Friday, March 26, 2010

Home Buyer Credits--
Well, by now I'm sure you've all heard of the Federal Home Buyer Tax Credit of up to a max of $8,000 when you buy a home. Well, although it's scheduled to end in just over a month, unless extended again, California has gone one step further. Yesterday, Gov. Schwarzenegger signed into law California's version of the credit. Usable on your California tax return, it allows a tax credit of up to $10,000 for first time home buyers. Homes, to be eligible, must be purchased between May 1, and December 31, 2010 and, in another group, between December 31, 2010 and August 1, 2011.

The total available for the program, $200 million, will be evenly divided between first time buyers and those who have previously lived in a home for two years. If a buyer takes advantage of the credit, they must remain in the home for at least two years. Those leaving early will be required to repay the credit to the state.

Friday, March 19, 2010

More Good News! The latest stats for the month of February just came out for the local housing market. In Marin County, they show gains both in numbers of homes sold and in median price for those sold. In February, 153 homes sold, an increase of 37.8% from the year earlier. The county median price was $615,000, up 7.3% from February 2009. Does this mean that the housing crisis is over? Probably not totally, particularly when you remember that prices a couple of years ago were dramatically higher than they are now. However, what these numbers DO mean is that it appears the market has begun a definite push in the positive direction, a move that can only help homeowners, and the general economy as well.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Market Conditions:
Well, the latest news on the market is encouragingly mixed. That's probably the best way to describe it. In its latest monthly foreclosure/default report, Realty Trak yesterday announced that foreclosures are down 2% from a month ago. This is good news in the sense that it shows a drop in the figures moving forward. However, there are still many homes out there in various stages of default that could ultimately foreclose.

Separately, unemployment, though still at a high 9.7%, has improved. This is the second consecutive month at this level and below double digits, a sign possibly of the start of the recovery. In the same vein, employers have shown an increase in hiring of temp workers, which, after many months of a recession, is often a pre-cursor to a jobs recovery. What's particularly important in this case is that this is the third consecutive monthly increase, the first time that's happened since 2006. More jobs means more disposable income and more home buying ability, which bodes well in the long term for the housing market.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Nomar: Thanks & All The Best--Peter:
Well, it's official--Nomar Garciaparra has retired--as a member of the Red Sox! Coming home to the team that brought him and his exciting play to the majors, Nomar today signed a one day contract, donned the uniform one final time and announced his retirement. Whether or not he makes the Hall after his five year wait remains to be seen. Once considered a lock, late career injuries took away some of the luster. However, he was AL Rookie of the Year, won consecutive batting titles, including one at .370, and retires with a very good career BA of .313--not too shabby at all!
Nomar: Thanks for all the fun! We'll definitely miss you!

Friday, March 05, 2010

It's Slow But Things Are Getting Better!

Well, as we continue through the morass of the ongoing recession/housing market, there are a number of signs that things may have past the bottom and begun to move upward. In the housing market specifically, many signs indicate prices are in a very gradual climb out of the abyss. For the second (or third--depends on which report you read) consecutive month average prices and numbers of homes sold has risen from the prior month's levels. True, they have not come anywhere near their height in early or late 2008, not even near where they were exactly a year ago, but the fact that a trend has apparently been established is a very encouraging sign.

Separately, jobs, without which no-one is going to be buying anything at all, much less homes, are also showing some encouraging signs. In numbers just released today, jobless claims dropped from a month ago, and unemployment remained at 9.7%. This is the first time since 2008 that these numbers have shrunk in consecutive months. Even better, for the third consecutive month, employers have increased the number of temp hires, normally a precursor to increases in permanent hiring. This is the first string that long since 2006!

Assuming these trends continue, it can only bode well for the housing market in general, and Marin County's home sales market in particular.