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New home sales: 'Really good news'

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- 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 Breifing.com.

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."
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Vacation Home Blog and News

February 25, 2009

New for Your Vacation Home or Vacation

Filed under: Vacation Comfort — Tags: , , — Jim Marks @ 4:10 pm

You’ve heard it a thousand times: “I like long walks on the beach”, picnics, hikes in the mountains, or walking through endless fields. That’s great when your a teenager or still in the “springy” part of your twenties, but what about when these years are somewhat of a memory. Here’s the solution: a backpack that converts into a lounge. Perfect. Especially when those “long” walks start to get shorter and shorter. Now you can go as far as you want, and kick back whenever you need a break.

It is getting close to spring, and in many parts of the country, you’re looking forward to having that morning coffee out on the deck or patio. The problem is, it’s a bit chilly to really enjoy yourself. Patio heaters are a great way to enjoy the outdoors… before it gets too hot and you need an awning! Get out there now, and enjoy your mornings and evenings. We even carry some commercial patio heaters for extra large patios.


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.


February 1, 2009

Stimulus Package Can Help the Real Estate Market With a 4% Mortgage

Filed under: Economy — Tags: , , , , — Jim Marks @ 3:34 pm

It looks like Barack Obama’s stimulus package will pass one way or another. I’m really surprised that republicans decided to treat this as a party loyalty, walk-in-lockstep, stooge parade, but I guess that’s their prerogative. Who cares if their Republican Gubernatorial counterparts disagree strongly with them because their silly budgets are falling apart, and without help their next crisis will be setting up refugee camps. It’s the partisan message that’s really important, right? I know they’re holding out for more tax cuts, and feel they have nothing to lose, but that’s a major waste of time. Tax cuts are not going to make huge differences at this point. If tax cuts were the answer we would never have gotten here in the first place. Taxes are lower now, and have been in the entire lead up to this crisis, than they’ve been at any time since the 1950’s. They didn’t prevent this economic calamity, and they’re not going to solve it. In fact, they’ll just create larger deficits through less revenue.

The biggest problem in this downturn is related to greed, and to draining workers and small businesses so that they can barely participate. Tax cuts for average workers, who buy and consume just about everything that makes huge corporations and banks wealthy, would amount to a few extra dollars a week–hardly enough to make the tiniest dent in the problems they’re facing right now. In fact, it would be barely noticable as they downgraded from Walmart to the Salvation Army; from MacDonald’s to the soup kitchen as full time jobs are replaced with part time employment, with few or no benefits. Imagine the position hospitals will be in when half the population has no health insurance and no money.

As for small businesses, unless they’re making huge profits, there’s no benefit for them either. They can’t get a refund or any extra capitol. They can forward their losses into the next 3 years, or average their losses, but only highly profitable businesses will be able to use tax cuts to any great advantage. You have to admit, there aren’t that many hugely profitable small businesses in this economy, begging for tax breaks. A credit or refund, yes. But that’s not going to happen.

Knock it off with the stupid tax cuts. They’re for the extremely wealthy so they can feather their nesteggs to make things a little more cushy while the rest of the country suffers even more. Most small businesses in this country have less than 5 employees. Can you really see these companies taking on new hires because they got a tax break they can’t use?

Now, there’s one thing I heard out of the Republican camp the other day that is absolutely worthwhile, if not vital to stimulate the economy. And that’s a bid to offer government backed mortages to homebuyers and homeowners at 4%. Mitch McConnell says these should go to anyone who qualifies. This would make a huge difference, particularly for homeowners who are now underwater. And, it would create many more opportunities for buyers of real estate. The alternative of letting home prices spiral downward without any relief for current homeowners will eventually swallow up any stimulus package.

At this point in the year, the job market is not going to improve until seasonal jobs are returned to the mix. Without those, which will begin to come back in another 2 months, there are still going to be major job losses. Make peoples’ homes more affordable with lower mortgage rates, and that will stop a lot of the hemorraging. Not only that, but it will make it more affordable for renters to own.

One of the largest economic engines in this country is the homebuilding and real estate market. Focus on that.

As for the bank bailouts, apparently, there are an enormous amount of banks that are actually insolvent, but aren’t making that clear (read: hiding) on their books. It’s also becoming obvious that the government bailout for these folks is like dumping an endless stream of money into a black hole. Take the hit and close these fugitives from bankruptcy now. Or, nationalize them and resolve the debts with full transparency. The longer we wait, the worse it’ll be. Everyone involved in the subprime loans should take a hit. If I understand correctly, some entities actually profit on foreclosures, or lose nothing and have no incentive to negotiate. Let’s put an end to that. Let’s make it illegal for anyone to profit or even break even on a foreclosure. It’s that type of underhanded business dealing that has devastated the real estate market. We shouldn’t be placing one of our most important economic engines in the hands of profiteering “masters of the universe”. Let’s fix it now, and get back to the business of enjoying vacation homes.


January 29, 2009

1st Day Out on the Snowshoes

Filed under: Snowshoeing — Jim Marks @ 3:21 pm

Yesterday we had our second storm in a couple weeks here in Maine, adding a foot or more with each snowfall. It’s deep enough for the snowshoes! I suppose a few inches would be deep enough, but it seems more fun when it’s actually useful–something you really wouldn’t want to go through with just a pair of boots.

SnowshoesYikes! What a workout. It’s been frigid up here lately so both of these storms put 2 to 2 1/2 feet of extremely light powder on the ground. I’ve never seen trail so hard to break. My snowshoes were sinking in 12-16 inches. And, occasionally, they were breaking through earlier snowfall, sinking down another 4 inches. Believe me, that can get downright awkward and tiresome very quickly. Of course, the way back was a breeze. And a good section of trail has been broken. I made a couple of offshoot trails, and now those are perfect for snowshoeing. Up here in Maine, it’s not too expensive to get a good sized lot. We’ve got 5 acres of mostly forest, so we can make some fairly lengthy trails.

I’ve been using one of those Bowflex Treadclimbers for years, and that made for good preparation. (I love these things because you get twice the workout as a treadmill, so you’re only on them half the time.) But, anyone who uses a bowflex treadclimber regularly knows you can get a real workout with them.

Anyway, I didn’t break more than a mile of trail, but I got quite a workout. There’s nothing like the wilderness to keep you in shape. The great thing about using snowshoes, though, is it’s not very difficult to find your way back. In fact, if you go far enough, you’re certainly not going to want to cut new trail all the way back, too! The quiet, the snow-covered spruce boughs, and just getting outside in the fresh air is priceless in January. And, that’s my workout for the day!


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.


January 4, 2009

After The Holidays

Filed under: Fishing & Canoeing — Jim Marks @ 4:19 pm

It seems right after the holidays, I’m ready for spring. That’s because I spend most of the winter indoors, working on web sites, writing, doing taxes, reorganizing all my files, and generally getting all the mundane things out of the way so I won’t have to do them in the warm weather… when I could be out fishing, hiking, canoeing, gardening, or looking for gems and minerals (yup, I’m a rockhound, and in this area of Maine, that’s as popular as just about any other outdoor activity).
I usually get out the old tackle box and straighten out all my lures, leaders, sinkers, spoons, spinners and gadgets. I’ve been doing that since I was ten years old. I change the line on my reel. That’s when I notice all the wear and tear to my rod and reel that occurred sometime last year. And inside the house, I can hear all the new noises my reel’s making. I used to go through the catalogs or even out to the sporting goods store and look around for equipment, and sales on fishing lures that sometimes come up long before spring. It’s almost as much fun as the fishing itself.

Then, I get around to dusting all the dirt out of the bottom of my canoe. If you’ve never had a canoe, you’re really missing out. I bought one when I was young, and then I bought the one I really wanted. After 25 years, I still have it. It’s an old Mansfield Canoe, made in Maine. We used to go down rivers in that thing standing up. It was that stable. It was perfect just about anywhere I went with it. And, it was definitely one of the best investments I’ve ever made for having fun. We’ve used that canoe for at least four or five hundred mornings and afternoons over the years. And we hope to get that much use over again, though it is more than 20 years old now. The new ones are made of more durable materials, and will hold up to more abuse.

Come the height of summer, I’ll forget all about these preparations that make the colder days of winter a lot more fun. But, I’ll be having even more fun then.

See! Wait a couple weeks, and here ya go:


50% off a bunch of fun stuff for fishing!


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 15, 2008

What’s Your Idea of a Vacation Home?

Filed under: Choosing a Vacation Home — Tags: , — Jim Marks @ 7:00 am

Most people think of a vacation home as something for the rich. Absolutely not true. In fact, most vacation home owners earn an average yearly household income, or just above. Sure, many people want that luxury seaside mansion in the Hamptons, or a luxury home on a groomed ski trail, but for many people, it’s a small cottage to fix up and get away on vacations and weekends… or just a parcel of land to camp on.

Some people like the idea of buying a large piece of wilderness, perhaps on a mountain, or by a stream. From there, they could build their own vacation home, furniture and all. Something the family builds and everyone has a hand in. You camp out for the first year or so, and gradually move into your vacation home, then expand it.

Another option is to buy a resort condo, perhaps with just one or two bedrooms. Many places have affordable condos (not timeshares), with onsite rental programs. When the market’s good, these are the first properties to appreciate, so if you want to move up, catch the beginning of a seller’s market. Condos usually have little maintenance, and often generate income to pay for condo fees, taxes, and whatever mortgage you might have. Typically, onsite rental programs split the rental fee with the owner.

You could also sell your current home, move to where you like to vacation, and find employment there. That way, you’re already living in the area you enjoy most, and vacations are spent outside your door.

What’s your idea of a vacation home, and how do you plan to accomplish your goal?


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