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The Economist: Atlanta among least expensive cities to live

A new report by The Economist that ranks the world’s most expensive cities in the world finds that Atlanta is among the least expensive.

The Worldwide Cost of Living survey is conducted twice each year by the publication’s “Economist Intelligence Unit.” The survey compares more than 400 prices on 160 products and services that include: food, clothing, household supplies, personal care items, home rents, transport, utility bills, private schools, domestic help and recreational cost.

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10 Reasons Why To List During the Holidays

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For some the holidays will be almost chaotic with meals to be made and shopping to be done all while looking for a deal. For others it is a time to finish 2014 strong and begin anew in 2015. In real estate, we must focus on the later group, those looking to make their last big investment of the year. The holidays make it a perfect time for the calm and qualified buyers to preview homes, avoid the less serious buyers, and benefit on year-end tax incentives. Listing your home this holiday season may just bring you the buyer you’ve been waiting and hoping for.

  1. Showings are fewer and less intrusive, yet qualified buyers are more motivated.
  2. December and early January buyers are particularly serious and very likely facing some sort of deadline.
  3. Many buyers have vacation around the holidays allowing more time to look.
  4. Buying before the end of the year is beneficial for financial and tax reasons.
  5. January is the biggest transfer month of the year; a transferee will use the holidays to house hunt.
  6. By selling now, you may have an opportunity to be a non-contingent buyer during the spring when more houses come on the market.
  7. Buyers are more emotional during the holidays.
  8. Buyers have fewer choices, so you have less competition.
  9. Less wait time for inspectors and appraisers.
  10.  All the part-time REALTORS have taken the month off!

Vanguard’s Economic Week in Review

Economic Week in Review: Navigating through choppy waters

JULY 18, 2014

The financial markets had many factors to absorb this week, including Fed Chairwoman Janet Yellen’s testimony to the Senate Banking Committee, clashes in the Middle East, and the downing of a Malaysian airliner in Ukraine. U.S. economic data were mixed—the Fed’s Beige Book indicated modest growth throughout the country while housing starts dropped more than 9% in June.

For the week ended July 18, 2014, the S&P 500 Index was up 0.5% to 1,978 (for a year-to-date total return—including price change plus dividends—of about 8%). The yield on the 10-year U.S. Treasury note was down 3 basis points for the week to 2.50%, for a year-to-date decrease of 54 basis points.

Housing starts sink

Construction of new homes dropped 9.3% in June, the weakest showing since September 2013. Housing sectors in the South were the hardest hit, as a record 30% decline was attributed to unusually heavy rain that threw a wet blanket on permits and construction. However, there were a few bright spots. Permits for single-family homes were up for the last two months and overall housing starts still were up 7.5% from a year ago.

Analysts are said to be looking for July’s results to determine if June’s showing is a trend or an aberration. The results also will be closely watched by Federal Reserve officials, who look to the housing market as an indicator of economic growth when considering monetary policy. Continue reading

VANGUARD: Fall finale set for Fed’s bond-buying !

VANGUARD’S Economic Week in Review: Fall finale set for Fed’s bond-buying program

JULY 11, 2014

Federal Reserve officials this week indicated that they will most likely end their bond-buying program by October, provided the U.S. economy continues to improve as anticipated. While the Fed has been winding down its economic stimulus program for several months, newly released minutes from the central bankers’ June meeting mark the first time an end date has been set.

Minutes show Fed officials concerned about low market volatility

The Fed has reduced its bond-buying to $35 billion per month, which is down from its high of $85 billion per month. The bank outlined a plan to reduce its bond-buying in increments around its next three policy meetings, likely ending at its October meeting with a $15 billion reduction, depending on economic conditions.

As for short-term interest rates, which have been near zero since late 2008, Fed officials said any future increases would also depend on evolving economic conditions. The minutes also outlined new tools for implementing monetary policy, namely the ability to pay interest on excess reserves and overnight reverse repurchase agreements. As the impact of these tools becomes clearer, they will likely be used to influence the federal funds rate once the policy rate is lifted.

“Although the Fed may be signaling an October end to tapering,” said Vanguard economic analyst Ravi Tolani, “Fed officials have indicated that the fed funds rate will remain near zero for a considerable time after asset purchases end, especially if inflation remains below the 2% target. That said, the minutes indicated that should economic conditions evolve as expected, the Fed may be inclined to raise the policy rate sooner than previously expected.” Continue reading

Vanguard says that Home Sales weakness may be temporary

While recently released home-sales data have been below expectations, economists are hopeful it’s a pause rather than anything permanent. The housing market’s recovery has been crucial to the economy’s improvement since the recession. Although traction has been lost, the overall trend is still promising. Looking beyond real estate, there were upbeat reports on durable goods and The Conference Board’s index of leading indicators.

3 Reasons You Should Sell This Spring

Many sellers are still hesitant about putting their house up for sale. Where are prices headed? Where are interest rates headed? These are all valid questions. However, there are several reasons to sell your home sooner rather than later. Here are three of those reasons. Information provided by http://www.keepingcurrentmatters.com/

1. Demand is about to skyrocket

Most people realize that the housing market is hottest from April through June. The most serious buyers are well aware of this and, for that reason, come out in early spring in order to beat the heavy competition. We also have a pent-up demand as many buyers pushed off their home search this winter because of extreme weather. Sellers in markets where seasonal weather is never an issue must realize that buyers relocating to their region will increase dramatically this spring as these purchasers finally decide to escape the freezing temperatures of the winters in the north.

These buyers are ready, willing and able to buy…and are in the market right now!

2. There Is Less Competition – For Now

Housing supply always grows from the spring through the early summer. Also, there has been a growing desire for many homeowners to move as they were unable to sell over the last few years because of a negative equity situation. Homeowners have seen a return to positive equity as prices increased over the last eighteen months. Many of these homes will be coming to the market in the near future.

The choices buyers have will continue to increase over the next few months. Don’t wait until all the other potential sellers in your market put their homes up for sale.

3. There Will Never Be a Better Time to Move-Up

If you are moving up to a larger, more expensive home, consider doing it now. Prices are projected to appreciate by approximately 4% this year and 8% by the end of 2015. If you are moving to a higher priced home, it will wind-up costing you more in raw dollars (both in down payment and mortgage payment) if you wait. You can also lock-in your 30 year housing expense with an interest rate at about 4.5% right now. Freddie Mac projects rates to be 5.1% by this time next year and 5.7% by the fourth quarter of 2015.

Moving up to a new home will be less expensive this spring than later this year or next year.

If you are a real estate professional and want great information on where prices and interest rates are headed over the next 18 months, we cover both in the March edition of Keeping Current Matters. If you are already one of our 6,000+ members, login in to get the educational resources you need to intelligently discuss the future of values and interest rates with your clients.

Obamacare projected to kill at least 146K jobs, raise rates

Quoted from the Atlanta Business Chronicle:
Apr 3, 2014, 6:51am EDT Updated: Apr 3, 2014, 9:37am EDT

Home Depot’s Marcus: Obamacare projected to kill at least 146K jobs, raise rates

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Bernie Marcus

Carla Caldwell, Morning Edition Editor

The Home Depot co-founder Bernie Marcus says many of the Affordable Care Act’s most damaging aspects are still to come and are projected to kill at least 146,000 jobs and force millions of Americans who kept their health insurance to pay much higher premiums.

In an editorial published this week in The Wall Street Journal, Marcus says, “President Obama’s promise that Americans could keep their health insurance if they liked it was the most infamous of the Affordable Care Act’s sketchy sales pitches. But many of the law’s most damaging aspects are less known, buried in thousands of pages of regulations.”

Says Marcus, “Consider the ‘fee’ – really a hidden sales tax – that all health-insurance companies have been forced to pay since the first of this year on premiums for policies sold to individuals and small and medium-size businesses.”

Marcus adds that the “health-insurance tax – known as HIT in business circles” is expected to generate revenues of about $8 billion this year and as much as $14.3 billion by 2018, according to the legislation.

He said the Congressional Budget Office and the Joint Committee on Taxation predict that insurance companies will pass the cost on to customers. “In other words,” says Marcus, “millions of Americans lucky enough to keep their current health insurance under ObamaCare will be paying much higher premiums because of this tax, with the added cost rippling through the economy and stifling job creation.”

Marcus writes, “The National Federation of Independent Businesses projects the health-insurance tax will add an additional $475 per year for the average individually purchased family policy – nearly $5,000 over the course of a decade. Small businesses will take an even bigger hit, with the cost of an employer-provided family policy rising a projected $6,800 in the next decade.”

Home Depot’s Bernie Marcus: America to get very hurt by Obamacare

Home Depot’s Bernie Marcus: America to get very hurt by Obamacare

Bernie Marcus

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Bernie Marcus

 Jan 9, 2014, 6:38am EST UPDATED: Jan 9, 2014, 10:55am EST

Home Depot’s Bernie Marcus: America to get very hurt by Obamacare

Carla Caldwell, Morning Edition Editor

The Home Depot co-founder Bernie Marcussays America hasn’t seen anything yet when it comes to the problems and additional costs Obamacare is going to deliver to middle-class America.

In an interview Wednesday with Fox News’Neil Cavuto that included questions about the Affordable Care Act, Marcus said, “Well, Neil, it’s just the beginning. Now you have to remember that the mandate, they put off the big companies until 2015, supposed to come in 2014 with everybody else. So you haven’t really seen it hit. And I speak to a lot of business owners and small businesses especially, people who have 100, 200, 300, 400 people working for them.”

Marcus said business people tell him they are studying Obamacare and can’t say if they are going to stop carrying insurance on employees, or if they are going to put more people into part-time jobs.

Marcus added, “Neil, you haven’t seen anything yet. And what you are going to see in January of 2015, right after the elections are over, boy, the Democrats look beautiful on this one. It is politics as usual. They have put off this thing because America is going to be hit so hard.

“All of middle-class America is going to get very, very hurt, very, very hurt by this. Because that is where it is going to come out. So if you are somebody working for a living, and you have been doing this for a number of years and your employer has been covering you and paying the premium for you, you are going to end up in two ways – No. 1 you are going to end up with very little insurance and you are going to end up with very, very high co-pays, and you are going to end up with just a mess on your hands.”

Glad tidings cheer markets

The last full week of 2013 was marked by an upbeat tone as the latest economic data exceeded expectations and major U.S. stock market indexes hit all-time highs. The advance for stocks came as investors digested big news from the previous week, which had lifted some uncertainty regarding fiscal and monetary policy. The Federal Reserve announced on December 18 that it will begin trimming its bond buying in January while keeping short-term interest rates low for longer than previously indicated. Congress also passed a budget deal that sets federal government spending levels into 2015.