Tag Archives: Mt Kisco Real Estate

4 million Americans are now skipping their mortgage payments | Mt Kisco Real Estate

More than 4 million Americans have stopped making mortgage payments because of economic hardship caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

Fewer Americans are calling their mortgage servicers to ask for relief from mortgage payments, but the housing industry isn’t out of the woods yet.

More than 4.1 million homeowners are in forbearance plans now, according to the latest data from the Mortgage Bankers Association.

While mortgage servicers are still facing stress because of the record deluge of requests for payment relief, signs suggest that homeowners’ prospects have improved as parts of the country have begun to emerge from coronavirus stay-at-home orders.

How bad is it if I stop paying my mortgage during the pandemic?

Overall, 8.16% of all mortgages were in forbearance as of May 10, meaning borrowers can either skip or make reduced payments, the trade group said. That was up from 7.91% as of May 3, which is the smallest increase since March. Forbearance requests dropped from 0.52% of the total mortgage volume to 0.32%.

“There has been a pronounced flattening in loans put into forbearance — despite April’s uniformly negative economic data, remarkably high unemployment, and it now being past May payment due dates,” Mike Fratantoni, chief economist for the Mortgage Bankers Association, said in the report.

The potential exception to this trend is the segment of the market for loans backed by Ginnie Mae, including Federal Housing Administration (FHA) and Veterans Affairs (VA) loans. More than 11% of Ginnie Mae loans are in forbearance because of the coronavirus outbreak. These loans tend to go to borrowers who are first-time homeowners with weaker credit — people who could be more exposed to the economic downturn the pandemic has caused.

While the pace of homeowners requesting forbearance has slowed, the end of the mortgage industry’s troubles isn’t necessarily in sight. A recent report from U.K.-based economic forecasting firm Oxford Economics estimates that 15% of homeowners will fall behind on their monthly mortgage payments.

The outlook for homeowners will likely depend on their ability to bounce back, particularly for those who have lost their jobs. The good news for mortgage lenders is that job losses caused by the coronavirus have largely been concentrated in the service sector, according to a report from First American Financial FAF, 3.06% , a title insurance company. Because these jobs are lower skilled and lower paid, it’s less likely that the newly unemployed already owned homes.

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www.marketwatch.com

NYSAR update on NYS phase 2 openings | Mt Kisco Real Estate

Dear NYSAR members,

Below, please find additional frequently asked questions for the Phase 2 regional re-opening of “New York Forward.”  These are questions we have previously answered, however, the answers have been modified to reflect Phase 2 guidance.  For frequently asked questions prior to, and including Phase 1, as well as Phase 2 questions, please visit nysarcovidupdates.com.
 
Q – How does the COVID-19 pandemic impact Fair Housing? Can I ask a client/customer/consumer if they have been exposed to COVID-19?
 
A – Yes, the Interim Guidance Document provided by ESD and DOH includes permissible screening questions relating to COVID-19 exposure that must be asked of every seller/buyer/landlord/tenant.
 
Q – Can a professional photographer and/or videographer take photos or video of a property under Phase 2?
 
A – Yes, if the photographer/videographer is operating in a region open under Phase 2.
 
Q – How do I use the NYSAR COVID-19 Phase 2 Disclosure form?
 
A – Below, please find instructions on how to use the Phase 2 form: The form is OPTIONALYou must have the permission of your broker before utilizing the form.  Your broker may require you to either: a) use the NYSAR form; b) use a form the broker had prepared; or c) not use any form.The form has been provided to local boards, MLS’ and brokers previously and they may have released the form already with their name and/or logo.Licensees should present the form to the seller or buyer in the same manner an agency disclosure form is presented.The COVID-19 Disclosure form notifies the seller and buyer of the risks associated with permitting an individual to enter one’s property or by entering another individual’s property.By signing the form, the seller or buyer acknowledge that by permitting such access or by accessing the property they assume the risk of potential exposure to COVID-19.  Licensees should explain to the seller and/or buyer that the form outlines the risks of COVID-19 exposure and by signing the form they are acknowledging and assuming such risks.Licensees should have the seller and/or buyer sign the form, print their name next to their signature and provide a signed copy to the seller or buyer and retain a signed copy for the broker’s file.The form may be delivered in any manner currently permitted (paper, electronic transmission).A copy of the COVID-19 Phase 2 Disclosure form can be found HERE
Q – If I use the NYSAR COVID-19 Disclosure form can I perform in-person showings in a Phase 2 region?
 
A – Yes, so long as all requirements contained in the Interim Guidance Document are strictly followed.

Q – What is the seller and/or buyer agreeing to when they sign the NYSAR COVID-19 Phase 2 Disclosure form?
 
A – In the event the seller and/or buyer is exposed to COVID-19 as a result of permitting or gaining access to the property, the form acts as a disclosure notice outlining the risks and having the party acknowledge that they are assuming such risk through their actions.  If a licensee and/or broker were named in a lawsuit alleging exposure to COVID-19 by the seller and/or buyer (or a member of their household), the form could be used to show the seller and/or buyer were aware of the risks and assumed the risk of permitting access or gaining access to the property.
 
Q – What if the seller and/or buyer refuse to sign the COVID-19 Phase 2 Disclosure form?
 
A – Licensees should follow the same procedure when a consumer refuses to sign an agency disclosure form.  If the seller and/or buyer refuse to sign the form, the agent shall set forth a written declaration of the facts of the refusal and shall maintain a copy for the broker’s file.
 
Q – If a buyer/tenant refuses to sign the COVID-19 disclosure or answer the screening questions, can the seller/landlord refuse to show the property to that party?
 
A – Yes, the seller/landlord can require compliance with both the COVID-19 Phase 2 Disclosure Form as a prerequisite before the showing.  Consumers are not required to sign the COVID-19 Phase 2 Disclosure or answer the screening questions and if all parties are comfortable with that, a showing may occur.
 
Q – If a seller/buyer/landlord/tenant answers yes to any of the screening questions, what should I do?
 
A – If a seller/buyer/landlord/tenant answers yes to any question, it would be up to the parties as to whether they want to continue with the in-person showing assessing what risks they may be taking.  For instance, a buyer is a health care worker and is exposed to COVID-19 as a result of their occupation.  That would not disqualify them from the in-person showing if the seller is comfortable with the precautions being taken.  If they are not comfortable, a licensee would not be required to conduct an in-person showing if any of the questions were answered “yes”.  This would be a scenario where it would be prudent to utilize the COVID-19 Phase 2 Disclosure Form.
 
Q – Can a licensee perform an in-person open house in a region open under Phase 2?
 
A – Yes, however the Interim Guidance Document only permits one party to be in the property at a time.  As a best practice, licensees should schedule appointments for an open house in order to avoid having multiple parties present at the property and congregating outside waiting to see the property.
 
Q – Can I have in-person contact with a member of the public in a region open under Phase 2?
 
A – Yes.  The Interim Guidance Document permits in-person contact with a member of the public so long as required health and safety measures set forth in the document are followed.
 
Q – Can the purchaser be present during the inspection?
 
A – That would be up to the inspector and their interpretation of the Interim Guidance Document.
 
Q – Can I conduct a final walkthrough with a consumer in a region open under Phase 2?
 
A – Yes, so long as all requirements for a showing contained in the Interim Guidance Document are strictly followed. 
 
Q – Can a licensee perform in-person showings in a region open under Phase 2?
 
A – Yes, so long as all requirements contained in the Interim Guidance Document are strictly followed.
 
Q – Can I attend a closing in a region open under Phase 2?
 
A – Licensees should not be attending closings in-person.
 
Get all of the latest news at www.nysar.com
 
You are receiving this information as a member of the New York State Ass
ociation of REALTORS. NYSAR occasionally sends information regarding association programs and services as well as industry news to its membership.

Manage your NYSAR email subscriptions. | Unsubscribe from ALL NYSAR emails.
 
New York State Association of REALTORS, 130 Washington Ave., Albany, NY 12210 

US home sales fall 18% | Mt Kisco Real Estate

This April 16, 2020 photo shows a real estate company sign that marks a home for sale in Harmony, Pa. U.S. new home sales plunged 15.4% in March as the lockdowns that began in the middle of the month began to rattle the housing market. The Commerce Department reported Thursday, April 23, that sales of new single-family homes dropped to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 627,000 last month after sales had fallen 4.6% in February. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)

Sales of existing homes plunged 17.8% in April with the real estate market still in the grips of the coronavirus pandemic.

The National Association of Realtors said Thursday that last month’s decline pushed sales down to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.33 million units, the slowest pace since September 2011.

The sales drop was the largest one-month decline since a 22.5% fall in July 2010. That tail-off was preceded by the end a congressionally approved tax credit intended pull the housing market out of the 2006 collapse of the housing market.

The median price for a home sold in April was $286,800, which was an increase of 7.4% from a year ago. Lawrence Yun, chief economist of the Realtors group, attributed the big jump in the median price to a lack of enough homes for sale, especially for first-time buyers.ADVERTISEMENT

Sales were down in all parts of the country with the West seeing a 25% drop. Sales in the Northeast fell 16.9%. Sales were down 17.9% in the South and down 12% in the Midwest.

Analysts said that the coronavirus shutdowns had contributed to the shortage in the number of homes for sale in April and that played a role in the increase in prices.

“Homebuyers are getting back out there, searching for more space as they realize using their home as an office and school may become the norm,” said Taylor Marr, lead economist at Redfin, a real estate brokerage firm. “But sellers are still holding off on listing their homes, partially due to economic uncertainty and concerns of health risks.”

Redfin said that the most competitive housing markets in April and early May were Boston, San Francisco and Fort Worth.

Rubeela Farooqi, chief U.S. economist at High Frequency Economics, said she expected sales to rebound off their lows in May “as a combination of pent-up demand as well as a desire to move to less densely populated areas boosts sales.”

read more…

apnews.com

Unemployment jumping to 15.5% will hurt housing prices | Mt Kisco Real Estate

According to the Unemployment Insurance Weekly Claims Report, released by the U.S. Department of Labor, the number of initial claims for unemployment insurance hit 3.2 million for the week ending May 2nd, bringing the total to 33.5 million over the past seven weeks.

In the week ending May 2nd, the number of people who applied for unemployment benefits, known as jobless claims, was at a seasonally adjusted level of 3,169,000, a decrease of 677,000 from the previous week’s revised level of 3,846,000 claims. The four-week moving average decreased to 4,173,500, from a revised average of 5,035,000 in the previous week. After it hit a record of 6.9 million for the week ending March 28th, the number of jobless claims has declined gradually in the following weeks. By the week ending May 2nd, the number of jobless claims was less than half of the peak of 6.9 million, and the seven-week’s jobless claims totaled 33.5 million.

The seasonally adjusted insured unemployment rate increased by 3.1 percentage points to 15.5% for the week ending April 25th. The number for seasonally adjusted insured unemployment increased to 22,647,000 during the week ending April 25th, from an upward revised level of 18,011,000 in the previous week. It was the highest level of seasonally adjusted insured unemployment in the history of the seasonally adjusted series.

The unadjusted number of initial claims, released by the U.S. Department of Labor, totaled 3,495,703 in the week ending April 25th, a decrease of 785,945 from the previous week. The chart below presents the top 10 states ranked by the number of initial claims for the week ending April 25th. Florida, California, Georgia, Texas, and New York reported the most initial claims. Florida led the way with 433,103 claims, followed by California with 325,343 claims and Georgia with 266,565 claims. The number of jobless claims in these 10 states accounted for about 56% of the total number of jobless claims in the week ending April 25th.

The trending of initial claims was mixed. For the week ending April 25th, Washington (+56,030), Georgia (+19,562), New York (+14,229), Oregon (+12,091), and Alabama (+8,534) reported the largest increases in initial claims, while California (-203,017), Florida (-73,567), Connecticut (-69,767), New Jersey (-68,173), and Pennsylvania (-66,698) had the largest decreases in initial claims.

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www.eyeonhousing.org

Home Lenders Brace for Up to 15 Million US Mortgage Defaults | Mt Kisco Real Estate

Mortgage lenders are preparing for the biggest wave of delinquencies in history. If the plan to buy time works, they may avert an even worse crisis: Mass foreclosures and mortgage market mayhem.

Borrowers who lost income from the coronavirus — already a skyrocketing number, with a record 10 million new jobless claims — can ask to skip payments for as many as 180 days at a time on federally backed mortgages, and avoid penalties and a hit to their credit scores. But it’s not a payment holiday. Eventually, they’ll have to make it all up.

As many as 30% of Americans with home loans – about 15 million households –- could stop paying if the U.S. economy remains closed through the summer or beyond, according to an estimate by Mark Zandi, chief economist for Moody’s Analytics.

“This is an unprecedented event,” said Susan Wachter, professor of real estate and finance at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. “The great financial crisis happened over a number of years. This is happening in a matter of months — a matter of weeks.”

Meanwhile, lenders are operating in the dark, with no way of predicting the scope or duration of the pandemic or the damage it will wreak on the economy. If the virus recedes soon and the economy roars back to life, then the plan will help borrowers get back on track quickly. The greater the fallout, the harder and more expensive it will be to stave off repossessions. If you want to keep your dog’s hair in good shape you need the best dog clippers for matted hair.

‘Press Pause’

“Nobody has any sense of how long this might last,” said Andrew Jakabovics, a former Department of Housing and Urban Development senior policy adviser who is now at Enterprise Community Partners, a nonprofit affordable housing group. “The forbearance program allows everybody to press pause on their current circumstances and take a deep breath. Then we can look at what the world might look like in six or 12 months from now and plan for that.”

Even if the economic turmoil is long-lasting, the government will have to find a way to prevent foreclosures — which could mean forgiving some debt, said Tendayi Kapfidze, Chief Economist at LendingTree.

The risks of allowing foreclosures are too great because it would damage financial markets and that could reinfect the economy, he said.

“I expect policy makers to do whatever they can to hold the line on a financial crisis,” Kapfidze said. “And that means preventing foreclosures by any means necessary.”

Laura Habberstad, a bar manager in Washington, D.C., got a reprieve from her lender but needs time to catch up. The coronavirus snatched away her income, as it has for millions, and replaced it with uncertainty. The restaurant and beer garden where she works was forced to temporarily shut down.

She has no idea when she’ll get her job back. And how do you search for another hospitality job during a global pandemic? Now she’s living in Oregon with her mother, whose travel agency was forced to close.

‘Financial Hardship’

“I don’t know how I’m going to pay my mortgage and my condo dues and still be able to feed myself,” Habberstad said. “I just hope that, once things open up again, we who are impacted by Covid-19 are given consideration and sufficient time to bring all payments current without penalty and in a manner that does not bring us even more financial hardship.”

Borrowers must contact their lenders to get help and avoid black marks on their credit reports, according to provisions in the stimulus package passed by Congress last week.

Bank of America said it has so far allowed 50,000 mortgage customers to defer payments. That includes loans that are not federally backed, so they aren’t covered by the government’s program.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin convened a task force last week to deal with the potential liquidity shortfall faced by mortgage servicers, which collect payments and are required to compensate bondholders even if homeowners miss them. The group was supposed to make recommendations by March 30.

“If a large percentage of the servicing book — let’s say 20-30% of clients you take care of — don’t have the ability to make a payment for six months, most servicers will not have the capital needed to cover those payments,” Quicken Chief Executive Officer Jay Farner said in an interview.

Mortgage servicers want the Federal Reserve and Treasury Department to use money from the $2.2 trillion stimulus plan to help them avoid a liquidity crisis as fewer borrowers make payments, and the firms are forced to continue paying bondholders.

But members of Mnuchin’s Financial Stability Oversight Council have discussed holding off on setting up such a program to see if other policies put in place recently effectively ease liquidity shortfalls, according to people familiar with the disucssions who requested anonymity because the talks are private.

Triple Workers

Quicken, which serves 1.8 million borrowers, has a strong enough balance sheet to serve its borrowers while paying holders of bonds backed by its mortgages, Farner said.

The company plans to almost triple its call center workers by May to field the expected onslaught of borrowers seeking support, he said.

If the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s how quickly everything can change. Just weeks ago, mortgage lenders were predicting the biggest spring in years for home sales and mortgage refinances.

Habberstad, the bar manager, was staffing up for big crowds at the beer garden, which is across from National Park, home of the World Series champions. Then came coronavirus. Now, she’s dependent on her unemployment check of $440 a week.

“Everybody wants to work but we’re being asked not to for the sake of the greater good,” she said.

Read more…

Home Lenders Brace for Up to 15 Million US Mortgage Defaults | Newsmax.com

California median price jumps 10% | Mt Kisco Real Estate

The median price for a single-family home in California jumped 10% in December, the biggest year-over-year gain in more than four years, as low mortgage rates and a shortage of homes for sale boosted competition for properties.

The state’s median home price was $615,090, more than double the U.S. median, according to the California Association of Realtors. Home sales rose 7.4% compared with December 2018.

“California experienced an unusual jump in its median price at the end of the year when the market is supposed to cool down,” said CAR Chief Economist Leslie Appleton-Young. “The surge in price is a byproduct of the imbalance between supply and demand as market competition continues to heat up.”

The supply of homes for sale, measured as the amount of time it would take to sell off existing stock, shrank to 2.5 months from 3.5 months a year earlier.

The Los Angeles metro area saw the biggest jump in home prices, up 10% from a year earlier to a median of $550,000. Sales surged 16%, CAR said.

The next-biggest jump was in the cheapest area of the state. The Central Valley, an inland swath that runs about 450 miles from Bakersfield to Redding, had a median price of $342,000 in December, a jump of 7.7% from a year earlier, according to CAR data. Sales rose 12% in the same period.

The Inland Empire, east of Los Angeles, had a median price of $385,000, up 7.2% from a year ago, and sales were up 13%, the CAR report said.

The San Francisco Bay area, the most expensive region, had a median price of $908,750, up 6.9% from a year ago. Sales jumped 16% in the same period.

The Central Coast, stretching from Los Angeles to San Francisco, had a 2.2% drop in median price to $700,000. Sales surged up 42% as buyers rushed to snap up the lower prices, CAR said.

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Public School Enrollment Trends and Home Prices | Mt Kisco Real Estate

Counties with public school enrollment gains experienced higher price appreciation in the last 7 years, a NAR analysis shows.

Across the country, hallways and classrooms are full of activity. More than three-fourths of the school-aged population, 48.2 million students, were enrolled in a public elementary and secondary school in 2018. Each year, the U.S. Census Bureau releases school enrollment figures that give a snapshot of where these kids choose to enroll.

Based on the data, between fall of 2011 and fall 2018, enrollment in public elementary and secondary schools declined 1.4% across the United States. While the number of students at each grade level is primarily influenced by population trends, enrollment in kindergarten had the highest decline of 5% followed by grade 1 – grade 4 (3%).

However, changes in enrollment vary by area. Among 810 counties, public school enrollment increased in 42% (339 counties) of these counties in the United States. An analysis of county data on school populations reveals that the following counties experienced the highest gains in public school enrollment within the last 7 years:

Parsing out by level of school, most of the counties above experienced a higher increase of public school enrollment in kindergarten, followed by middle school during 2011 and 2018. For instance, in Dallas County, IA, the number of students enrolled in a public school kindergarten in 2018 was 1.8 times higher than the number of students in 2011. This also shows that the population of young kids (5 years old) in Dallas County, IA significantly increased in this area in the last 7 years. However, in Arlington County, VA, the greatest increase occurred at middle school. Students in grades 5 to grade 8 increased by 98% (3,997 more students) in 2018 compared to 2011. Thus, based on the school enrollment data, the population of kids between the ages of 10 and 13 rose in Arlington County during 2011 and 2018.

How does this increase in public school enrollment affect the local area?

First of all, school enrollment growth may reflect stronger local county employment as more new residents move into the region because of jobs and they bring along their school-aged children. At the most basic level, more labor means more goods and services being produced, so that local economic activity rises.

Literature review has shown that homeownership has positive effects on the academic achievement of children1. Homeownership brings residential stability, and stability raises the educational attainment of children. According to a NAR Survey2, over half of recent buyers with children under the age of 18 living in their home cited the school district as an influencing factor in their neighborhood choice. Therefore, since more people are moving to these school districts, housing demand is expected to increase.

Data shows that counties with enrollment gains experienced higher home price increases. In the last 7 years, home prices increased 33 percent on average in the counties with enrollment gains. Especially, in the top 20 counties with the highest enrollment gains, home prices increased 37 percent on average. For instance, in Dallas County, IA, public school enrollment rose 64 percent while home prices increased 51 percent in the last 7 years. Respectively, in Midland County, Texas, public school enrollment increased 31 percent while home prices rose 52 percent. However, home prices rose 18 percent on average in the counties where enrollment declined during 2011 and 2018. Thus, ceteris paribus (with other conditions remaining the same), public school enrollment is estimated to have a positive effect on housing prices.

All in all, REALTORS® should expect busier activity in the counties where public school enrollment is rising.

The graph below shows the positive relationship between public school enrollment and housing prices.

1 Yun, L., & Evangelou, N. (2016). Social Benefits of Homeownership and Stable Housing. National Association of Realtors®.

2 2019 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers. National Association of REALTORS®
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https://www.nar.realtor/blogs/economists-outlook/public-school-enrollment-trends-and-home-prices?AdobeAnalytics=ed_rid%3D2200528%26om_mid%3D1732%7CMembersEdgeNews_2019_12_5_Agents%26om_ntype%3DMEMBER%27S%20EDGE%20(news)

Connecticut Feeling On Tolls Could Keep I-684 Free | Mt Kisco Real Estate

Connecticut’s governor proposed putting a toll gantry on the 1-mile section of I-684 that goes out of New York.

Connecticut Feeling On Tolls Could Keep I-684 Free
(Google Maps)

The proposal to put a tollbooth on the Connecticut mile of Interstate 684 apparently elicited negative reactions from Connecticut politicians as well as New Yorkers. Democrats in the Connecticut State Senate are less than enthusiastic about Gov. Ned Lamont’s plan for tolls at 14 spots throughout the state.

Lamont wants to put tolls on roads in his state to raise revenue and pay for repairs. One of the roads he picked is I-684, the “interstate highway” that runs down the east side of Putnam and Westchester counties in New York.

The toll plaza would go in the 1.4 mile stretch of I-684 that is in Connecticut. The toll gantry would be sandwiched between the exit for the Westchester County Airport to the south and the exit for Armonk, home of IBM, to the north.

Lamont met with the Democratic caucus Wednesday to go over his plan and hear questions and concerns from the caucus. Senate President Martin Looney told Patch that there was broad support for Lamont’s proposed transportation fixes, but disagreement on how to pay for them.

“We need to find something that is broadly palatable in the General Assembly and also to the public,” Looney said.

The caucus didn’t take a headcount on support for Lamont’s plan. Looney said Lamont was going to reflect on what he heard in the caucus meeting.

Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff said everyone acknowledges that it’s vitally important to upgrade Connecticut’s transportation infrastructure. He said Lamont carefully listened to concerns from legislators.

“How we get there and how we pay for it is certainly a different story,” Duff said. “But it was a very frank conversation with the governor.”

Lamont campaigned on truck-only tolling, but said after being elected it wouldn’t create enough revenue for the state and could run into some legal challenges from the trucking industry. Lamont rolled out a 50-toll gantry plan that took up part of the 2019 legislative session, but in the end never got a full vote. Any toll vote would likely become a hot-button issue in the 2020 election where state representatives and senators are up for re-election.

Legislative Republicans in Connecticut have been steadfast in their opposition to tolls. House Republican Leader Themis Klarides said that there is common ground in Lamont’s latest plan and it was more well-thought than previous iterations, but tolls are still a non-starter.

Non-starter was exactly the term New York State Senator Pete Harckham used, talking about his constituents in Dutchess, Putnam and Westchester counties who would be unfairly affected. “Governor Lamont’s plan to place a toll on I-684 is a nonstarter because it disproportionately impacts New York commuters. There are enough roads elsewhere in Connecticut to toll to fund infrastructure projects in Connecticut.”

read more…

https://patch.com/new-york/bedford/s/gwzdh/connecticut-feeling-on-tolls-could-keep-i-684-free?utm_term=article-slot-1&utm_source=newsletter-daily&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=newsletter

Leftist Utopia -California Can’t Keep the Lights On | Mt Kisco Real Estate

(Roza/Dreamstime)

Decades of misgovernance and misplaced priorities have left the state fighting fire with . . . blackouts.

California is staying true to its reputation as the land of innovation — it is making blackouts, heretofore the signature of impoverished and war-torn lands, a routine feature of 21st-century American life.

More than 2 million people are going without power in Northern and Central California, in the latest and biggest of the intentional blackouts that are, astonishingly, California’s best answer to the risk of runaway wildfires.

Power — and all the goods it makes possible — is synonymous with modern civilization. It shouldn’t be a negotiable for anyone living in a well-functioning society, or even in California, which, despite its stupendous wealth and natural splendor, has blighted itself over the decades with misgovernance and misplaced priorities.

The same California that has been the seedbed of world-famous companies that make it possible for people to send widely viewed short missives of 280 characters or less, and share and like images of grumpy cats, isn’t doing so well at keeping the lights on.

The same California that has boldly committed to transitioning to 50 percent renewable energy by 2025 — and 100 percent renewable energy by 2045 — can’t manage its existing energy infrastructure.

The same California that has pushed its electricity rates to the highest in the contiguous United States through its mandates and regulations doesn’t provide continuous access to that overpriced electricity.

California governor Gavin Newsom, who has to try to evade responsibility for this debacle while presiding over it, blames “dog-eat-dog capitalism” for the state’s current crisis. It sounds like he’s referring to robber barons who have descended on the state to suck it dry of profits while burning it to the ground. But Newsom is talking about one of the most regulated industries in the state — namely California’s energy utilities, which answer to the state’s public utilities commission.

This is not exactly an Ayn Rand operation. The state could have, if it wanted, pushed the utilities to focus on the resilience and safety of its current infrastructure — implicated in some of the state’s most fearsome recent fires — as a top priority. Instead, the commission forced costly renewable-energy initiatives on the utilities. Who cares about something as mundane as properly maintained power lines if something as supposedly epically important — and politically fashionable — as saving the planet is at stake?

Meanwhile, California has had a decades-long aversion to properly clearing forests. The state’s leaders have long been in thrall to the belief that cutting down trees is somehow an offense against nature, even though thinning helps create healthier forests. Biomass has been allowed to build up, and it becomes the kindling for catastrophic fires.

As Chuck DeVore of the Texas Public Policy Foundation points out, a report of the Western Governors’ Association warned of this effect more than a decade ago, noting that “over time the fire-prone forests that were not thinned, burn in uncharacteristically destructive wildfires.”

In 2016, then-governor Jerry Brown actually vetoed a bill that had unanimously passed the state legislature to promote the clearing of trees dangerously close to power lines. Brown’s team says this legislation was no big deal, but one progressive watchdog called the bill “neither insignificant or small.”

On top of all this, more people live in remote areas susceptible to fires, in part because of the high cost of housing in more built-up areas.

There shouldn’t be any doubt that California, susceptible to drought through its history and whipped by fierce, dry winds this time of year, is always going to have a fire problem. But there also shouldn’t be any doubt that dealing with it this poorly is the result of a series of foolish, unrealistic policy choices.

California’s overriding goal should have been safe, cheap, and reliable power, a public good so basic that it’s easy to take for granted. The state’s focus on ideological fantasies has instead ensured it has none of the above.

read more…

https://www.nationalreview.com/2019/10/california-cant-keep-the-lights-on/

Existing home sales up 3.9% year over year | Mt Kisco Real Estate

After reaching 17-month high last month, existing home sales, released by the National Association of Realtors (NAR), fell more than expected in September despite low mortgage rates.

Total existing home sales, including single-family homes, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops, dropped 2.2% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.38 million in September. However, sales were still 3.9% higher than a year ago.

The first-time buyer share rose to 33% in September from 31% last month and 32% a year ago. The September inventory stayed the same at 1.83 million units from August but decreased from 1.88 million units a year ago. At the current sales rate, the September unsold inventory represents a 4.1-month supply, up from a 4.0-month supply last month and down from a 4.4-month a year ago.

Homes stayed on the market for an average of 32 days in September, up from 31 days last month and equal to a year ago. In September, 49% of homes sold were on the market for less than a month.

The September all-cash sales shared 17% of transactions, down from 19% last month and 21% a year ago.

The September median sales price of all existing homes was $272,100, up 5.9% from a year ago, representing the 91st consecutive month of year-over-year increases. The median existing condominium/co-op price of $248,600 in September was up 4.5% from a year ago.

Case Shiller home price index up 2% year over year | Mt Kisco Real Estate

Regionally, all regions saw a decline in existing home sales in September compared to the previous month, ranging from 0.9% in the West to 3.1% in the Midwest. On a year-over-year basis, sales rose in all four major regions except for the Midwest, ranging from 1.5% in the Northeast to 6.0% in the South. Sales in the Midwest was nearly unchanged to September 2018.

This monthly decline indicates that sales are not consistently increasing in response to falling mortgage rates, as rapidly rising home prices and tight inventory continue to weigh on housing sector and prevent home sales growth. As mortgage rates below 4% are very attractive to homebuyers, more new home building is needed to meet housing demand. Indeed, supported by low mortgage rates and solid job growth, builder confidence continued to improve, which rose to 20-month high in October.

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