy of Massachusetts in 1692 could not find a solitary agent of Satan.
Then, back to the fiscal cliff — cliffs, really. In the serial encounter ahead, one cliff stands out for misunderstanding: the vote on the federal debt limit.
In the near-hit preplay in 2011 (and in others clear back to the ’80s) many people have shouted that a failure to pass a higher limit would result in U.S. “default.” Not so. Absolutely not so. Money definitions and precision matter a great deal.
Direct, “full faith and credit obligations of the U.S. Treasury” are senior claims on U.S. revenue. Default means to fail to pay interest or principal on time. We have plenty of revenue to pay interest when due, and even under a debt-limit freeze could roll over existing debt, issuing a new bond every time one came due.
“Bond” is another important word. “My word is my bond” means my promise is as good as a bond, the highest and most senior financial obligation. In a bankruptcy, senior bondholders are paid before any other claimant.
If the debt limit froze and the Treasury ran out of cash after interest payments, some other federal spending would have to stop for a day or a while. We have tax revenue for about 70 percent of spending and intend to borrow the rest this year. Hit the debt ceiling, then pay interest, pay Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, put defense on a starvation diet … the rest of the government would go on furlough. Not “default.”
President Obama: “Congress should pay the tab for a bill they’ve already racked up.” Now we’re getting somewhere. Future spending is an “appropriation,” not a debt. All governments constantly revise future appropriations: They are not “bonded” obligations in any way.
Obama’s use of the third person, “they,” is a charming way to describe those who have appropriated spending that we cannot now afford. Most of that work was done by his own party.
Republicans have resisted adequate tax revenue and insisted on bloated “defense” spending. But since the 1960s, Democrats have appropriated more and more social spending, never with adequate revenue support, expecting economic growth to cover the bet.
For a long time it did. It does not now, and it will not anytime soon.
How can this be? They all voted on it, now they refuse to borrow?
Incredibly, no. They did not vote on “it.”
As our fiscal difficulty has deepened, Congress votes on “continuing resolutions” for spending, and rarely simultaneous tax revenue. Only in the first Bush (H.W., not Dubya) and Clinton “pay-as-you-go” deals did we actually demand of ourselves income before we agreed to spend. And the result was a budget surplus.
Dubya fought two wars without tax revenue, and Obama has yet to submit an actual budget. Congress just voted $60 billion for Sandy damage, but no revenue.
The most important principle in democracy: Minorities should not be abused by majorities, nor should minorities abuse majorities. The Republicans are close to the line in using the debt limit to hold Democrats hostage, but the Democrats entirely deserve the treatment.
Like a drunk facing intervention, they say, “OK, OK, I’ll stop, but don’t take my booze. I can quit any time I want, but times are tough and I need a snort once in a while. Besides, it’s my booze, not yours. Hey! No! Don’t break those bottles!”
The NFIB optimism index is only one of more than a dozen components in the survey released on the second Tuesday of each month. All components are consistent with the grim chart below.
Neighborhood matters. In fact, for many buyers the neighborhood can be more important than house size when it comes to deciding where to live.
It seems most folks want to live in neighborhoods that are walkable, with easy access to public transportation, restaurants and shopping. They also want to live in places where they get along with those around them.
Creating that comfortable, know-your-neighbors kind of atmosphere isn’t difficult. In fact, it can happen one random act of kindness at a time. Perform a selfless act to help or cheer up a neighbor, and you’ll actually be helping yourself — studies prove it.
According to researcher and author David R. Hamilton, performing a kind act releases oxytocin — the same hormone that surges when you hold your baby or cuddle a kitten — which also temporarily lowers blood pressure. “Kindness is literally good for your heart,” he explains.
In an effort to improve both your health and the place you live, here’s a list of 35 kind acts you could perform for neighbors. Don’t be limited by the list, rather consider it a kindness starting point:
- Decorate a neighbor’s door or fence with a wreath.
- Rake someone’s leaves.
- Pick up trash that’s blown along the street or gutters.
- Shovel a stranger’s sidewalk or driveway.
- Ask someone you see on the street “How are you?” – and mean it.
- Bake some cookies for your neighbor.
- Call a neighbor you haven’t talked to in a while.
- Give someone a flower – or a dozen.
- Leave a kind note on a neighbor’s car windshield.
- Hold the elevator.
- Invite someone who lives alone over for dinner.
- Introduce yourself to someone you always see around.
- Hold the door open for someone.
- Clean up graffiti.
- Send a thank-you note to the staff at your local police or fire station.
- Help someone unload their groceries.
- Greet your mail carrier with hot chocolate on a snowy day or a cold water bottle on a warm day.
- Share fresh produce with your neighbors.
- Someone new moving into the neighborhood? Help them carry in a few boxes.
- Give directions to someone who’s lost.
- Mow a neighbor’s lawn.
- Pick up groceries for someone who has difficulties getting out.
- Bring in your neighbor’s trashcans.
- Help change a tire.
- Buy coffee for the person waiting behind you at the local coffee shop.
- Improve a struggling family’s summer by buying them a season pass to the local swimming pool.
- Leave your neighbors a note that tells them how much you admire their flowers.
- Deliver a bouquet of flowers to a nearby nursing home.
- Leave a copy of a book you love, with a note for the next reader, at your neighborhood cafe.
- Write kind but anonymous notes; discreetly distribute them in public places, for strangers to find.
- Go to your local library and ask if you can pay someone’s fines.
- Buy a dozen bottles of bubbles and attach a fun note to each one. Leave the bottles at homes along your street.
- Buy inexpensive shovels and buckets and leave them in the sandbox in a local park.
- Help a neighbor water or weed his garden.
- Launch a neighborhood campaign to collect food for a nearby shelter.
Mortgage rates were up slightly this week following an upbeat employment report showing that the economy added 155,000 jobs in December, Freddie Mac said in releasing the results of its latest Primary Mortgage Market Survey.
At 7.8 percent, the unemployment rate is now at its lowest point since December 2008. If unemployment continues to drop, the Federal Reserve is expected to scale back or end measures aimed at keeping long-term interest rates low.
Rates on 30-year fixed-rate mortgages averaged 3.4 percent with an average 0.7 point for the week ending Jan. 10, up from 3.34 percent last week but down from 3.89 percent a year ago. Rates on 30-year fixed-rate loans hit a low in Freddie Mac records dating to 1971 of 3.31 percent during the week ending Nov. 21, 2012.
For 15-year fixed-rate mortgages, rates averaged 2.66 percent with an average 0.7 point, up from 2.64 percent last week but down from 3.16 percent a year ago. Rates on 15-year fixed-rate loans hit a low in Freddie Mac records dating to 1991 of 2.63 percent during the week ending Nov. 21, 2012.
Rates on five-year Treasury-indexed hybrid adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) loans averaged 2.67 percent with an average 0.6 point, down from 2.71 percent last week and 2.82 percent a year ago. That’s a new low in records dating to 2005.
One-year Treasury-indexed ARM loans averaged 2.6 percent with an average 0.5 point, up from 2.57 percent last week but down from 2.76 percent a year ago. Rates on one-year ARM loans hit a low in records dating to 2005 of 2.52 percent during the week ending Dec. 20.
A separate survey by the Mortgage Bankers Association showed demand for purchase loans was up a seasonally adjusted 10 percent during the week ending Jan. 4 compared to the week before, but down 8 percent from the same week a year ago.
To keep mortgage rates low, the Federal Reserve is buying $40 billion in mortgage-backed securities (MBS) issued by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac each month. The Fed has said the open-ended program, which also includes $45 billion in monthly purchases of long-term Treasurys, will continue as long as the outlook for the labor market does not “improve substantially.”
The Fed intends to keep short-term interest rates at or near zero percent for as long as unemployment is above 6.5 percent and its projections show inflation remaining in check.
But the Fed hasn’t defined how much the labor market would have to improve before it dialed back or halted its purchases of MBS and Treasurys — purchases that are aimed at keeping long-term interest rates low.
Inflation “hawks” who worry that the Fed’s efforts to stimulate economic growth will lead to runaway inflation argue that policymakers should scale back such “quantitative easing” sooner than later.