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Expats living in Cotacachi Ecuador | Waccabuc Real Estate

Cotacachi, in the Imbabura province, is getting the lion’s share of expat attention these days. Many, especially those of retirement age, are finding their way here to enjoy the perfect weather, beautiful scenery, low cost of living, and especially the tranquil, slow-paced small-town lifestyle.

Like Otavalo and many other villages in this part of Ecuador, Cotacachi (population: about 8,000) is an artisan town. Just 20 minutes northwest of Otavalo, Cotacachi is Ecuador’s famous “leather” town. Artisan shops line the main street and you can buy any type of leather item, from shoes, boots and jackets to coin purses, bags, and suitcases…even upholstered furniture. Prices for all these items are 50% to 75% less than you would pay in the U.S.

Cotacachi has always enjoyed a reputation as a clean, peaceful village, and its plazas are kept neat and tidy. At night the artisan shops close up and only a few restaurants and small mom-and-pop shops are open. On the corners, you may find families congregating around a hot grill, where ears of corn are roasting along with pork and chicken kabobs. The cool, crisp air smells faintly of wood smoke, roasting corn, and eucalyptus. Eucalyptus trees grow abundantly wild, as do palm trees.

Cotacachi has become one of Ecuador’s most active expat communities in recent years, as many foreigners have chosen to locate here—and they enjoy a great lifestyle in Cotacachi. It’s a small, mostly indigenous town with a strong sense of community.

Largely dependent on agriculture, it is the sort of town many of us remember from our childhoods. Fresh raw milk can be bought from local farms, along with eggs laid by free-range chickens. Children still help with the family businesses after school and are well-mannered.

In the quaint downtown, you’ll find a couple of barbers, a small health clinic, and a pavilion for the town band. Ethnic restaurants and cozy cafés make welcoming spots to catch up with friends or just sit and watch life unfold in the Ecuadorian highlands.

Though Cotacachi has a slow and relaxed pace there are constant events and activities to take part in. Every month at least one parade or festival takes place. There are live music events, dances, and even horse processions to be watched and photographed. Seed exchanges, food fairs, and leather expos are all annual events too.

Of course it’s always nice to explore other areas too and there are plenty of great day-trips to choose from. Within two hours you could be at Chachimbiro Hot Springs relaxing in the thermal springs, or enjoying a mud bath at the spa. Lake Cuicocha is just a 15-minute taxi ride from town where you can marvel at the deep blue volcanic crater lake. If you’re up for some physical activity you can take a four-hour hike around the rim, or if you prefer to relax, take the boat tour around the islands in the center of the lake.

The famed market town of Otavalo is nearby, where you can explore the streets filled with craft items, food, and even animals for sale. Ibarra is a larger city just 45 minutes away with shopping malls, dining options, and large parks and plazas to enjoy.

When the sun sets in Cotacachi, the artisan shops close up and only a few restaurants and small mom-and-pop shops are open. That’s all you need, really. After a day of sunshine in the 8,000-foot-elevation, mountain climate, night-time is for sleeping.

Retire in Cotacachi, Ecuador

Retire in CotacachiCotacachi is becoming something of an expat magnet. Estimates are that about 100 expats live full-time in Cotacachi now. It’s a diverse group—not all American. There are Israelis, Cubans, Brits, and more among them, who get together regularly to discuss topics of interest or just to celebrate life. This makes retirement in Cotacachi enjoyable. The expats here are outgoing and relaxed, since there’s not much to worry about. No traffic, no temperature swings, no pesky insects, and certainly no money problems.

The town is also scenic. Two of the most majestic cordilleras of the Andes flank either side of the small village of Cotacachi. And several of Ecuador’s most famous volcanoes can be seen from just about anywhere in town, including Volcan Cotacachi to the west and Imbabura to the east. On a clear day, you can see Volcan Pichincha to the south.

If you want to enjoy good weather, clean air, great scenery, and a rich indigenous culture, but still be within two hours of the international airport in Quito, then retirement in Cotacachi could fit the bill.

Lifestyle in Cotacachi, Ecuador

Lifestyle In CotacachiCotacachi is a fabulous place to improve your health. The moderate climate with little variation throughout the year means that nearly every fruit and vegetable can be grown within a hundred miles. Not only is healthy produce readily available, but it’s also very affordable. With avocados priced at 3 for a dollar, organic leaf lettuce at 25 cents, and 6 plump carrots for 50 cents there is no monetary reason not to eat right.

In addition, the small size of the town makes it perfect for walking. Instead of jumping in your car to run to the grocery store, pay bills, or meet a friend for lunch you can easily accomplish it all with your own two feet. Many folks find that they lose weight without even trying after being in Cotacachi for only a few months. The healthy food choices and extra walking each day help shed excess pounds.

For a small town there are few things lacking. Residents can take advantage of spas, fitness centers, and basic medical needs all within a few blocks of each other. They can also participate in art classes, hiking groups, dance lessons, live musical events, yoga, foreign films, and science courses.

If you’re a social person, Cotacachi is the place for you. There are plenty of other expats to get to know, but the locals are friendly and welcoming too. It’s tough to spend much time in this town without quickly and easily making friends.

Real Estate in Cotacachi, Ecuador

Real Estate in CotacachiThis influx of foreigners has caused something of a building boom in Cotacachi in recent years, and if you come to look for real estate, you’ll be spoiled for choice. Older homes and apartments in need of renovation can be had for the price of a good used car.

Recognizing the trend of foreign baby boomers looking for an unspoiled and inexpensive retirement destination, local builders offer appealing homes and condos with features like large modern kitchens, elegant bathrooms, fireplaces, and more.

Rentals go for as little as $150 a month for a modern, three-bedroom apartment while furnished units with all utilities included go for $600.

Cost of Living in Cotacachi, Ecuador

Cost of Living in CotacachiThe cost of living is low in Ecuador, but especially so in smaller towns like Cotacachi. If you’re living on a budget or just looking to save money, this is a great place to do so.

Sunday is market day, when the villagers bring their wares to sell. Everything from fruits and vegetables to ground spices, woven baskets, and rope made of woven plastic shopping bags—recycling at its best. And then there are the roses…you pay $2 for one dozen, long-stemmed roses that are so fresh they last nearly three weeks.

On Saturdays head to Otavalo—to the largest open-air indigenous market in South America. If you’re a good negotiator, you can buy scarves, woolen socks, and hats for $2 each, or pretty wool and alpaca sweaters for $8 ($4 for kids’ sizes). The 30-minute bus ride from Cotacachi to Otavalo costs 35 cents; a taxi costs $5.

You can hire a maid to clean your condo for $10, and gardeners or landscapers charge around $4 per hour. Furnishing that same condo can be fun and inexpensive as well. There are master carpenters right in town that will build furniture to your specs for 50% to 75% of U.S. costs. Artistic paintings, colorful weavings, and wooden carvings are all easily found in the area and are priced at or below half of what you would pay back home.

Unless you must have imported food items or expensive cuts of meat you’ll save on your grocery bill here. Five dollars at the farmers’ market will get you an extra-large grocery bag filled to the brim with good healthy produce. Bananas, pineapples, mangos, avocados, tomatoes, leafy greens, and dozens of varieties of potatoes are just a few things you’ll find for sale. Whole chickens range from $5 to $8 depending on the size while fresh free-range eggs cost around $1.30 per dozen.

Many restaurants in town serve a menu del dia that consists of a beverage, soup, salad, main course, and dessert. How much? $2.50 each. It’s almost cheaper to eat out than to cook at home.

There are several good doctors in Cotacachi who typically charge $10 for an office visit. An eye exam costs $5 while a dental cleaning and exam will run around $20.

With the lack of severe temperature fluxes you’ll find that heating and air conditioning aren’t necessary, saving you plenty of money. Average electric costs for a household run between $15 and $20 per month. Monthly bills for water and propane gas usually come in at around $5 each. A package of cable TV, internet, and landline phone service can be had for around $100 per month.

Many folks live without a vehicle which eliminates fuel, maintenance, and insurance expenses. Bus fare usually averages around $1 per hour of travel time, and taxis are cheap too, charging $5 to nearby Otavalo (20 minute drive) and $12 to Ibarra (40 minute drive).

Depending upon the lifestyle you want a couple can easily live on $1,200 to $1,800 per month here. Of course frequent dining at high-end restaurants and traveling will require more income, but can still be done for far less than what it would cost in many other parts of the world. Don’t forget to factor in extra funds for trips back home, initial moving and visa costs, and for routine medical care.

 

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https://internationalliving.com/countries/ecuador/cotacachi-ecuador/

 

Real state of housing market | Waccabuc Real Estate

On the third day of Mortgage Bankers Association National Secondary Market Conference and Expo in New York City, three economists took the stage to explain their view of the housing market, and their forecast for 2017.

Freddie Mac Chief Economist Sean Becketti, Fannie Mae Chief Economist Doug Duncan and MBA Chief Economist Mike Fratantoni gave their projections over the chance of a recession within the next 12 months.

Becketti emphasized that while the chance of a recession increased, it would need to be driven by a specific event.

“Recessions are event driven, the economy doesn’t just run out of gas and slow down,” Becketti said.

Fratantoni predicted a 15% to 20% chance of a recession over the next 12 months, while Duncan pushed it to a 30% chance. He listed several factors including a peak in consumer credit card usage, auto sales and corporate debt, which could point to a looming recession.

The three economists pointed out that while employment is rising, there are still gaps in the growth.

What we’ve seen has been a polarization of jobs, Becketti said. Jobs have left the mid-skill level and gone to the high-skill level, and low skill jobs have also seen growth. The reason for this shift is that mid-skilled jobs are easier to automate.

But even as jobs polarize, the growth between urban and suburban areas leveled out, becoming more equally distributed between the two areas, Duncan said. However, this leveling out in the location of jobs is creating more problems in the housing market.

“But now urban areas are the most difficult area to build entry-level housing due to cost of land,” he said.

As the year goes on, Fratantoni predicted the market will see two more rate hikes – one in June and one in September, saying the year would finish with a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage rate of 4.5%.

Becketti predicted slightly more, saying the Federal Open Markets Committee could raise rates from two to three times this year, but said the year will end with a 30-year FRM of about 4.4%.

Duncan, who predicted the highest chance of a recession in the next 12 months, agreed the Fed will raise rates twice more this year, however kept it’s rate for the end of 2017 more conservative at 4.2%.

“We’re not convinced that inflationary pressures are enough to make the Fed more aggressive,” he said.

Click to Enlarge

Economic Outlook

(Source: Freddie Mac)

But for now, the housing market continues to boom as home prices hit their previous peak nationally, and even significantly surpassed it in some states.

This map shows the states in relation to their former peak:

Click to Enlarge

Economic Outlook

(Source: MBA)

All three economists were puzzled by the substantial increase in Texas, saying they could only venture to guess that while there is plenty of land to spread out in the state, the jobs are more centered, driving home prices up in key areas, such as Dallas.

And what about the rumored housing bubble? Fratantoni asked: Is San Francisco in a housing bubble? Becketti’s answer, to put it simply, was no. He answered that the city is subject to a tech collapse, but said it will not collapse on account of affordability.

 

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http://www.housingwire.com/articles/40020-heres-the-real-state-of-the-housing-market?eid=311691494&bid=1743085

Pending sales drop | Waccabuc Real Estate

The Pending Home Sales Index decreased 2.5% in November 2016 to its lowest level since January 2016, and is 0.4% below November 2015. The Pending Home Sales Index (PHSI), a forward-looking indicator based on signed contracts reported by the National Association of Realtors (NAR), decreased to 107.3 in November 2016 from 110.0 the previous month.

The PHSI increased 0.6% in the Northeast, but fell 1.2% in the South, 2.5% in the Midwest and 6.7% in the West. Year-over-year, the PHSI increased 5.7% in the Northeast, but decreased 1.0% in the West, 1.3% in the South and 2.4% in the Midwest.

NAR recently reported a decline in confidence among renters who are contemplating the best time to buy a home. The election boosted the U.S. 10-year Treasury note from 1.83% the day before the election to 2.54% on December 28, 2016, and mortgage rates followed quickly. The Freddie Mac Weekly Survey reported a 30-year commitment rate of 3.54% on November 3, which increased to 4.30% for the week ending December 22, 2016. However, November existing sales continued a solid year-end path, and total 2016 existing sales are expected to reach the highest level since 2006. As the economy adds jobs, increased demand among first-time buyers will help fuel existing sales into 2017.

 

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http://eyeonhousing.org/2017/01/pending-sales-retreat-2/

Mortgage rates average 4.09% | Waccabuc Real Estate

Freddie Mac (OTCQB: FMCC) today released the results of its Primary Mortgage Market Survey® (PMMS®), showing average mortgage rates moving lower for the third consecutive week.

News Facts

  • 30-year fixed-rate mortgage (FRM) averaged 4.09 percent with an average 0.5 point for the week ending Jan. 19, 2017, down from last week when it averaged 4.12 percent. A year ago at this time, the 30-year FRM averaged 3.81 percent.
  • 15-year FRM this week averaged 3.34 percent with an average 0.5 point, down from last week when it averaged 3.37 percent. A year ago at this time, the 15-year FRM averaged 3.10 percent.
  • 5-year Treasury-indexed hybrid adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) averaged 3.21 percent this week with an average 0.4 point, down from last week when it averaged 3.23 percent. A year ago, the 5-year ARM averaged 2.91 percent.

Average commitment rates should be reported along with average fees and points to reflect the total upfront cost of obtaining the mortgage. Visit the following link for the Definitions. Borrowers may still pay closing costs which are not included in the survey.

Quote
Attributed to Sean Becketti, chief economist, Freddie Mac.

“After trending down for most of the week, the 10-year Treasury yield rose following the release of the CPI report. In contrast, the 30-year mortgage rate fell three basis points to 4.09 percent, the third straight week of declines.”

Serious Delinquency Rates Improve Across Most Household Debts | Waccabuc Real Estate

A recent release by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York indicates that, in aggregate, 90 or more day delinquency rates are falling on most household debt products. However, serious delinquency on student loans remains elevated while a greater portion of auto debt held by households with low credit scores is entering serious delinquency. The results indicate that household balance sheets are likely improving on balance but some concerns persist.

As the figure below illustrates, the majority of consumer loan types have seen the share of balances 90 or more days delinquent fall from their cycle peaks. The proportion of credit card debt 90 or more days past due has dropped to 7.1 percent 6.6 percentage points below its peak in 2010, 13.7 percent. The percentage of mortgage debt has dived 7.3 percentage points to 1.6 percent while the portion of 90 or more days late home equity lines of credit has fallen from 4.9 percent to 2.0 percent.

presentation1

Although credit card debt, mortgages, and home equity lines of credit have trended downward since reaching their cycle peaks, the share of student loan debt 90 or more days delinquent jumped in 2012 to 11.7 percent and has remained near this level in subsequent years.

Interestingly, the 90 or more day delinquency rate on auto debt followed the same pattern as credit card and mortgage debt, declining in the years immediately after reaching its peak. However, since 2014, the proportion of auto loan debt 90 or more days delinquent has held steady. More precisely, the percent of auto loans 90 or more days delinquent has trended up slightly since the middle of 2014.

Additional analysis by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York indicates that, after declines from their cycle peaks, the flow of auto debt into 90 or more day delinquency has been generally flat for households with a 620 and above. However, as shown in the figure below which was reproduced from the blog post linked to above, the flow of auto loans into 90 or more day delinquency has increased noticeably for consumers with a credit score below a 620.

presentation2

More precisely, the flow of auto debt flowing into 90 or more day delinquency for those with a credit score between 620 and 659 rose a bit in 2014 before returning in 2015. In addition, there has been a very slight upward trend in the flow of auto debt into 90 or more day delinquency by borrowers with a credit score between 660 and 719 and a small uptick over 2016 in the flow for consumers with a score between 720 and 759.

 

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http://eyeonhousing.org/2016/12/serious-delinquency-rates-improve-across-most-household-debts/

Are Trophy Homes Losing their Lustre? | Waccabuc Real Estate

Are Trophy Homes Losing their Lustre?

With pressure on the homebuilding industry to build fewer trophy homes and concentrate on filling the demand for affordable housing, the data does not bode well for builders.

Median prices of new homes have risen steadily during the recession. In September, the median sold price of a new home hit $313,500, 5.5 percent higher than last year’s median of $296,400 and 25.2 percent higher than the median price for existing homes in September.

Even so, over the past two years super expensive homes priced at one million or more are on the decline, according to data from the Census Bureau’s Survey of Construction.  In 2015, a total of 1,762 homes were started for sale with a price of $1 million or more and new homes started for sale with a price of $1 million or more decreased as a share in absolute number in 2015. That number was significantly lower than in 2013 (3,347 homes) and 2014 (3,019).

 

2016-11-16_14-05-42

In percentage terms, these expensive homes represented 1.06 percent of all new homes started for sale in 2015, from a peak of 1.26 percent in 2014 but about the same as in 2013 (0.99 percent). This represents a much higher percent share compared to other years. For instance, from 2008 to 2012 the percent share of $1 million or more homes started for sale was less than 0.50 percent, while it was at most 0.66 percent during the boom period, reported the National Association of Home Builders’ Eye on Housing blog.

To put things in perspective, Trulia reported in May that since 2012 the share of all million dollar homes in the United States has increased from 1.6 percent to 3 percent, but many metros and neighborhoods have seen a much larger increase.

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http://www.realestateeconomywatch.com/2016/11/are-trophy-homes-losing-their-lustre/

Garages in New Homes: 2015 Data | Waccabuc Real Estate

A majority of new homes that completed construction in 2015 included two-car garages, according to NAHB analysis of Census Bureau Survey of Construction data.

For new single-family completions in 2015, 61% of homes offered a two-car garage. Another 24% of homes possessed a garage large enough to hold three or more cars. Just 6% of newly-built homes had a one-car garage, and only 1% possessed a carport. Another 9% of new homes had no garage or carport.

parking1

Over the last two decades, there has been a shift in parking options. As home size has grown, the share of homes with a three or more car garage has grown as well. In 1992, 11% of homes had a garage for three or more cars. That share rose to a peak of 20% in 2005, before falling to 16% in 2010.

In contrast, the market share of homes with no garage or carport has been on the decline. In 1992, 15% of new single-family homes had no parking facility. That share fell to 8% in 2005, before rising slightly to 13% in 2010.

There are also clear regional differences for parking options in new homes. In the Northeast, no garage or carport is available in 18% of homes, the highest such share. In the West, that is true in only 3% of homes, the lowest Census region. The Midwest had the highest share of three or more car garages, at 42% of new homes. The Northeast had the lowest market share of three-plus car garages, with just 12% homes completed. The Northeast in contrast leads the share in one-car garages, with 16% of completed single-family homes.

 

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http://eyeonhousing.org/2016/10/garages-in-new-homes-2015-data/

Schiller: Always reason to worry about housing prices | Waccabuc Real Estate

US home price gains slowed slighting in July, as many on Wall Street are speculating that the Federal Reserve will raise rates before the end of the year. The S&P/Case-Shiller 20-City Composite Index rose 5.0% year-over-year, missing analysts’ expectations of a 5.1% increase but still above the 4.8% pace of the prior two years.

The recent surge in real estate demand has pushed home prices near their pre-crisis peak in 2006, which is making it increasingly difficult for new home buyers to enter the market. Home sales fell 0.9% in August from the previous month, according to the National Association of Realtors. That’s the second straight month of declines.

Higher home prices have begged the question by many as to whether the current pace is sustainable, or if there’s reason to fear another massive collapse in real estate.

“There’s always reason to worry [about a coming collapse],” Robert Shiller, Nobel Prize–winning economist and co-creator of the S&P/Case Shiller Index, told Yahoo Finance’s Seana Smith in the video above. But he is quick to point out one stark difference between today’s housing market and that of 2006. “We’re in a holding pattern right now … People are less excited about buying because they themselves don’t believe [home prices] will be going up a lot. Back in 2006, when the homeownership rate was setting records, people had extravagant expectations.”

His comments on Americans’ hesitation to buy echo the findings of a recent study byPulsenomics, which found that just 38% of renters surveyed think now is a good time to buy. Today, home values have reached or surpassed peak levels in about a quarter of US markets.

How rising rates could impact the housing market

While prospective buyers continue to benefit from relatively low borrowing costs, the big question is whether a series of rate hikes will increase mortgage rates and prompt a fallout in the housing sector. Fed funds futures suggests a roughly 57% chance of higher US interest rates by December, according to data from CME Group.

Shiller says it’s very difficult to forecast how the housing market will react to rising rates but is quick to point out that even in an uncertain environment, rate hikes shouldn’t be a factor for potential buyers.

“The Fed raised [rates] in December just a quarter of one percent, and plausibly they’ll raise [rates] by another quarter or a half percent, and it may not be a big deal,” said Shiller. “On the other hand, it might be a big deal because we’re in this strange period of near zero interest rates, and if people see it as a major turning point, it could affect home prices … My opinion is if you want a house, go out and buy it. It’s not an extremely unusual time. There are always risks.

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http://finance.yahoo.com/news/robert-shiller-theres-always-reason-to-worry-about-a-coming-collapse-in-housing-124331739.html

Mortgage rates average 3.52% | Waccabuc Real Estate

Freddie Mac (OTCQB: FMCC) today released the results of its Primary Mortgage Market Survey® (PMMS®), showing average fixed mortgage rates moving higher for the second week in a row and marking the first time the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage has risen above 3.5 percent since June.

News Facts

  • 30-year fixed-rate mortgage (FRM) averaged 3.52 percent with an average 0.5 point for the week ending October 20, 2016, up from last week when they averaged 3.47 percent. A year ago at this time, the 30-year FRM averaged 3.79 percent.
  • 15-year FRM this week averaged 2.79 percent with an average 0.5 point, up from last week when they averaged 2.76 percent. A year ago at this time, the 15-year FRM averaged 2.98 percent.
  • 5-year Treasury-indexed hybrid adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) averaged 2.85 percent this week with an average 0.4 point, up from last week when it averaged 2.82 percent. A year ago, the 5-year ARM averaged 2.89 percent.

Average commitment rates should be reported along with average fees and points to reflect the total upfront cost of obtaining the mortgage. Visit the following link for the Definitions. Borrowers may still pay closing costs which are not included in the survey.

Quote
Attributed to Sean Becketti, chief economist, Freddie Mac.

“The 30-year fixed-rate mortgage moved a solid 5 basis points to 3.52 percent while the 10-year Treasury yield remained relatively flat. This is the first week in over 4 months that rates have risen above 3.50 percent. This month, mortgage rates seem to be catching up to Treasury yields and returning to pre-Brexit levels.”

U.S. housing starts fall 9% | Waccabuc Real Estate

Housing starts in the United States tumbled 9 percent to a seasonally adjusted annualized rate of 1047 thousand in September from August of 2016, below market expectations of 1175 thousand. It is the lowest figure since March of 2015, due to a fall in construction of multifamily homes. In contrast, building permits rose 6.3 percent to 1225 thousand, beating expectations of 1165 thousand. Housing Starts in the United States averaged 1439.56 Thousand from 1959 until 2016, reaching an all time high of 2494 Thousand in January of 1972 and a record low of 478 Thousand in April of 2009. Housing Starts in the United States is reported by the U.S. Census Bureau.

United States Housing Starts

 

 

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http://www.tradingeconomics.com/united-states/housing-starts