Friday, April 3, 2015


- Easy Green: Big and Small Ways to Be More Water-Wise at Home
- Baby boomers, flush with stock gains, drive record vacation home sales
- New Homes Increasingly Offer Efficiency, Sustainable Features
- Bay Area Is Almost Rock-Bottom in U.S. for Housing Creation
- Priced out: New housing froth discourages buyers
- HUD’s Castro: We want alternatives to traditional credit scoring 
- 15 Great Ideas for a Lawn-Free Yard


Baby boomers, flush with stock gains, drive record vacation home sales - Wealthy Americans bought more than 1.1 million vacation homes last year, according to an annual survey from the National Association of REALTORS®. These purchases are up 57 percent from 2013 and are the highest they’ve been since the survey began in 2003. Vacation home sales represented a record-high 21 percent of all home purchases in 2014, according to the national trade group. However, California and its sky-high housing prices did not experience this trend with the percentage of vacation home sales falling to just 5 percent in 2014 from 6 percent in 2013, according to a tally by the CALIFORNIA ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®.

New Homes Increasingly Offer Efficiency, Sustainable Features As more millennials enter the housing market, they are sharing what features are most likely to affect their homebuying decisions. An NAHB survey revealed that Energy Star certifications are a priority for these home buyers. In fact, 84 percent of this group is willing to pay 2-3 percent more for an energy-efficient home as long as they can see a return on their power bills.

Bay Area Is Almost Rock-Bottom in U.S. for Housing Creation - There is a real mismatch between where homes are located and where people want to live, with housing supply sorely lacking in several regions with highly unaffordable markets. In California, major markets like San Francisco and Los Angeles are the worst offenders in the country in their ability to provide newcomers with a place to live. For example, only 193 housing permits were issued for every 1,000 new residents in the Bay Area, making it the region second-worst in the country (Los Angeles is the first). 

Priced out: New housing froth discourages buyers - Prices in the nation's top 20 housing markets were 4.6 percent higher in January than in January 2014, according to the latest reading from S&P/Case Shiller. That is a bigger annual gain than the markets saw in December, when price gains began to accelerate again. These frothy conditions are problematic for the housing market, as home prices are rising roughly twice as fast as wages, putting pressure on potential home buyers and heightening the risk that any uptick in interest rates could be a major setback.

HUD’s Castro: We want alternatives to traditional credit scoring - Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julian Castro, heeding calls from real estate trade groups, has said he wants to widen the circle of opportunity for responsible families by making homeownership more affordable and accessible. One particular step under consideration is new credit scoring models, which are being developed so that non-traditional factors can be considered when determining creditworthiness. Trade groups called on federal regulators and the credit and lending communities in 2011 to reassess the entire credit structure and look for ways to increase the availability of credit to qualified borrowers.

Low Housing Supply Squeezes Affordability - It's easy to see how San Francisco has become one of the country's least affordable housing markets: Zillow's analysis showed that for every 1,000 new residents, there were just 193 new housing units permitted. Residents of the San Francisco metro can expect to spend 44 percent of their income on rent, or 39.2 percent on a monthly mortgage payment. 

15 Great Ideas for a Lawn-Free Yard - End the turf war for good with hardscaping, native grasses and ground covers that save water and are easier to maintain. Some of my favorites:

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