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Home prices are increasing across the country as the number of homes for-sale are low. But at a time when buyer demand is high, why is inventory still low?

The Wall Street Journal recently highlighted several reasons behind the dropping inventories, including:

  • Sellers hesitant to sell: About 22 percent of home owners with a mortgage are still underwater, owing more than their home is currently worth. Home owners don’t tend to sell unless a life-changing event occurs when they’re underwater because they don’t want to take a loss on the sale of their house. CoreLogic data shows that inventories are the most constrained in areas with the highest number of underwater borrowers.
  • Not enough equity to trade up: Often times, home owners rely on the equity from their home to make a down payment on their next home. With fewer home owners seeing equity in their houses, they may not have enough money to move into a pricier home, which is constraining the would-be “trade up” buyer from moving.
  • Investors continue to snatch up properties: Investors are snapping up properties, but they’ve changed their strategy from past years, which is also constraining inventories. Now they’re holding onto properties and turning them into rentals instead of rehabbing properties and flipping them for profit. This is keeping fewer homes on the market.
  • Banks are slowing down foreclosures: Banks have new rules to meet with the foreclosure process, and it’s causing them to move at a slower pace in foreclosing on homes. Banks also are showing a preference for short sales and loan modifications, which are curbing the number of foreclosed homes on the market.
  • Builders are doing less building: Housing starts have been low until recently, so there’s less inventory being added to the market. A rebound in the new-home market has recently started to occur.

source:  Wall Street Journal


When Jay Ricker, owner of the BP gas station off Interstate 70 in Plainfield, Ind., set the price of unleaded gasoline on Monday of last week, it was 4 cents higher than the Friday before.

"It's up one day, down the next day," says Oscar Elmore, a courier who was filling up his Ford Taurus at a RaceTrac service station in Dallas recently. "It sounds kinda fishy to me."

Gas prices rise when oil prices rise, and fall when oil prices fall — except when they don't. What you pay at your gas station depends on an array of factors, from what happens on an exchange in New York, what the competition is charging and political tensions in oil-producing states like Iraq.

Unlike an iPhone or a pair of jeans or a Big Mac, oil and gas are commodities, and their prices can change every second at the New York Mercantile Exchange and other trading hubs. Those far-off changes affect the cost of the next day's commute.

Sellers of commodities, like gas station owners and refineries, price their product based not on what it costs to produce it, but on what it costs to replace it. Stations like the Plainfield BP, which gets shipments of gas several times a week, must constantly adjust their prices to keep up with the changing costs of their shipments.

Oil is the biggest factor in gas prices. It accounts for 50 to 70 percent of the cost. But the price of a gallon of gas at the pump rises and, yes, falls for a number of other reasons.

Oil prices can be moved by geopolitics, the value of the dollar, extreme weather or Chinese demand. Gas prices can be moved by oil prices, refinery problems or even weather that might keep drivers at home.

"We have to pay whatever the market says we do. It's an instantaneous world," says Joe Petrowski, CEO of Gulf Oil, a big gasoline wholesaler.

Whether the gas at the Plainfield BP was made from a barrel of oil pumped a month ago 1,000 miles away in Williston, N.D., or three months ago and 7,000 miles away in Kuwait, its price is set by buyers and sellers in New York hours before Ricker buys it.

There's no way to know exactly where the oil used to make the gasoline sold at the Plainfield BP came from, or even where the gas was refined. Oils from many sources are mixed together on their way to a refinery, and gasolines from many refineries are mixed together on their way to a fuel terminal, where gas is stored before trucks take it to gas stations.

But here's a plausible route: Oil is pumped by a company with wells in Texas or Louisiana and piped to a major oil hub in Cushing, Okla. From there, it is sold to an energy trader who may store it or trade it a few times.

Then BP buys it to feed its Whiting, Ind., refinery. After a two-week pipeline trip to Whiting, the oil is cooked into gasoline and piped to BP's fuel terminal in Indianapolis.

There, BP blends it with ethanol and a few special BP-branded additives and sets a final wholesale price, known as the rack price. It's this rack price that leads to the final pump price for most station owners.

A wholesaler like BP or Gulf each has its own formula for setting the rack price. In an attempt to smooth out the spikes and dips of the market, a wholesaler usually buys some of his fuel through long-term contracts. The rest is bought on the so-called spot market, priced at a given moment by a benchmark like the New York Harbor gasoline price.

Every day at 5 p.m., BP tells Ricker what the rack price will be starting at 6 p.m. That price is good for 24 hours.

Ricker hires a trucker to go to the terminal a short drive away in Indianapolis, fill 'er up with 10,000 gallons and bring it to his station. Then Ricker decides what price to charge customers based on his ultimate concerns: the Speedway and Circle K stations that share an intersection with him.

There are only two or three pennies per gallon in profit selling gas for most station owners. What Ricker really wants is to attract customers to sell the truly precious liquids: Not the gasoline and diesel outside, but the water and soft drinks inside.

Three times a day, his station manager, Debbie Sennett, records his competitors' prices. When the competition lowered prices, so did Ricker.

"Gasoline is the only product in this country that if you're a penny different people will go out of their way to go somewhere else," Ricker says.

Wholesale gasoline prices have risen since the recent uprising in Iraq. When wholesale gas prices rise fast, filling station owners get squeezed or even lose money because competition prevents them from raising retail prices as fast as costs are rising.

So if it seems that station owners take their time lowering prices when oil and wholesale gas get cheaper, it's because that's exactly what they do.

"If gasoline prices drop a dime, a station will only pass along one or two pennies a day," says Patrick DeHaan, an analyst at, a website that collects and publishes retail gas prices. "They are slower to pass along the discount because they need to make up for money they lost when prices went up."

That doesn't draw much sympathy from those who have to pay more at the pump, though. "To me it seems like a money game," says Steve Armonett of Indianapolis, who pulled into Ricker's BP to fill up his Buick recently. "They're just worried about how much money they can make."

source:  Associated Press


Welcome to the AskinsOnline current Housing Trends eNewsletter.

This eNewsletter is specially designed for you, with national and local housing information that you may find useful whether you’re in the market for a home, thinking about selling your home, or just interested in homeowner issues in general.

The Housing Trends eNewsletter contains the latest information from the National Association of REALTORS®, the U.S. Census Bureau and reports, videos, key market indicators and real estate sales statistics, a video message by a nationally recognized economist, maps, mortgage rates and calculators, consumer articles, plus local neighborhood information and more.

For the latest information, click here.


Pending home sales continued to make gains last month, rising to the highest level since April 2006, according to the National Association of REALTORS®' Pending Home Sales Index, a forward-looking indicator based on contract signings. 

Large gains in pending home sales in the Northeast and West helped to offset small decreases in the Midwest and South. 

NAR's Pending Home Sales Index rose 0.9 percent in May to 112.6 in May. The index is at its highest level since April 2006 when it was 113.7.

"The steady pace of solid job creation seen now for over a year has given the housing market a boost this spring," says Lawrence Yun, NAR's chief economist. "It's very encouraging to now see a broad based recovery with all four major regions showing solid gains from a year ago and new home sales also coming alive."

Yun says this year's strong sales are causing home prices to rise to an "unhealthy and unsustainable pace."

"Housing affordability remains a pressing issue with home-price growth increasing around four times the pace of wages," says Yun. "Without meaningful gains in new and existing supply, there's no question the goalpost will move further away for many renters wanting to become home owners."

Here's a closer look at how the Pending Home Sales Index performed regionally in May:

  • Northeast: rose 6.3 percent to 93.9 last month and is 10.6 percent above a year ago.
  • Midwest: fell 0.6 percent to 111.4 but remains 7.8 percent above year ago levels. 
  • South: dropped 0.8 percent to 127.8 but are still 10.6 percent above last May.
  • West: rose 2.2 percent to 104.5 in May and are 13 percent above a year ago. 

source:  National Association of REALTORS®


Thirty-two states and the District of Columbia are at risk of long-term home affordability problems and housing shortages if lackluster levels of new-home construction don't catch up to the strong pace of job growth, according to research by the National Association of REALTORS®.

NAR found that the rate of new single-family housing starts was far below historic averages relative to job growth in the majority of the country. Historically, there's one new home construction for every one-and-a-half new jobs, but 32 states and the District of Columbia had a ratio higher than the long-term average of 1.5. The discrepancy was highest in California — where the ratio of jobs to housing starts was greater than 5 — followed by Florida, Utah, Montana, and Indiana, all of which had a ratio of 3 or greater. Job growth has been particularly strong in those five states.

"Not all new jobs result in a new household and an increase in demand for housing, but that relationship is strong, and the implication is that the lack of construction has hamstrung supply — and thus home sales," NAR notes.

NAR chief economist Lawrence Yun warned that more and more buyers are going to be priced out of the market if builders don't step up construction to relieve inventory and slow drastic price increases.

"REALTORS® have an intuitive sense of how fast prices are likely to rise from on-the-field observations," Yun says. "Their price outlook largely shows gains to be the strongest in states with slow home construction in relation to job growth. ... It's critical to increase housing starts in these states facing shortage conditions or else prospective buyers may struggle with options and affordability if income growth cannot compensate for rising home prices."

source:  NAR's Economists' Outlook blog


College grads say that relocating for more employment opportunities is their main motivation for moving this year, according to a survey.

So where are some of the best places for them to relocate to? and CareerBuilder compiled a list ranking the top 15 best cities for recent college graduates, identifying the places that offer some of the best opportunities for employment and quality of life for young professionals.

These are top cities for recent college graduates:

1. Washington, D.C.
One-bedroom average rent: $1,696

2. New York
One-bedroom average rent: $1,789

3. Boston
One-bedroom average rent: $1,814

4. Minneapolis
One-bedroom average rent: $974

5. Dallas
One-bedroom average rent: $912

6. Atlanta
One-bedroom average rent: $855

7. Chicago
One-bedroom average rent: $1,224

8. Houston
One-bedroom average rent: $910

9. Philadelphia
One-bedroom average rent: $1,070

10. Baltimore
One-bedroom average rent: $1,235

11. Denver
One-bedroom average rent: $1,089

12. Salt Lake City
One-bedroom average rent: $772

13. San Francisco
One-bedroom average rent: $1,653

14. Seattle
One-bedroom average rent: $1,199

15. Oklahoma City, Okla.
One-bedroom average rent: $676

source:  RISMedia


The San Francisco 49ers are getting ready for the fall, when they’ll face their most daunting opponents. The Seattle Seahawks and the Arizona Cardinals come to mind. At the moment, however, they are preparing to face a force many find truly terrifying: millennials.

The 49ers coaching staff, led by new head coach Jim Tomsula, realized that they are dealing with the same problem as millions of parents, even if they are dealing with massive, athletic millionaires. The issue is how to relate to a generation—generally described as 18-to-34-year-olds—that has been raised on smartphones and instant information.

So the team consulted with experts ranging from Stanford University researchers to advertising executives to learn how, exactly, the young brain works.

As players arrived for voluntary workouts and minicamps this spring and summer, they noticed sweeping changes designed to cater to how research shows millennials learn. That means making concessions for people with shorter attention spans, a desire to multitask and, yes, a need to check their phones all the time.

Facing this new reality, the 49ers turned the typical meeting, which on some teams can go for as long as two hours, into 30-minute blocks, each followed by 10-minute breaks that allow players to do what young people do. That is, as Tomsula puts it, to “go grab your phone, do your multitasking and get your fix” before returning the meeting.

“The [experts] are telling me about attention spans and optimal learning,” he said. “I’m thinking, ‘My gosh, we sit in two-hour meetings. You are telling me after 27 minutes no one’s getting anything?’ ”

The bulk of the changes—from enhanced digital playbooks to weekly briefings on social media—have a common theme. Instead of the coaches making millennials change, the coaches are changing to better work with the millennials, even if that means allowing some necessary evils.

“You’d hate to think someone would want to bring a phone in and text in a meeting…but that’s what you’re facing,” running-backs coach and former 49ers fullback Tom Rathman said of the youngest generation of NFL players. “So Jimmy is doing a great job giving them enough time to do all that stuff so they don’t want to bring it into a meeting.”

Another change involves sending alerts to players’ calendars instead of a printed schedule. Coaches were fearful of this move at first. In football, missing a meeting is a grave offense; now you’re introducing the chance that a technological bug could cause a player to miss one? But after a few weeks of meetings, which are used in the NFL to discuss strategy and review film, that concern has proved unfounded. No one has missed anything.

The changes might seem simple to outsiders, but in the fiercely conservative world of pro football, they represent a culture change. “We haven’t handed out a piece of paper to a player this year and they love it,” Tomsula said.

The 49ers, whose average age last season was 25.2 years, have a locker room of typical millennials, at least in their interests. Tight end Vance McDonald, 25, spent the off-season binge-listening to “Serial,” a popular podcast. Eli Harold, a 21-year-old rookie linebacker, plays so much of the soccer videogame FIFA that he put his online gamer username on Twitter so that fans could challenge him.

The coaches say that they have learned more about technology from players than they thought possible. The biggest advancement, defensive-line coach Scott Brown said, is that the younger players have been raised in an NFL where practice tape can be downloaded to tablets before meetings, meaning every piece of information is available to them at all times. That is compounded, Tomsula said, by new playbooks with video clips of plays attached to the drawing of the play—a benefit to visual learners and those in tune with tablets and smartphones.

“This is what they expect, instant information,” quarterbacks coach Steve Logan said.

Tomsula sat in a panel at the league meetings this year that featured, among others, NFL chief marketing officer Dawn Hudson, who previously worked as an executive at PepsiCo Inc. The panel mostly focused on marketing to children, but Tomsula was enthralled by the details on how younger brains work. The youngest generation—those born since the mid-1990s, known as Generation Z—are on five screens of media at a time and communicate in images, not texts. Attention spans can last as little as eight seconds. Tomsula joked that he was devastated to learn that texting was “prehistoric.”

Tomsula said that he is in a meeting a week learning about new apps and technologies that his players might be involved with. The 49ers’ video department briefs him on how to use technology. This is all in an effort to not curtail the use of technology but “to make sure you can utilize it and make it a good thing,” Rathman said.

As he and his staff learned more about the topic, they met to discuss potential changes. Special-teams coach Thomas McGaughey Jr. said he had realized the long, uninterrupted meetings had become “counterproductive” and that the 30-minute blocks are helping. But the biggest change, McGaughey said, involved learning new teaching styles. “You have to be quick and get to the point,” he said.

Not everyone wants these breaks. In position-group meetings, Logan, the quarterbacks coach, said he offers the break to his players, including 27-year-old starter Colin Kaepernick. “Every 30 minutes I say, ‘You want to take a break?’ and they rarely do,” Logan said. “They want to go go go.”

The task now is to keep up with the learning curve, coaches say. “Our whole lives, we’ve gone with a paper and pad,” Tomsula said. “Next week, a young person’s phone will be outdated. We decided we have to be on top of that.”

But personally, Tomsula is still the same 47-year-old guy. “I’m like, ‘Well, I still need my piece of paper.’ ”

source:  Wall Street Journal


Governor Greg Abbott has signed the Texas Appraiser Certification Board (TALCB)
housekeeping bill, SB 1007 into law. This bill affects many aspects of Chapter 1103 of the Texas
Occupations Code, which is the governing chapter for Texas appraisers.

The bill grants the Board the authority to implement the federal AQB criminal history check
requirements for appraisers which will become effective January 1, 2017. The bill also contains
provisions which allow the agency to keep the complaint investigation files confidential during the
investigation process. It also clarifies that allegations made against appraisers are not considered
“complaints” until verified by investigators. This protects license holders from the effects of
frivolous or retaliatory acts, including loss of work.

Board members and key staff make regular presentations to groups of license holders to provide
valuable substantive updates on laws, rules and recent disciplinary trends. Specific authorization
was given to TALCB to ensure such presentations may be eligible for continuing education credit.
The bill grants the Board the authority to approve appraiser education providers, instructors and
courses. This ensures convenient access to high quality of education courses in Texas.

In addition, the bill codifies the current Board policy that restricts all administrative penalties to a fund
dedicated to developing education opportunities or research that will protect Texans.

The Texas Legislature established the TALCB in order to safeguard consumers in matters of real
property appraisal services provided by appraisers and appraisal management companies. This
vital legislation gives clarification to several aspects of the statute and ensures continued
consumer protection by TALCB.

source:  Texas Real Estate Commission



More than 70 percent of the U.S. housing stock was built prior to 1990, and an aging housing stock may present more opportunities for buyers searching for a bargain, according to RealtyTrac’s Aging Homes Analysis. 

"The high percentage of homes that are at least 20 years old and likely in need of some major repairs is eye-opening," says Jake Adger, chief economist at RealtyTrac. "However, given the low inventory of homes available for sale in today's market, this challenge of aging U.S. housing supply can also be an opportunity for buyers looking for a bargain and home owners looking to update their living space and improve the value of their homes." 

Older homes often need upgrades for energy efficiency and may lack floor plans or amenities that home buyers desire today, according to RealtyTrac’s analysis.

On average, homes built prior to 1990 sold for $233,211, compared to $256,292 for newer homes. 

"The lower price point on older homes is not surprising given many are in need of some rehab and are more likely to have maintenance issues," Adger says. "But this also presents an opportunity for buyers willing to take on that older inventory. Those buyers can purchase at lower price points and face less competition from institutional investors," who tend to buy newer homes. 

Fourteen states were found to have the largest number of homes built prior to 1990 (making up more than 80 percent of its home sales). Nearly all of those states were located in the Northeast, except for Louisiana, New Mexico, and Kentucky, RealtyTrac notes. 

Meanwhile, older homes made up less than 40 percent of sales in Utah and Nevada. 

source:  Mortgage News Daily


The price of insuring a property can raise the cost of ownership significantly.

There are various factors that affect the cost of insuring a home:

· Location. A home near a fire hydrant or protected by a professional fire department, as opposed to volunteers, will cost less to insure.

· History of claims. Previous claims push up the cost of insurance. Ask the seller to provide a home’s insurance claims history report. This information is available from the sources:
The CLUE report can be purchased at:
The A-Plus report is available at:

· Need flood or earthquake insurance? Policies for both of these perils are sold separately and can be pricey.

· How old are the systems? Electrical and plumbing systems that are less than 10 years old cost less to insure.

source: Associated Press