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Welcome Bruce Stevens!

Categories: Uncategorized | Posted: September 20, 2015

BRUCE_STEVENS_IMG_8465

We’re excited to announce Bruce Stevens has joined McGuinn Homes as the Community Sales Manager of Harvest Glen and Indigo Place. Bruce has been a successful new homes sales agent for the last 12 years in the Columbia area.

Bruce is a native of Loris, South Carolina and is a graduate of North Carolina State University. He is married to Donna Stevens and they have one son, Todd Stevens. Real Estate sales runs in the family as Donna and Todd are also experienced sales agents.

Bruce and Donna are thrilled that their son, Todd, his wife, Karly and their two children have recently moved to Columbia from Manhattan Beach, California. Needless to say, Bruce and Donna love spending time with their beautiful grandchildren, Parker (3 years old) and Beck
(16 months).

We are glad to have Bruce’s experience and passion for real estate on the McGuinn Homes team as he serves in our Harvest Glen and Indigo Place communities. Be sure to use him as a resource for any of your new home needs in the West Columbia area or visit him at the Harvest Glen model Mondays through Saturdays.

10 Best Places To Live In South Carolina

Categories: Uncategorized | Posted: March 13, 2014
In Best Places To Live

These Are The 10 Best Places To Live In South Carolina

Everybody knows which Carolina is the best Carolina; the one with the beaches, forest, those hot summer temperatures. The one with the variety of things to do, people to meet, and places to see. You know the one, right?

Fortunately, though, we don’t have to reawaken any dormant rivalries here (We’re looking at you, Tar Heels and Gamecocks), because this post is not about picking which Carolina is the best; it is about picking which places within South Carolina are the best.

Just like we did with North Carolina before, we conducted an analysis to find out just which places in South Carolina were the best. The winner? Five Forks. Of course this wasn’t without some serious competition, though, so without further ado, here are the 10 best places in SC, clearly one of the two best Carolinas around:

1. CDP of Five Forks 2. Town of Hilton Head Island 2. City of Charleston 4. City of Mauldin 5. Town of Mount Pleasant 6. City of Greenville 6. Town of Lexington 8. City of Beaufort 9. Fort Mill Township 10. City of Goose CreekClearly, the old saying is true: Five Forks are better than one, and a Hilton Head always beats a Goose Creek. Okay, it’s not exactly a saying, and it doesn’t actually make a lick of sense, but if you read on we’ll explain the order of our list, the method of our analysis, and just why each of these places beat out the competition.

How We Did It

Best in Carolina Deal Score DistributionAs much as we’d have liked to base our analysis around which South Carolina places had the best beaches (Hilton Head, by the way) or which places were best for sports fans (we’ve already done that), to find the flat out best places in the state, we needed something a bit more universal. So, we relied on the following seven criteria:

  • Total Amenities
  • Quality of Life (cost of living, median home price, median rent, median household income, and student to teacher ratio)
  • Total Crimes
  • Tax Rates (sales tax and income tax)
  • Unemployment
  • Commute Time
  • Weather (temperature and air quality)

Once we settled on our criteria, we looked at the U.S. Census data for all of the places in South Carolina with populations over 10,000, leaving us with a total of 50 locales. Then, with the criteria above, we ranked each place from 1 to 50, with one being the best possible score. After that, we averaged each ranking for an overall Big Deal Score; the lower the score, the better a place fared.

For a complete list all the places in our study, scroll to the bottom of the post. Otherwise, we’ll head over to Five Forks and see just what makes this place so special.

1. Five Forks

best places in south carolina

Source: Google Maps

Looking at our data, Five Forks is simply. awesome. It had one of the highest overall quality of life scores in our analysis. That’s because with a median household income of $97,161, Five Forks is easily the most affluent on our list, plus, it has some really pricey real estate, with a median home price of $245,500 and a rent price of $1,313. Of course, all of this contributes to its high cost of living (102, where the national average is 100), but it’s also a good indicator of the area’s desirability.

And desirable it is. Not only is this Greenville suburb one of the safest on our list, but it also has one of the lowest sales tax rates in the state– just 6 percent. I mean, sure, it doesn’t have as many amenities as, Beaufort (No. 8 on our list), but after all, it is just a short drive from Greenville.

2. Hilton Head Island

best places in south carolina

Source: Hilton Head Island Visitor & Convention Bureau

If this ranking had anything to do with the most beautiful white, sandy beaches, stretching for as far as the eye could see, Hilton Head Island would have won. Even without the 12 miles of coastline taken into account, though, this Beaufort County town still made it to the top of our list, thanks to its high quality of life. What does a good quality of life look like in Hilton Head? The median household income is one of the highest in the state at $67,629. Additionally, real estate here is the most valued out of any place in our study, with a median home price of $500,800. Finally,  the rent ($1,064) is sky high, an indicator of desirability.

2. Charleston

best places in south carolina

Source: Cameron Pollard

Tied for No. 2 on our list was another beach community, Charleston. Known for its beautiful architecture, variety of restaurants, rich history, and South Carolina charm, Charleston is not new to the world of honors and accolades. It was recently voted America’s Most Friendly City by Travel + Leisure and the “most polite and hospitable city in America” by Southern Living magazine.

All this aside, Charleston scored well in our analysis for a number of reasons–a high number of amenities and high quality of life. For our quality of life ranking, Charleston’s high median home price and low student to teacher ratio were key for its high rank.

Charleston also ranked better than the others when it came to weather, with a relatively cool average summer temperature of 78 (remember, we’re in the south, people) and a low air quality score of 41. Perfect weather for a ride on the Charleston Water Taxi.

4. Mauldin

best places in south carolina

Source: Google Maps

This Greenville County city may have a small-town feel to it, but that certainly doesn’t mean that is lacking in things to do; in fact, with its variety of amenities, there seems to be plenty going on.

Mauldin also scored well in our analysis for its high median household income of $56,480, that’s 44 percent higher than South Carolina. This, plus a sales tax of just 6 percent, easily makes Mauldin one of the most affordable places on our list, and with a crime rate of 2,466 per 100,000, it is 43 percent lower than the rest of the state, to boot. And they have Moretti’s Pizzeria and Bar? Some people just have everything.

5. Mount Pleasant

best places in south carolina

Source: Town of Mount Pleasant

The most pleasant-sounding place on the list, our No. 5 place ranked well for a number of reasons, but mostly for its high quality of life score.Broken down, that means Mount Pleasant’s median household income is one of the highest in the state at $75,842. It also has some of the highest median home and rent prices around, at $363,500 and $1,203 respectively.

Mount Pleasant truly earned its name, though, when it came to crime: At 2,028 crimes per 100,000 people, it ranked the highest in this criteria.

And did we mention Mount Pleasant also has the best weather in our list? It does. Perfect for enjoying the Osprey Boat Charters or just strolling around Shem Creek Park. Or should we say pleasant?

6.Greenville

best places in south carolina

Source: Flickr user scmikeburton

In recent years, CNN Money has named Greenville one of the Fastest Growing Cities in the U.S., Bloomberg has named it the third Strongest Job Market, and Forbes has called this South Carolina city one of the Best for Young Professionals.

Needless to say, Greenville is accustomed to praise; but for this honor from Movoto, Greenville scored well in nearly all of our criteria. For example, with over a variety of total amenities, Greenville placed among the top 10 when it came to things to do. It also had a low unemployment rate of just 7.4 percent, and one of the lowest sales tax rates in the state, just 6 percent. To top it off, for all those people commuting in this third strongest job market, their drive is a quick 19 minutes on average.

6. Lexington

best places in south carolina

Source: Town of Lexington

Tied for the No. 6 spot on our list with Greenville was Lexington. This county seat of Lexington started out strong with a high number of amenities, for its population of under 20,000. Aside from tons of restaurants, cafes, bars, and things to do, Lexington also scored well for an overall good quality of life. Specifically, Lexington had a low student to teacher ratio of just 15:1, and an overall high score in quality of life for its high median household income of $58,800, and higher than average rent and home prices. To top it off, Lexington had the lowest unemployment rate in our list, just seven percent.

8. Beaufort

best places in south carolina

Source: Eric Smith Captured Moments

The city of Beaufort may not be the cheapest on our list, with its cost of living of 96, but it certainly makes up for that with plenty to do and a high salaries. Starting with amenities, Beaufort ranked No. 1 in this category with a variety of businesses for their population of just more than 12,700. And as far as salary goes, Beaufort residents make 25 percent more than the rest of the state, with a median household income of $49,063.

Beaufort also earned points for its low commute time of just 19 minutes and low student to teacher ratio, just 14:1, giving it an overall score in quality of life.

With all of this, plus the beautiful scenic atmosphere, the art scene, the old historic buildings, and the sense of community, it is no wonder Beaufort has been named the Best Small Southern Town by Southern Living.

9. Fort Mill Township

best places in south carolina

Source: Flickr user Emily Baron

Fort Mill is a delightful town of just over 11,000 residents, making it the smallest on our list. But, according to the Fort Mill website, it is one of the fastest growing communities in the state, and for good reason. Fort Mill has all the educational, cultural, and dining benefits of being close to the Charlotte metropolitan area, but it also acts as its own, close-knit community. In fact, with so many amenities in Fort Mill, you don’t really have to venture outside of town unless you want to.

Fort Mill is also the most affordable place in our top 10, with a cost of living of just 89, and yet residents here make well above average with a median household income of $64,924.

To top it off, Fort Mill also ranked No. 1 in weather, with a low average summer temperature of 76 degrees and an air quality score of 41.

10. City of Goose Creek

best places in south carolina

Source: Google Maps

The final place on our list was Goose Creek, mostly for its high overall quality of life. In this case, a high quality of life meant a high median household income of over $60,000; a high median home price of $169,600, and some of the highest rent prices in the state, a median price of $985, indicating the area’s high desirability.

Also, with just 2,613 crimes per 100,000 people, Goose Creek was also one of the safest communities in our list. All of this, plus some of the most beautiful scenery, homes, and, for you golfers out there, some of the nicest golf courses around, it is no wonder people are flocking to this Berkely County city.

So Long, SoCar

Well, there you have it, South Carolina: the 10 best places in your fine state. Of course there was a Mount of Pleasant places to choose from, but in the end, the No. 1 spot went to Five Forks. And as far as which Carolina is the best of the two– well, that is up to you to decide. Take it to the comments, people.

(click to enlarge table)
Best Places In South Carolina

Farm Bill a $1.2 Billion Boon for Members in Rural Areas

Categories: Uncategorized | Posted: February 24, 2014

In a major victory for NAHB and housing, Congress passed a Farm Bill that includes an important provision championed by NAHB that will help members living and working in rural areas across the nation. President Obama signed the bill into law on Feb. 7.

The legislation allows more than 900 communities nationwide to retain their status as “rural” areas where residents have access to important rural housing programs that help low- and very-low income households obtain homeownership or suitable rental housing. This will enable millions of Americans to maintain access to critical rural housing programs. Farm

The law does not provide more U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) funding for rural areas. But by “grandfathering” these existing rural communities, they will maintain access to USDA rural housing programs.

NAHB estimates that in 2014 alone, this will generate $1.2 billion more investment in housing in these areas, including construction of new single-family and multifamily homes and remodeling. Breaking this down even further, it means that each of these 900-plus communities will receive on average more than $1 million in economic activity this year in USDA loans and grants for new construction and remodeling — funding that would have been lost had the law not been passed.

One NAHB member summed up the legislation this way: “The Farm Bill alone will keep many small builders in business.”

The USDA redraws its maps defining rural areas following every census, and the maps drawn after the 2010 census would have removed these communities from the program due to their population.

NAHB’s action to insert the rural housing provision into the Farm Bill provides a long-term solution because the legislation keeps the current maps and extends the population definition for these rural areas to 35,000 until after the 2020 census.

NAHB has been working on this issue for three years, ever since it was brought to the association’s attention in early 2011 by members from Kentucky and several other states.

On the regulatory side, NAHB was able to delay the release of revised USDA maps.

In the legislative arena, NAHB worked with several members of Congress to move various pieces of legislation forward, including appropriations, a stand-alone 10-year bill, and ultimately, this Farm Bill fix.

Further, NAHB put the power of its grassroots to work, contacting members of Congress and telling them how important it is for these 900 communities to retain their rural status.

There are also thousands of other rural communities that use and rely on USDA housing programs.

“The Farm Bill is a great victory for NAHB, and a great example of how the federation works together to address important issues,” said NAHB Chairman Kevin Kelly.

Housing market on a accelerated recovery

Categories: Uncategorized | Posted: May 14, 2013

It looks as if the housing market is making a broad-based recovery, As of April homes stayed on the market for 81 days down 11% since this time last year.

“The home buying season shifted into high gear in April as housing inventory and home list prices increased by 4.12% and 2.63% month-over-month, respectively, according to data released by Realtor.com.”

Nationally inventory has declined year after year in all but 11 of 146 markets that were monitored by Realtor.com. While some markets registered less listings of 20% or more.

“Due to increased demand for homes and more confidence in the job market — we are beginning to see more and more buyers entering the housing market,” said Steve Berkowitz, chief executive officer of Move.

37 markets saw a decrease in list price last year, Now we are seeing a national median list price of $194,900. In the month of April 109 markets saw a median list price increase.

 

 

Housing Market in 2013: What to Expect

Categories: Uncategorized | Posted: April 9, 2013

by

Money Tree

 

When the housing market imploded in 2007 and took the economy with it, experts said the real estate market would never look the same again. Now, nearly six years after the crash, the dust has finally cleared and we have a true picture of the new housing landscape.

While investors may still be leery of hopping back into the market, housing starts, prices and confidence are on an upward trend and the tide may be turning this year to favor homesellers.

Homebuyers can expect a more competitive market in 2013, and should start the mortgage lending process at least three months before they plan to start seriously looking because experts expect the process to take several months under new lending standards. House hunters should be ready to deal right away as inventory is expected to remain at low levels throughout the year.

Homesellers are shifting into the driver’s seat with experts expecting bidding wars to break out in certain markets due to the low inventory. While homes will sell quicker this year, they still have to be priced right.

“The mobility rate has been at a very low rate, meaning that people really did not move during the recessionary years, so there is pent up demand — but sellers need to price correctly,” says Lawrence Yun, chief economist at the National Association of Realtors.

Here’s a rundown of what experts expect from the market:

Mortgage Rates and New Rules

The Federal Reserve has held interest rates steady at near-record lows over the last several years in an effort to entice buyers into the market, and experts don’t expect significant jumps in the rate this year. In fact, the central bank said it would not raise short-term interest rates until the unemployment rate drops below 6.5%.

“Mortgage rates were essentially at a generational low last year — they could move modestly higher this year, but it will be the second-lowest [rate] in 40-plus years,” says Yun. “I anticipate by year end that mortgage rates may be close to 4%, but still one of the lowest in a generation.”

In early 2012 the nation’s largest banks agreed to put aside $25 billion in the robo-signing settlement to help fund loan and foreclosure modifications and compensate homeowners who claimed they were given unfair lending terms. Experts expect more mortgage rules to be handed down this year to help prevent reckless lending that led to the meltdown.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau issued new qualified mortgage standards last week that detail criteria lenders must use to determine if a borrower qualifies for a loan.

The rule states a qualified mortgage cannot include risky features such as extending beyond 30 years or include exotic terms like interest-only payments or negative-amortization payments, where the principal amount increases. Loans can’t carry fees and points above 3% of the total mortgage and limits the total debt-to-income ratio at 43% — which some worry will restrict credit and discourage homebuyers at the lower-end of the income scale from seeking a mortgage.

“In many markets sellers are in the driver’s seat because of low inventories. With inventories falling so dramatically in the last year, buyers are competing for a fairly small inventory of for-sale homes and that helps sellers.”

– Jed Kolko, chief economist from Truilia

Additional mortgage rules are aimed at curbing over-borrowing, but could make the process longer for potential homebuyers and could prevent some potential buyers from being able to qualify for a loan.

“The mortgage rates are very low, but only a few people are able to access that low rate,” says Yun. “A modest increase in mortgage rates may not be harmful, provided that there is a return to more normal underwriting standards.”

Housing Prices

Over the last two years the big question hanging over the market was how much lower home prices could drop, but home pricing indexes started to rise last year and are expected to continue the upward trajectory in 2013.

Increasing home prices will bring reluctant homeowners off the sidelines and will encourage homebuyers waiting for rock-bottom prices to jump in. According to the Mortgage Bankers Association, applications for new-home loans are expected to increase 55% this year.

Earlier this week CoreLogic reported it expects home prices to jump 6% this year compared to 7.5% in 2012. Markets experiencing a stronger labor market will seeing prices increase even more.

Housing Inventories

In reaction to the housing oversupply, housing inventories fell more than 40% across the nation since 2007 and experts say below-normal inventory will hold back sales and impede the market’s recovery in 2013 if not corrected.

If home prices continue to rise it will help increase inventories, which will bolster the housing market even more, according to Jed Kolko, chief economist from Truilia, who says housing construction is up 60% in the last two years, but is still far from normal levels.

“Rising prices… encourage developers to build more and also lift more borrowers back above water and encourage some of them to sell,” he says. “They’ve wanted to sell and haven’t been able to, but now they will start thinking about it. The biggest question is whether it means inventory will expand or shrink less than last year, this could be the year.”

In 2012, the total number of units constructed stood at 600,000, far less than what’s necessary to keep up with the demand. This year experts forecast around 750,000 units to be constructed, far less than the 1.4-1.6 million units needed.

“In many markets sellers are in the driver’s seat because of low inventories,” says Kolko. “With inventories falling so dramatically in the last year, buyers are competing for a fairly small inventory of for-sale homes and that helps sellers.”

The Fate of the Interest Rate Deduction?

This popular incentive to attract consumers to become homeowners may be on the chopping block as both Democratic and Republican lawmakers continue to look for ways to close the ballooning federal deficit and budget.

The mortgage interest deduction costs Uncle Sam nearly $100 million in revenue a year, but eliminating it could weigh on housing activity.

“Over the years one of the advantages of buying is getting that interest deduction,” says Sam Davis, a real estate agent in Washington, D.C. “When we are trying to convince renters to purchase a home we can say: ‘If you pay $1,500 a month on rent and you buy a home with a $2,000 mortgage, if you got that interest rate that would basically make the spending even, yet you aren’t getting the advantage of appreciation and the right to own your own home.”

Foreclosure Activity

According to Kolko, there are currently more than a million homes in the foreclosure process across the country, but the crisis on a nation level is over. However, he says foreclosures in the most-battered markets including Florida, Illinois, New Jersey and New York are still high, and regulators have been considering state-level foreclosure reform.

He adds that the housing price rebound is stronger in states with a quicker foreclosure process and less of a backlog, while states with a hefty backlog are holding back the price recovery.

As investors become increasingly more comfortable with the real estate market, Chris Boston, mortgage banker with the Fitz Gerald Financial Group Division of Monarch Bank, says he is seeing more people taking advantage of foreclosures and short sales. “Investors are taking advantage of the market, they are buying homes at 50 cents on the dollar and they are renovating them to where they should be, which will help the market this year.”

Refinancing Activity

Low interest rates caused a wave of refinancing in 2012, but experts forecast a much slower pace in 2013.

“Refinancing is less about helping the housing market and more about boosting the economy by reducing payments and giving homeowners more money to spend,” explains Kolko. He adds that only if rates drop further, or the eligibility requirements expand, will refi activity pick up this year.

February home sales hit 3-year high

Categories: Uncategorized | Posted: March 25, 2013

Existing home sales continued to climb in February, further evidence of a continuing recovery in the housing market.

Home sales rose 0.8% in February from January to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.98 million, 10.2% above last year’s level, the National Association of Realtors said Thursday.

The sales rate was the highest since November 2009 when a federal tax credit was propping up home sales.

January’s sales rate was also revised up to 4.94 million.

Total inventory, which had been dropping for months, rose 9.6% at the end of the February to 1.94 million homes for sale, a 4.7-month supply at the current sales pace. That’s up from 4.3 months in January.

Listed inventory was 19% below a year ago and the supply is especially tight in certain areas of the country, such as in the West. With limited supply, bidding wars have broken out as buyers have little to choose from and agents have little to sell.

But last month’s inventory expansion was a strong one, says Jed Kolko, economist for website Trulia.

Inventory has been tightening because construction levels are still low, adding little new housing stock, and homeowners are waiting to sell until they have more positive equity, Kolko says.

He says inventory is likely to rise now through the summer because of seasonality, bringing some relief to buyers and helping boost sales. The February jump “is an early hint that the inventory crunch may finally be easing for good,” Kolko says.

Another issue is credit conditions, which remain too restrictive, says Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist.

Interest rates have also edged up, climbing recently to an average of 3.82% for a 30-year-fixed rate loan, a seven-month high, the Mortgage Bankers Association said Wednesday.

But rates are still low and, along with job growth and pent-up demand, are helping to fuel stronger home sales.

For February, sales of distressed homes — foreclosures and short sales — accounted for 25% of sales, down from 34% a year ago.

Homes were on the market for a median of 74 days, 24% below year-ago levels, NAR says.

The association said the national median price for existing homes rose 11.6% from a year ago to $173,600. The February gain was the strongest since November 2005 when the median was 12.9% above a year earlier.

In a separate report Thursday, the Federal Housing Finance Agency — the regulator for mortgage-finance giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac — said home prices rose 0.6% from December to January. For the 12 months ending in January, prices rose 6.5%.

More up-to-date data from real estate website Zillow shows home values rose for the 16th straight month in February, up 0.1% from January and up almost 6% year-over-year.

All 30 of the largest metro areas covered by Zillow registered both monthly and annual appreciation.

“The housing market recovery has continued to gain momentum over the past several months and looks firmly entrenched as we enter the 2013 spring home shopping season,” says Zillow economist Stan Humphries.

Rising prices will “help cure” many of the ills facing the market, including big numbers of underwater homeowners. As prices rise, more homeowners will list homes for sale, which will ease supply constraints, Humphries says.

A shortage of homes for sale, especially in the lower price ranges, hurt California home sales in February, the California Association of Realtors says.

Sales of existing single-family homes there dipped 0.9% for the month from January and were down almost 6% from a year ago, CAR says.

Still, sales of single-family homes priced above $500,000 were up 31% year-over-year. Meanwhile, sales of homes below $300,000 were down 27% year-over-year, CAR says.

Fewer sales of distressed homes, including short sales and foreclosures, are expected as the foreclosure crisis recedes, says Patrick Newport, IHS Global Insight economist. Meanwhile, more regular sales will increase.

Newport expects existing home sales to come in this year at about 5 million. In a healthy market, sales would be close to 6 million, he says.

“The market is slowly picking up but it’s not a great one,” Newport says

Home sales quicken across S.C. in February

Categories: Uncategorized | Posted: March 18, 2013

Staff Report
Published March 15, 2013

The pace of home sales quickened in South Carolina markets where second homes are a major portion of the inventory, led by markets in Beaufort, Charleston and Hilton Head.

Increases in the number of homes sold in Charleston rose 16% to 718 homes in February, compared with February 2012; 24.6% to 86 homes in Beaufort; and 26.5% to 229 homes in Hilton Head.

In Charleston, homes also sold much quicker in February than a year earlier, with the number of days on the market shrinking 25.8% to 91 days, from 122 days a year earlier.

“It appears buyers are motivated by an attractive affordability environment, while more and more sellers are receiving near top dollar for their homes,” S.C. Realtors said in announcing the February data on Friday.

The data show a generally improving market statewide. New listings in South Carolina increased 2.8% to 8,676 homes. Pending sales were up 8.4% to 4,863 homes. Inventory levels shrank 11.3% to 45,173 units.

Prices were up and the median sales price increased 3.6% to $145,500.

Average days on the market shrank 10.6% to 132 days.

“The economy continues to grow at a snail’s pace,” S.C. Realtors said. “But there’s significant pent-up demand from renters, first-timers and investors to counteract it.”

Source: S.C. Realtors

Property values stabilize after surge in home sales

Categories: Uncategorized | Posted: March 15, 2013

The presence of distressed properties, including foreclosures, short sales and real estate-owned homes, continues to add downward pressure on overall home prices. However, some industry groups argue that prices could be showing signs of stability.

According to the most recent FNC Residential Price Index, home prices continued to trend lower during the second half of 2011 as foreclosures were conducted at an elevated rate. As a result, since July 2011, the values of non-distressed properties have declined by roughly 4.5 percent at an average of 1 percent every month.

Distressed property sales accounted for an estimated 27 percent of all transactions in February 2012. While this is still an elevated share, it is significantly less than the 32.2 percent share reported a year earlier.

At the end of last year, the report noted the median price discount of foreclosures amounted to 18.4 percent, making the prospect of owning a home more affordable to entry-level buyers. While major bargains can still be obtained, the discount was 1.8 percent higher during the previous three-month period and was 1.2 percent higher during the fourth quarter of 2010.

However, as these affordable prices continue to attract a significant number of buyers, a recent report from CoreLogic says than an elevated sales rate is working to stabilize home prices.

In February, the firm found that overall home prices fell just 0.8 percent, compared to 2 percent just a year earlier. While this figure includes the prices of distressed homes, when excluding these properties, values actually appreciated 0.7 percent in February from the previous month.

“The continued strength of sales activity and tightening inventories in many markets are early and hopeful signs that prices will continue to stabilize and improve in the coming months,” said CoreLogic president and CEO Anand Nallathambi. “In fact, nondistressed home sale prices, which represent two-thirds of all sales, have appreciated by just over 1 percent since the beginning of the year.”

While overall home prices continued to edge lower, the pace is much slower than it has been in previous years. As a result, the Mortgage Bankers Association reported an increase in home loan activity during the week ending March 30 of buyer capitalized on bargain prices to become homeowners.

The industry group’s Weekly Application survey found that application activity surged 4.8 percent from the previous week. In addition, as mortgage rates continue to hover near all-time lows, the refinance share of activity spiked 4 percent.

“Applications to buy a home picked up last week, and are running more than 2 percent above the level reported at this time last year,” said MBA vice president of research and economics Michael Fratantoni. “Home purchase applications for conventional loans are now about 10 percent above last year’s level. Applications for government loans increased by more than 10 percent over the week, for both purchase and refinance, likely spurred by borrowers seeking to apply before scheduled increases in FHA mortgage insurance premiums at the beginning of April.”

Meanwhile, in the wake of the surge in application activity, the average interest rate for a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage with a conforming loan balance of less than $417,500 dipped to 4.16 percent. The previous week the rate stood at 4.23 percent. In addition, the report found that the rate for a 30-year FRM jumbo loan also declined, falling to 4.46 percent.

Fannie, Freddie to form new company

Categories: Uncategorized | Posted: March 8, 2013

Margaret Chadbourn , Reuters – 3 days

WASHINGTON — Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac will build a new joint company for securitizing home loans as a stepping stone toward shrinking the government’s role in the mortgage market, the regulator of the U.S. government-controlled firms said on Monday.

“The overarching goal is to create something of value that could either be sold or used by policymakers as a foundational element of the mortgage market of the future,” Edward DeMarco, acting director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency, told the National Association for Business Economics.

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which were bailed out by the government in 2008, help finance about two-thirds of new U.S. home loans. DeMarco is seeking to shrink their footprint and reduce risks to the taxpayers that support the mortgage giants.

Since they were seized by the government, the companies have drawn nearly $190 billion from the U.S. Treasury to stay afloat.

By creating a new securitization company, FHFA intends to pave the way for a single securitization platform and force Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to abandon their separate systems.

The aim is to shrink the role the two government-sponsored enterprises play in the housing system in the absence of legislation from Congress or direction from the Obama administration on their future.

DeMarco said the goal is to build a single infrastructure to support the mortgage credit business.

The new company will be structured as a joint venture that is owned by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, DeMarco told reporters on a conference call to discuss FHFA’s plans.

He said the new joint venture is not expected to begin securitizing loans next year. Instead, the focus will be on creating the business and hiring staff. The company will have a separate chief executive and board.

DeMarco expects Congress will ultimately decide how the securitization platform is operated and whether it should be privatized.

“We are on a path to replace the outdated proprietary operational systems of Fannie and Freddie,” DeMarco told reporters. “It could be turned to some form of a market utility.”

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac do not directly make loans. They provide financing to banks and lenders by purchasing mortgages, which they either keep on their books or package as securities which they then sell to investors with a guarantee.

DeMarco, in laying out FHFA’s goals for 2013, said he also plans to start reducing Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac’s role in the housing finance system by shrinking their business by 10 percent in the loan market for multifamily homes.

Fannie and Freddie will also aim to complete $30 billion in single-family credit guarantee business in 2013, sharing some of the risk with the private market. Those transactions could include mortgage insurance or other types of debt securities.

The companies will also be required to reduce the less liquid portion of their portfolio of mortgages by 5 percent next year. This goal comes on top of an existing mandate that requires Fannie and Freddie to shrink their investment portfolios over time and turn over profits to taxpayers.

Fannie Mae and Freddie suffered years of losses after the U.S. housing bubble burst, but have returned to profitability thanks to an improving housing market and their success in reducing their portfolios of poorly performing loans.

Even though the loans they have backed recently are performing well, DeMarco noted that the market was still “reliant on federal support, with very little private capital standing in front of the federal government’s risk exposure.”

Republicans and Democrats agree that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac should eventually be wound down, but they have yet to find common ground on how to replace them.

Copyright 2013 Thomson Reuters.

Fort Jackson, South Carolina – Life, Liberty, & Lore

Categories: Uncategorized | Posted: February 22, 2013

by Tom Poland
February 20, 2013

One night talking to a stranger in a tavern so far South it’s not Southern at all, he asked me where I lived.

“Columbia, South Carolina,” I replied.

“Went through basic training there,” he said. “Fort Jackson. It’s the hottest place I’ve been. Hell on Earth.”

The guy had street cred. He lived in Florida’s belly, close to Orlando. He wasn’t far from the truth either. Heat rains down on Fort Jackson, and mugginess steams up from ancient sands. Too far from the Atlantic to catch sea breezes and too flat to enjoy alpine air, Columbia bakes.

Motorists passing through miss the heat a lot more. Columbia, South Carolina, is one of but ten cities with three interstates threaded through it. Heading south, I-77 flirts with Columbia’s eastern edge. This stretch of interstate sits midway between New York City and Miami; just to their east sits the country’s largest basic training center, Fort Jackson.

The famous and the unknown, the driven and drifters, have bonded at Fort Jackson with singular purpose: preserving freedom. Fort Jackson trains half the country’s soldiers in basic combat training, about 45,000 a year. This coming together of men, women, and machines in peace and war makes a fort a breeding ground for history. While the fort’s mainstream history—key dates and events—are documented, the colorful fragments and minutiae hidden in the fort’s great heap of days require a bit of effort.

I find myself drumming up clichés … Bugle calls at sunrise, synchronized boots, the crumpled concussions of artillery, and drill instructors barking out commands. Think of a bustling military establishment, and you don’t envision old family cemeteries, archeological sites, endangered species, time capsules, TIME magazine, and tragedies and plagues. Yet all these are part of Fort Jackson’s fabric. You’d never give the flagpole at headquarters’ much thought. A gift from New York Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia, it stood at the 1938 World’s Fair in New York City. And that is but one jewel of the life, liberty, and lore flowing from this ancient-but-militarized seabed.

Karma attends the land where the fort sits, a sandy region of old river deposits and primordial ocean floor. The porous, absorbent soil here does not change into mud after heavy rain, a good thing. Once part of Colonel Wade Hampton’s estate, the land, it seems, was destined for military use and fated to bear Andrew Jackson’s name to whom Hampton was an aide at the Battle of New Orleans.

1916 … a cold January rain falls as military and civilian planners climb a sandy knoll overlooking pineland six miles east of Columbia. The planners’ mission is crucial to the War Department: evaluating a site for a US Army training center. The site is good, and the Columbia Chamber of Commerce raises $59,000 to turn the Hampton Estate over to the government.

On June 2, 1917, a new Army training center was established to train fighting men in the early, ominous days of World War I. This installation would become the largest and most active of its kind in the world. Hardaway Contracting Company of Columbus, Georgia, won the award to build the Sixth National Army Cantonment, to be named Camp Jackson. In six months, Hardaway built a city of 1,519 buildings that included theaters, stores, kitchens, barracks, officers’ quarters, training facilities, stables, warehouses, garages, an airfield, roads, bridges, railroads, a reservoir and water lines, sewers, wells, heating plants, and a laundry. Overnight, Camp Jackson changed from a sandy, pine and scrub oak forest to a thriving Army training center, complete with a trolley line and10,000 men. Two years later, Camp Jackson would boast the country’s largest government-operated laundry.

Tragedies

On 21 November 1917, a meningitis epidemic broke out. By December 11, 12 persons had died and the camp’s labor force deserted en masse. Troops worked tirelessly in subfreezing temperatures to finish essential work. Then influenza struck. By the time the plague ran its course, 300 had died. On the morning of May 10, 1918, three cars of a troop train left the tracks as it started across the trestle where the railroad entered Camp Jackson. Nine soldiers died.

Achievement

Corporal Freddie Stowers of Sandy Spring, South Carolina, the grandson of a slave, was the only black Medal of Honor recipient from World War I. Two bursts from German machineguns hit Stowers as he led a battered squadron in an assault on Côte 188, a tall, heavily defended hill overlooking a farm near Ardeuil, France.

Some men achieved fame for their civilian accomplishments. One hot night, two lieutenants, Briton Hadden and Henry Luce, walked back to their barrack discussing “a paper” they would found. They wanted to dispel some of the ignorance they saw in many of their fellow recruits. From that discussion came TIME magazine.

The early years saw growth and accomplishment, the end of World War I, and then nothing. Camp Jackson was abandoned April 25, 1922 pursuant to General Orders No. 33, War Department. The roads disintegrated, and pine and scrub oaks reclaimed the ancient seabed.

In November 1939, Hitler’s Blitzkrieg swept across Europe. In July 1940, Camp Jackson became Fort Jackson and trespass rights were acquired on 265,000 acres in Richland, Fairfield, and Kershaw Counties for military maneuvers. It was the largest block of property ever handled in one single transaction in South Carolina at the time. Of the 2,000 landowners, 1,300 lived in Richland County.

Men poured into the fort and tanks arrived. A half million Americans received some part of their training at Fort Jackson during World War II. Some men blazed their way into history as members of the 4th Division, one of the first to hit the beaches of France. Many were boys who grew into men at Fort Jackson. Sixty-three years after World War II, you cannot stand in a World War II barrack and not be humbled. The wood flooring of Building 4408 seems beleaguered. It’s worn. Armies literally passed over these original pine floors, up at reveille to form up.

A Ghostly Presence

For those within earshot of the fort, the sounds of men forming up have long floated through early morning air. James Dickey described fort mornings for Esquire in 1981. “The dock from which I sight the noon and the moon is on the west bank of a famed lake on the other side of which is Fort Jackson, a basic training installation which is among the largest in the world. With daybreak each day comes the sound of firing, of voices marching in unison, of bugles, of militaristic hymns, as though coming from a ghostly takeover army waiting for the day.”

The soldiers marching in unison, learning warfare and takoever are a major part of history, and celebrities and world leaders have rightfully come to pay homage to them. Betty Grable, Life cover girl, came. So did Bob Hope. On June 24, 1942, Winston Churchill stepped from a train at Fort Jackson. Watching the thousands of recruits undergoing training, Mr. Churchill said “they’re just like money in the bank.” General Jimmy Doolittle came to Fort Jackson in 1992 and 1993. President Roosevelt twice visited the fort. President George W. Bush delivered a 20-minute speech, opening his remarks with a loud “hooah,” that familiar Army sentiment conveying “can do” or “good job.”

A Blend Of Old & New

The fort’s training techniques and equipment are the latest. Still, you can’t change history without the past having a firm hold on you. There’s a relic—what looks like a huge stone on a sturdy pedestal near the fort’s museum. It’s a remnant of the Ludendorff Bridge at Remagen—the last standing span over the Rhine during World War II. Said General Eisenhower, “the bridge is worth its weight in gold.”

American soldiers captured the bridge March 7, 1945, and the psychological advantage of having crossed the Rhine in force in pursuit of fleeing Wehrmacht troops bolstered Allied forces’ morale while destroying the Germans’. On March 17, 1945 the bridge collapsed, killing twenty-eight American soldiers. The chunk at the fort museum weighs 900 pounds, worth $6,500,000 today according to Eisenhower’s quote.

The fort conducts operations on many fronts. Its Environmental & Natural Resources Division manages more than 50,000 acres of forest, endangered plant species, and habitat for the red cockaded woodpecker. It oversees old family cemeteries and several archeological sites.

A time capsule lies at the foot of the Jackson Statue at the fort’s main entrance. Eight years from now, the capsule will be opened. The contents should prove insightful as to how fast time passes. In the early years, horses were common at the fort. In fact, about 800 horses stampeded and destroyed a number of themselves. Today, the fort is holding hydrogen power trials as the nation looks to lessen it dependence on the horsepower oil provides.

Today’s fort is a hustling, bustling place, and yet it maintains a sharp focus on its mission: training 50 percent of all new Army personnel, as well as all Army drill sergeants, all the chaplains in the Armed Forces, and certain Navy personnel.

Fort Jackson is a far-flung, complex institution that far transcends what was envisioned for Camp Jackson. Those planners who stood atop a sandy knoll back in 1916 would be amazed to see what they wrought.
Perhaps some of you trained there. Perhaps you, too, feel it is Hell on earth, the hottest place around. Perhaps you trained with friends here who are no longer with us. Perhaps you harbor emotions not so easily explained. A fort is always attended by a multitude of perhaps …

One thing is certain. Fort Jackson remains the only army base in the United States within a city, and a hot city it is come summer—the kind of city where you can train an army for most anything. Vietnam, the Middle East, most anywhere. Many motorists speeding along I-77 won’t know that, however, unless they happen to spot the signs, unless they went through basic training here. They, then, will remember those days.

They will recall that this is the place where “at daybreak each day comes the sound of firing, of voices marching in unison, of bugles, of militaristic hymns, as though coming from a ghostly takeover army waiting for the day.”

Tom Poland is the author of six books and more than 700 magazine features. A Southern writer, his work has appeared in magazines throughout the South. The University of South Carolina Press just released his book on how the blues became the shag, Save The Last Dance For Me. He writes a weekly column for newspapers in Georgia and South Carolina about the South, its people, traditions, lifestyle, and changing culture.