Archive for December 31, 2014

Town, village to receive funding

The Town of Tonawanda and Village of Kenmore have been awarded state funding that Assemblyman Robin Schimminger was able to secure for a number of necessary law enforcement equipment purchases. 

The Town and Village Police Departments will receive funding that will provide training and better communications equipment, respectively. The town department will use $7,400 to purchase firearms training equipment, and the village department will receive $15,000 to acquire mobile and portable communications technology.

Detroit to exit bankruptcy on Wednesday-governor’s office says

n>Dec 9 (Reuters) – Detroit will exit the biggest-ever US
municipal bankruptcy on Wednesday, Michigan Governor Rick
Snyders office said on Tuesday.

The city, which filed for bankruptcy in July 2013, won
approval last month from a federal court judge for its plan to
shed about $7 billion of its $18 billion of debt and

(Reporting By Karen Pierog)

Melbourne first-home buying couples are taking five and a half years to save …

FIRST-home buying couples are forced to save for 5.5 years for a deposit to buy a property in Melbourne.

Report Calls for Increased Funding for Road Repairs

A new report calling attention to ongoing problems with our states roads and bridges is pushing for a substantial increase in local, state and federal funding to make improvements.

According to transportation research group TRIP, funding for Connecticut roads could reduce congestion, improve safety, and fuel economic growth.

The report focused on Connecticuts largest cities, including Hartford and New Haven, and found that deficient roads are costing drivers an extra $4.2 billion per year in added vehicle operating costs, congestion delays, and crashes.

The report also found that 35 percent of Connecticut bridges need repairs, improvement or replacement and that 41 percent of major roads in the state have pavements in poor condition.

Businesses are also taking a hit as a result of deteriorated roads, according to the report.

Making sure our transportation infrastructure is as modern and as efficient as possible is really a critical issue for economic growth, said Joe Brennan, president of the Connecticut Business and Industry Association.

The report says the average driver in the Bridgeport and Stamford area is spending 42 hours per year stuck in traffic, the average driver in the Hartford area is losing 38 hours per year and the average driver in New Haven is losing 35 hours.

Obviously, we want to get employees in and out of the workplace as efficiently and as safely as possible, said Brennan. But also, for companies like manufacturers, they need to get their materials into their plants and their finished products out of their plants and do that in a cost effective and efficient manner.

A state Department of Transportation spokesman declined to comment on the report.

Ask Jennifer: Getting Finances in Order

With the end of the year quickly approaching, many want to get their finances in order before saying goodbye to 2014.

Jennifer Lane, a certified financial planner with Compass Planning, has some answers to necn viewers questions.

County OKs funding for school employee bonuses

County OKs funding for school employee bonuses

The Cheatham County Commission approved the funds for a one-time, five-percent bonus for all school employees.

New home sales fall 1.6% in November

WASHINGTON Sales of new US homes fell in November, evidence that recent job gains have yet to boost the housing sector.

The Commerce Department said today that new home sales slid 1.6 percent last month to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 438,000, the second straight monthly decline. October sales fell 2.2 percent to a downwardly revised rate of 445,000.

The construction market has been sluggish in 2014 and continues to lag the broader economic recovery that began more than five years ago. Just 399,000 new homes were bought in the first 11 months of the year, a slight 0.2 percent improvement from the same period in 2013.

New-home sales remain significantly below the annual rate of 700,000 seen during the 1990s.

Too many Americans lack the savings and solid credit records to upgrade to a newly built home. Or, they still owe more on their current mortgage than their home is worth.

Despite steady price gains in recent years, roughly 8.7 million homeowners remain underwater on their mortgages. The continued decrease in underwater borrowers should eventually cause the number of listings and homes sold to increase.

The median price for a home sold in November was $280,900, a modest 1.37 percent increase over the past 12 months. That pales with the 5 percent year-over-year increase in prices of existing homes bought last month, according to the National Association of Realtors.

Purchases plunged 12 percent in the Northeast last month, while sales also skidded in the Midwest and South. Home-buying increased 14.8 percent in the West.

Even though sales have barely budged, the supply of newly-built homes on the market has risen 15 percent over the past 12 months to 213,000.

Rising prices and essentially flat incomes have cut into affordability for would-be buyers. The heavy snows that ushered in 2014 curbed buying activity and sales never quite recovered once the weather warmed.

Nor have sales been boosted as average 30-year mortgage rates have hovered below 4 percent for the past few months. Mortgage firm Freddie Mac reported last week that rates were averaging 3.8 percent, the lowest level since May 2013.

Sales of existing homes fell 6.1 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.93 million, the National Association of Realtors said Monday.

Strong hiring over the past year should also encourage sales. The unemployment rate has fallen to 5.8 percent, from 7 percent 12 months ago, gains that could over the next year cause pay to rise at a faster pace than inflation. That would put more people in a better position to buy. …

GT Advanced Technologies Inc. on Monday won bankruptcy court approval of a settlement with Apple Inc. that wards off the threat of litigation over a failed effort to produce large quantities of scratch- and shatter-resistant smartphone screen materials.

Judge Henry Boroff’s approval came after GT Advanced and Apple agreed to terms with leading creditors who had threatened to derail the pact and transform GT Advanced’s bid for an…

US home sales fell 6.1% in Nov.

WASHINGTON Fewer Americans bought homes in November as buying slid to its slowest pace in six months.

The National Association of Realtors said today that sales of existing homes fell 6.1 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 4.93 million. That was down from a revised annual pace of 5.26 million in October. Over the past 12 months, sales have risen 2.1 percent.

The combination of higher home prices and relatively stagnant incomes has reduced affordability and restrained buying. A recent decline in mortgage rates has yet to lure more buyers into the market. At the same time, fewer distressed properties and bargains, which tend to attract investors, are coming onto the market.

The Realtors estimate that 2014 sales will end up below 2013 levels. Sales have slumped much of this year after a three-year rally that followed the recession and the implosion of the housing market. Harsh winter weather crippled home buying at the start of 2014. Lower affordability, resulting from tight credit, rising home prices and essentially flat incomes, held back sales for the rest of the year.

The Realtors have estimated that 4.94 million existing homes will be sold this year, down 3 percent from 5.09 million in 2013. Analysts say sales of roughly 5.5 million existing homes are common in a healthy real estate market.

The median price rose 5 percent over the past 12 months to $205,300. Thats a positive for owners looking to sell, though it creates an additional challenge for would-be buyers.

November sales fell in all four major geographic regions: Northeast, Midwest, South and West. Buying activity fell over the past 12 months for homes worth less than $250,000.

A sudden blast of cold weather and snowstorms at the end of November might have cut into sales, noted Ian Shepherdson, chief economist at Pantheon Macroeconomic. This November was the coldest since 2000, contributing to the slowest annualized sales pace since May.

The supply of homes for sale also fell from October. There were 2.09 million homes listed for sale in November, down 6.7 percent from the prior month.

Some of the weakness in sales has resulted from a healthier market. Just 9 percent of sales last month were due to foreclosures and short sales, compared with 14 percent last year. The share of purchases by investors was 15 percent in November, compared with 19 percent 12 months ago. This indicates that the market continues to recover from the housing bust, despite the absence of sales growth.

There are signs that sales may improve in 2015. Mortgage rates have fallen sharply in the past few weeks, which should make homes more affordable. The average rate for a 30-year fixed mortgage dropped last week to 3.8 percent, from 3.93 percent the previous week. That was the lowest level since May 2013.

Rates have fallen as investors have plowed their money into 10-year US Treasury notes, after being spooked by plummeting oil prices and signs of slowing growth overseas that make lower risk investments more attractive.

At the same time, consistent job growth has lowered the unemployment rate to 5.8 percent from 7 percent 12 months ago. Steady hiring should eventually boost pay at a pace meaningfully above inflation, which would help boost home sales.

Sales may also pick up as the housing market continues to heal from its boom-and-bust last decade. Real estate data provider Zillow said last week that the proportion of US homeowners with mortgages who are under water meaning they owe more than their house is worth has fallen by almost half in the past two years.

Rising prices and foreclosures have reduced that figure. As more homeowners gain equity in their homes, they are more likely to list their homes for sale, keeping home prices in check and spurring more sales.

Stan Humphries, Zillows chief economist, forecasts that sales of existing homes will rise to 5.2 million next year from just under 5 million in 2014.

Holiday home buyers bounce back

The holiday home market is turning a new leaf, as buyers are trickling back after close to five years of slow demand, dragged out further by an oversupply of properties.

The tepid market saw the value of coastal and holiday resort properties being decimated by more than 30% after the recession.

Real estate counters now point to a market which is starting to rebound in the number of sales transactions, although the market is still largely spooked by the oversupply of properties and sluggish house price growth.

Pam Golding Property Group CEO Andrew Golding says the rebound of the holiday home market and the return of buyers has been three years in the making, with some properties changing hands among value chasers.

As peoples general economic situation has improved and the overall economy has improved, people are taking a view again on the second and holiday home market again, Golding told Moneyweb.

Figures from FNB support this view, as according to its holiday town index, total holiday home buying is estimated to be 3% of total home buying in the last four quarters. This is above the 1% achieved in 2010, but still below holiday home buying highs of 5% in 2007.

Price growth in holiday towns for the third quarter increased to 10.5% year-on-year, from the previous quarters 7.6%. The performance now trumps the 7% growth rate of major metro properties.

Despite the acceleration in house prices for the holiday home market, FNB does not anticipate further growth, given South Africas slow economic growth and rising interest rates.

This is expected to contain the pace of growth on residential property as a whole to single-digit rates in the near terms and we would not expect holiday town price inflation to go higher than this most recent rate before moderating back to high single-digits, the bank notes.

Chairman of Seeff Property Services Samuel Seeff says the local market is tough and buyers are not making the money which would see them being active in the holiday home space.

People who are buying second homes need discretionary and additional money; they are investing for lifestyle to family. Youve got to have the funds to do it whilst you are still battling to make it on your primary home, says Seeff.

On a house price growth front, once demand increases then valuations may follow suit, says Golding.

We have not necessarily seen the same house price growth in the second home market than the primary market. Depending on how demand pans up, we will start to see the increases as well, he says.

Where are buyers buying?

Golding notes that strong buyer activity been in a range of R1 million to R50 million in the traditional holiday home buying Western Cape suburbs, like Plettenberg Bay, Clifton, Bantry Bay and Knysna.

Seeff agrees that the Western Capes leafy suburbs have piqued the interest of buyers. His company recently concluded a R45 million record sale in Plettenburg Bay for a beach house and a plot in Clifton for R70 million. Seeff says Kwa-Zulu Natals upper coastal suburbs like Ballito and Umhlanga are also seeing renewed interest. It also concluded a record price sale in Ballito for R30.9 million.

Overall, South Africas second home buying market is favoured not only by locals, but by foreign buyers too. According to a New World Wealth survey, Cape Town is among the top 20 destinations for second home buying by global multi-millionaires (with a net worth of $10 million). It clinched the 17th spot, trumping Tel Aviv in Israel, Cannes and St Tropez in France.

CEO of Jawitz Properties Herschel Jawitz says South Africa has seen an uptick in foreign buyers, but it is still a small percentage of overall buyers.