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New home sales: 'Really good news'

NEW YORK ( -- Sales of newly constructed single-family homes spiked 11% in June to an annualized rate of 384,000 homes, according to a report released Monday.

The gain over May was much greater than expected. A consensus of housing industry analysts had forecast seasonally adjusted sales of 352,000, according to

However, sales are still 21% below the levels of a year ago, when new homes sold in June at an annualized rate of 488,000, according to the report released by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Four years ago, during the height of the housing boom, the sales rate for June was 1,374,000, nearly three-and-a-half times higher than last month.

Still, the report was very positive, according to Peter Morici, an economics professor at the University of Maryland who had forecast June sales to be at the 350,000 level. "That is really good news. Considering what's going on in existing home sales, with all the foreclosure activity sending down home prices, for new homes to jump like that is a good indicator that the economy is bottoming out."

CNN Money

Vacation Home Blog and News

July 29, 2009

Waterfront Vacation Properties

While some of the hottest oceanfront and lakefront resorts have seen declines in value, these areas are very limited. In many other areas where building is much more difficult, and developments are almost impossible to get approved, there has been very little downward pressure on waterfront properties.

Oceanfront homes and condos in Florida and areas that were dramatically overbuilt sustained substantial losses in value, and are vastly undervalued right now. The problem is that people are experiencing difficulty in obtaining loans for such properties because development and association structures are incomplete or insolvent, there are liens to deal with, and loans for second homes now fall under much stricter guidelines.

Some oceanfront areas saw strong depreciation in hurricane ravaged areas. Other than that, most established waterfront properties have not seen significant losses in value. The reason for this is that the majority of these types of second homes are owned outright, many of them being handed down from one generation to the next.

Another reason some areas realized only minor declines, or in some cases, appreciation, is that there’s very little room left to build. A limited supply owned by a large number of vacation home owners who don’t have to sell keeps these markets very stable. Most simply take their properties off the market until it improves.

Summer is a great time to own a waterfront home, especially for rental income. In most cases, if you buy a lake home or a cottage at the beach, rental income is not incentive enough to give these homes investment value. The rentals will rarely cover the mortgage. But a¬† waterfront vacation home with a small mortgage, or no mortgage at all, can provide substantial income during difficult times, making it a valuable asset in an economy like we’re experiencing today.

If you are renting now, and you plan to keep renting your waterfront home in the future, it’s the perfect time to gain a following who will return year after year. Making your home as comfortable, clean and fun-filled as possible will insure a great income for years to come.

If you have a dock, make sure it’s in good shape, and offers any amenities that keep your guests comfortable and occupied. A bench for fishing, lighting for nighttime activities (solar lighting adds ambiance and can protect your dock when approached in the darkness), a diving board and ladder for swimming adds utility to what can sometimes be the center of activity. Make sure you have comfortable furniture for outdoor comfort.

You can leave a boat and water skiis for your guests, but that could add excessive liability issues. Make sure you have plenty of bunkbeds. This will add to the number of guests you can sleep, which in turn adds to the amount of rental income.

Buy durable furniture at an affordable price. Cover furniture that stains easily. Have plenty of board games, or perhaps even a table game or two for rainy days and fun-filled nights.

There are many reasons that most waterfront properties are holding their values even in the face of one of the largest drops in real estate values since the Great Depression. If you don’t have to sell, hold onto it, and if you need extra income, it will work for you. Many people are curbing back on their global excursions and turning to more local vacations. The vacation rental market is holding its value.

May 17, 2009

Time to Buy a Vacation Home?

Filed under: Vacation Home Market — Jim Marks @ 11:05 am

Okay. This has been an ongoing question for two years, and the verdict is still out. The economy is in severe flux, and most of us haven’t experienced these types of ups and downs combined with no clear indicators of the future. Right now, the market is rebounding or is at the top of a bear rally. Who knows? But, with nearly 2,000 auto dealerships closing and GM about to close down for the summer, that could bring the unemployment figures well beyond the expected 10% by year’s end. In turn, many more foreclosures could be in the pipeline.

On the other hand, the stimulus package could be just starting to kick in. People who have steady employment and are unlikely to be laid off may soon need a new car, or may decide it’s the right time to buy a home. So, take your best guess in this new poll!


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March 20, 2009

Buying a Vacation Home?

Filed under: Vacation Home Market — Tags: , , — Jim Marks @ 4:04 pm

It’s difficult to find just the right moment to buy during these turbulent economic times. There are certainly a lot of bargains out there, and many are in the most popular areas of the country. In fact, many vacation destinations in Florida, New Mexico, Arizona, the Gulf Coast, and much of the East Coast have seen drastic price drops, many in the 30% – 50% range. And, it seems as though the interest rates get lower every day.

But, this isn’t going to go on forever. Despite the seemingly neverending spiral of dire economic indicators, things are going to turn around. And, it also appears there’ll be a strong probability that inflation will be our next major problem.

Prices will be rising from multiple pressure points. The greatest one will be the devaluation of the dollar due to a white-hot printing press to cover government spending. Another attack will come from big oil as soon as the economy begins to show any sign of coming around. And a major attack is going to be launched by the working populace as they demand the return of a viable middle class that was beaten down for nearly three decades with false consumer price indexes, the near extinction of unions, and erosion of employee rights, protection, and benefits.

Buying before the inflation goes haywire can provide enormous value over the long run. Back in the late 70’s, when inflation was perhaps at it’s worst, was when I bought my first home for $26,000. 5 years later, it was worth $85,000 … nearly triple the amount. But, the price of cars, groceries, appliances¬†and insurance doubled over that same period. You would buy as soon as you needed something, because waiting would cost you more. It paid to buy immediately. I wonder if people will be able to take advantage in the same way this time around? If so, the time to start would be very soon.

March 8, 2009

Have Some Areas Already Hit Bottom?

Filed under: Economy,Vacation Home Market — Tags: , — Jim Marks @ 3:13 pm

It’s tough to say, but some of the most recent data in my neck of the woods suggest we have. Up here on the Maine/New Hampshire border, we’re in vacationland. There are more vacation homes in this area than primary homes. And, our market generally depends on how well the local metropolitan areas are doing (those within a 4 hour driving range are the most likely vacation home buyers).

The most recent data shows that of 14 markets in New England, the hardest hit area lost 8% value in the median sales of homes in 2008. But, what’s most interesting is that during the last quarter of 2008, 10 out of 14 metropolitan markets in New England saw appreciation in their markets. Nothing stunning; these gains were no higher than 1.4% for the quarter, and were generally a fraction of a percent. But here’s the kicker: the last quarter of 2008 was during the worst economic news imaginable. Prices of homes were going up after the September nosedive of the economy, where we’re still spiraling now.

As for the vacation home market up here, January was worse than ever. But February brought an abrupt change. And this week, we’ve had two properties with multiple offers that are very much in line with market values. One of these properties has been on the market for two years without an offer, then suddenly two in one weekend? And, this property is in the $700K range. Are people dumping their stocks entirely? Hmm… The other property was priced about 5% less than the only similar property that has sold in that development, and that sale was 19 months ago.

One thing that people need to remember is that real estate markets are nearly always evaluated by “median” sales. If the median home sales figure is $200,000 in a given area, that means that half of the homes sold were below this figure, and half were above. So, it really is a very poor indicator of home values in any given area. To demonstrate this, if buyers were focusing mostly on starter homes and the lowest end of the market, the median value would be very low. Likewise, if people were buying the million dollar homes and ignoring the rest, it would bring the value way up. In either case, it would be out of proportion.

At any rate, if 10 of the 14 major metro areas in New England saw appreciation in the last quarter of 2008, then people are starting to buy more expensive homes. Are you in a vacation home market? Check the metropolitan areas closest to your location.

February 19, 2009

Stimulus Plan + Homeowner Bailout = Improved Real Estate Market

Filed under: Vacation Home Market — Jim Marks @ 3:17 pm

Despite the complaints over both the stimulus plan and the bank bailout that followed the next day, this will probably make a huge difference over the next year. Think about it. Homeowners will soon be able to refinance homes that no longer have the equity required for a standard Freddie Mac loan. It’s amazing how much of a bite a 25% drop in home values can take out of your equity. And, in many cases, homeowners have taken out 2nd mortgages or home equity loans to pay healthcare bills, or put one of their children through college.

Just to be able to take advantage of these low interest rates can save hundreds of dollars a month for many homeowners. In turn, that can prevent a huge percentage of homeowners from reaching the point of foreclosure. With the slashing of jobs, and a depressed real estate market, it could easily have become such a downward spiral, that most people would either have lost their homes or have much less value than they’re paying for.

It certainly looks as though this one-two punch to the economy and the real estate market could have a major impact on stabilizing the housing market, and staving off the spiraling loss of jobs. It’ll still take some time to regain confidence about the economy, but it’s time for everyone to find even more ways to save money, and to look for opportunities to generate more income for themselves. That’s the way this economy will turn around… by making our individual economic situations more secure. My guess is we’re going to see a huge increase in part time or full time self-employment. After this coming year, most people are not going to want to leave their entire income up to the discretion of a company or corporation. It’s too risky to live that way anymore.

For a lot of vacation homeowners, it should still be a great time for vacation rentals if you generate income that way. As more people make their loans more affordable, and stabilize their economic situations, values will return.

January 25, 2009

Another Year of Stay-cations?

Last year, the cost of fuel caused many people to just stay home for vacation. It simply cost too much to travel, and that cost was added on to everything from groceries to hardware. That pretty much broke the bank for millions of people who suffered through stagnant pay, rapidly rising costs, and a loss of equity in their homes.

Now, we’re supposedly in a recession, but it could be a depression, or even some new breed of economic malady. And, everyone is cutting back seriously on their spending. This year, despite the dramatic rollback on fuel costs, we’re probably looking at another summer of “stay-cations”, as the vast majority of consumers remain tight-fisted with their hard-earned money. A lot of vacationers will be trading down from their normal travel, and driving to local destination areas. And many others will be staying–at home.

Those who already own a vacation home will most certainly be taking advantage of that. But it looks like the “stay-cation” may be here to stay for awhile. This year’s cause will be the economy. But, even when the economy turns around, you can expect the price of fuel to surge right back up again when demand increases.

That’s why it’s imperative to start seeking out alternative energy sources immediately. They’ve been here for years. In fact, the first automobiles were electric. (Here’s an amusing history of early electric cars.) Electric trains and buses preceded them. But combustion engines won out due to cheaper sources of fuel, and popularity. People associated the noise with power, and electric cars faded away.

It’s time we got over the notion that noise equals power and get back to refining electric vehicles. It has long been known that there’s enough wind in the midwest to run just about everything in this country, including cars. There’s enough solar energy in the deserts to do the same things. What’s missing is a massive grid to carry all the electricity safely, and efficiently. Sort of like the highway system that we made for automobiles, or the railroad network. Right now, our energy sources are mostly from imported sources. The quicker we gain our energy independence, the more likely we’ll be able to go back to our much needed vacations again.

January 11, 2009

Still No Clear Indications About the Real Estate Market

Filed under: Vacation Home Market — Jim Marks @ 10:23 am

Despite predictions about a recovery in the 2nd half of 2009, and housing affordability indexes showing that more people can afford to buy a home now than at any time during the recent boom, there’s also an enormous amount of anxiety as to where the economy will go next. With interest rates at 4.5 – 5 percent, if this is the bottom of the market, it would probably be one of the best times in the last century to buy a home. I wouldn’t expect anything like the recent boom in real estate, but certainly sales should return to normal levels.

On the other hand, who’s going to plunk down a big chunk of change on a down payment, when we’re facing one of the most widespread unemployment scenarios ever. There’s almost no sector unaffected. Everyone is either cutting back on staff or extremely cautious about hiring. Everyone is watching every nickel they spend, so a consumer driven recovery doesn’t seem all that likely. So, we’re at the doorstep. If you buy a home or vacation home now, it could either be the best move you ever made, or the most foolish risk you’ve ever taken. The economy is that unclear.

I’ve heard that between the $700 billion bailout, all the money that was pumped into Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, AIG and others, and the behind the scenes bailouts, they suddenly add up to more than $7 trillion. And, the government will not tell you who, how much, or when this money was handed out in most cases. With President Elect Obama’s stimulous package it’ll be closer to $8 trillion.

That is absolutely absurd, and if it’s true, we should demand it all back! Figure it out: If we have 200 million workers and small business owners in this country and we gave them an equal share of that $7 trillion, that would be $35,000 each, or $70,000 to most households. That would easily have put an end to the foreclosures and given time for those who couldn’t afford their home to downsize, and it would have sparked such a consumer spree, you can be guaranteed that the banks would have loosened up there lending more than enough. It would have prevented all the job losses, the worst holiday sales ever, and the endless pain placed on working people and small businesses. Maybe from now on if businesses want a bailout, the government should give us the money and let those companies earn it from us.

Instead, most of this money is being used to buy up smaller banks, etc., and creating even larger entities. Wasn’t that the cause of this fiasco to begin with? …companies that are just too big to let fail? And, now we’re in it even deeper. Looks to me like a vast raiding of the American economy and treasury by global and massive corporate powers before the new administration gets into power. Let’s demand this money back from all of these teary-eyed thieves and give it to the working people and small businesses. They’ll put it to much better use, and keep our economy on the right track.

December 27, 2008

Good Times or Bad Times?

Filed under: Vacation Home Market — Jim Marks @ 5:17 pm

From all the information we’ve been getting lately, you can’t really tell if the world is coming to an economic catastrophe, or on the verge of an incredible turnaround. While many top economists think there’s worse to come, others think the actions taken and recent changes will have a strong effect in turning the economy around by the 2nd half of 2009.

I’ve heard all this before and it seems for the most part, things have gotten worse and worse. But there are some strong steps being taken, and the price of oil has “tanked”. Just the price drop in oil is the equivalent of a $350 billion stimulus package according to an article, Why the economy might bounce back in 2009 by U.S. News & World Report. They also go on to mention that the mortgage rate reduction, that could bring 30 year rates down to 4.5 percent, could put another $200 billion dollars into homeowners pockets.

Add to that, a massive stimulus package planned by the Obama administration, and that could turn things around very quickly. I do like the idea of payroll tax holidays. One of the reasons we’re in this mess is because working people simply do not make enough money. The consumer price index that many wages are tied to has been rigged for more than 20 years: Fake U.S. inflation numbers masked crisis according to Jim Jubak. I could certainly see that scenario even in the eighties. I remember the price of houses, cars, meat and health care all doubling over the course of 3-4 years. Each of those years had an official CPI of under 4%. It just wasn’t possible.

And that’s the problem. The people who do the actual work don’t get enough pay to live on. And, the companies that pay the workers have no money to give them, because consumers aren’t buying. A payroll tax holiday puts money in the pockets of both workers and businesses, where it’s sorely needed. I believe that would kick start the economy until the long term job programs kick in. If people are still out of work in large numbers, this would stop the bleeding of money going out in the form of unemployment, with nothing coming back in. At least with government work projects, the country gets an infrastructure and impetus in the renewable energy technologies. Both of which will really help this country in the future.

Not sure, but I think I see light at the end of the tunnel.

November 16, 2008

Does Anyone Know What to do in a Buyer’s Market?

Filed under: Vacation Home Market — Jim Marks @ 10:29 am

Generally, this is the best time to buy real estate. That’s why they call it a “Buyers’ Market”! Real estate has gone down substantially over the last two years. In fact, a major correction (more substantial than many in the past) has already taken place throughout most of the country. Those markets that were hottest in 2005-2006 have dropped the most. A few markets such as in North Carolina, Texas, Washington state, and many local markets have actually gone up. The rest of the country has faced a correction in varying degrees, and will probably not experience that much of a further downturn in prices. There are plenty of deals out there.

One thing about a Buyers’ Market – buyers are fewer. Most aren’t sure whether prices will fall further or not. And, there are economic trends to consider. Can anyone tell what the immediate future of the economy is right now? While the real estate market is beginning to chug along again, my guess is that a lot of buyers are still standing on the sidelines, waiting to see how this economic crisis turns out. Those who are already financially sound, regardless of further downturns in the economy, are now snatching up all the bargains. A lot of “cash deals” are coming in, and the banks and mortgage companies are being bypassed altogether.

At the same time, the mortgage companies and banks have become much stricter in their guidelines, slower in the process, and, perhaps through cutbacks and layoffs, much less competent in their dealings. This may be a buyer’s market for “cash buyers only” during the first phase. Mortgage companies and banks are still reeling from their past bungling, and are now stumbling through the aftermath. In many cases, it’s almost like they forgot how to process a mortgage! If you’re planning on getting a mortgage for any property, make sure you have a competent real estate agent representing you as a buyer. And take their advice when they recommend a good lender.

November 8, 2008

Is now the time to buy a vacation home?

Filed under: Vacation Home Market — Tags: , , — Jim Marks @ 1:38 pm

Prices have dropped in many places to where they were prior to 2005. Demand is pent up for both first and second homes, and inventory is beginning to fall off. For many builders, material costs have gone up so much that they can’t make a profit in this market – existing homes on the market provide too much competition.

It remains to be seen as to how the foreclosure scenario will play out over the next several months. If the government and banks do nothing, I’d expect home prices and vacation homes to depreciate a bit further. If they begin renegotiating these loans in terms of interest rate and loan extensions, then we could¬†see a bounce off the bottom of the housing market that will begin a new round of modest appreciation in housing prices.

If you need to sell your vacation home, hold on for as long as you can. Rent it, cut more on your budget, or whatever is necessary to avoid selling at the bottom of the market. You’re close right now, and if you could hold on for a few years, it could make a huge difference, not only in the selling price, but in negotiating the sale,¬† the time involved in selling your property, and buyer ability to secure a loan – yes, banks are denying many buyers right now.¬† If you are selling now, make sure you get a very good¬†escrow check¬†with any offers, perhaps in the 10% range. This is the minimum most banks are accepting as a downpayment on a second home.

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