Homes & Money Newsletter - 1st Quarter 2014
|Mortgage News Housing Stays Strong into New Year|
Home loan applications increased in early January, as a weaker-than-expected December employment report sent interest rates lower. Home loan rates had been on the rise up until the report, and just as the Fed announced its decision to "taper" its Bond-buying stimulus efforts.
Both purchase, as well as refinance loan application volume increased by 12 and 11 percent, respectively, on a seasonally adjusted basis, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association. "The drop in rates was (also) large enough to trigger a pickup in refinance volume," said Michael Fratantoni, the MBA's chief economist.
The rise in purchase applications could be a signal of a strong home buying season this spring. Many in the real estate industry were concerned that new mortgage rules in effect mid-January would knock some potential borrowers out of the market. In reality the impact may be insignificant, considering that 95 percent of mortgages originated last year would still qualify under the new rules, according to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
"Rising home prices, historically low mortgage rates, and significant pent-up demand will drive a continuing, gradual recovery in the year ahead," said the National Association of Home Builders Chief Economist David Crowe.
Confidence among U.S. home builders stuck in January after a bigger jump in December, according to the NAHB's monthly home builder sentiment index. The index came in at 56—and with 50 being the difference between positive and negative, it showed that builders are still optimistic about housing market conditions.
The demand for housing and its available supply will continue to influence the nation's economic health. Stay tuned for the next Homes & Money in May for another quarterly update.
|Finance News The Problems with Paperless Tickets They're inconvenient and tough to resell. By Kaitlin Pitsker, Kiplinger.com|
In the ongoing battle to thwart ticket scalpers, promoters are turning to paperless tickets for some events. Use of the tickets is expected to grow, but complaints are mounting about cumbersome restrictions that can come with them.
Here's how they work: To enter a venue with a paperless ticket (which differs from a traditional electronic ticket in that you can't print it out or show it on your phone), an event goer must swipe the credit card used to buy the ticket and show photo identification. Because tickets are linked to the cards used to buy them, people giving these tickets as a gift may need to escort the recipients to the gate. Groups purchasing a block of tickets in one transaction may need to wait outside until everyone arrives.
Fans who want to resell tickets are likely to face additional limitations. Resale may be allowed only through the ticket company's website—or may not be permitted at all. There may also be restrictions on how much or how little you can charge.
For now, paperless tickets make up only about 1 percent of ticket sales. But as event promoters and ticket distributors profit from control of the resale market, the use of restricted tickets will likely grow, says James D. Hurwitz, a research fellow with the American Antitrust Institute. Before that happens, several states, including New Jersey and Massachusetts, are considering legislation to restrict or ban paperless tickets, and New York requires that customers be given the option of buying paper or e-tickets.
Check the fine print when purchasing paperless tickets. Some promoters use restrictive tickets for every seat, while others use them for only a section of preferred seats. You may be able to purchase a traditional paper or e-ticket by choosing a seat elsewhere.
Reprinted with permission. All Contents ©2014 The Kiplinger Washington Editors. Kiplinger.com.
|Tech These 4 Apps Save You Money as You Drive|
With the four apps we've listed below, driving can be a big money saver no matter where you're headed!
Automatic - What can a $100 driving app do for you? Plenty! Automatic has some amazing features including: monitoring driving habits, suggesting gas saving changes, vehicle location, engine-system monitoring and reporting, mileage reporting, and crash assistance. There are no subscription fees once purchased and the app can be shared with multiple drivers of the
Trapster - One way to save money while you drive is avoiding traffic tickets! Trapster is a free app that lets you participate in a community of local speed-trap reporters, so you can drive just a little more carefully around that next bend. But that's not all: Trapster also alerts you to road hazards and traffic conditions.
Lyft - In need of a ride? Want to save gas? Want your commute to be more environmentally friendly? Try Lyft, a new ride-sharing app that helps you find and schedule rides with other people already going your way. You can stay a passenger or, after passing a criminal background and safety check, become a driver yourself.
Waze - According to the developer, Waze is the world's largest community-based traffic and navigation app. Waze introduces you to a network of other drivers in your area who share real-time traffic and road info, helping to save everyone both time and money on their daily commute.
|Pet Smarts 8 Things to Know Before Buying or Adopting a Pet|
Pets are great fun, and can teach you a lot about life. But they also need care and attention, just like people do. Here are eight things you'll want to know before you buy or adopt a pet:
1. Do you have the time and energy? If you're at work all day and the house is empty, perhaps a virtual pet is more your speed.
2. If you're busy but still really want a dog, then consider hiring a walker and make sure to choose a dog breed that isn't needy. Check PetMD's Breedopedia to find one that fits your lifestyle.
3. Consider your space: A Great Dane in a one-bedroom apartment is a recipe for boredom, behavior problems, and even health issues. But it's a fine space to keep a bird.
4. The climate factor: Research animals or breeds suitable for your local geography, especially for outdoor animals.
5. To pee or not to pee: Training a young pet for your hamlet may not be
6. Chew proof: Make sure your nice things are well out of reach, and train only with chew-toys. Also keep chemicals and medicines out of investigative range.
7. Unless you're a breeder: Make sure your pets are spayed or neutered, take them in to the vet for regular checkups, and keep them up-to-date on vaccinations. Pets can and do catch things in the darnedest places.
8. Consider pet health insurance: It's inexpensive and can be a life-saver. Consult your vet for options.Source: PetMD.com
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