Travel Guide: Seattle for Design Lovers

By Anne Higuera CGR, CAPS, via Houzz

Seattle’s downtown has grown up in the past 50 years. Its growth spurt didn't really start until the iconic Space Needle, with an observation deck and restaurant, was erected for the 1962 World's Fair. Over the decades since, the skyline has filled with mammoth office buildings, residential towers and, in 2012, a giant Ferris wheel.

Now the city known for grunge music and cutting-edge technology is finding its architecture shaped by some of those same influences, especially the latter. Microsoft, Amazon and Starbucks are all making — or have made — their mark on the city, with everything from the Gates Foundation's philanthropic headquarters taking shape to Amazon's new office towers earmarked for the skyline. Read the rest of this story with pics on Houzz.

Improving Markets List Includes 258 Metros in May

WASHINGTON, May 6 - The number of U.S. housing markets showing sustained improvement in three key measures fell slightly to 258 in May from 273 in April, according to the NAHB/First American Improving Markets Index (IMI), released today. This total includes entrants from all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

The IMI identifies metropolitan areas that have shown improvement from their respective troughs in housing permits, employment and house prices for at least six consecutive months. Four new markets were added to the list and 19 were dropped from it this month. Newcomers included the geographically diverse metros of Dothan, Ala.; Elizabethtown, Ky.; Salisbury, Md.; and Salem, Ore.

New-Home Sales Rise 1.5 Percent in March

WASHINGTON, April 23 - Sales of newly built, single-family homes rose 1.5 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 417,000 units in March, according to newly released figures from HUD and the U.S. Census Bureau.

"This is the second-best sales number we've seen since early 2010, and a good sign of the continued, gradual headway that our industry is making toward recovery as more buyers jump off the fence in time to take advantage of today's low interest rates and prices," said Rick Judson, chairman of the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) and a home builder from Charlotte, N.C.

Housing Starts Rise on Strength in Multifamily in March

by NAHB, WASHINGTON, April 16 - Soaring production of multifamily apartments pushed nationwide housing starts beyond the million-unit mark for the first time since 2008 in March, according to newly released figures from HUD and the U.S. Census Bureau. The data show that total starts activity rose 7.0 percent for the month due entirely to a 31.1 percent increase on the multifamily side, while single-family production slipped 4.8 percent from a number that was revised strongly upward for the previous month.

"Today's report is a reflection of the solid demand that many areas are seeing for rental apartments as young people take that first step into the housing market, which is a very positive development," noted Rick Judson, chairman of the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) and a home builder from Charlotte, N.C. "The numbers are also in keeping with our latest surveys that show single-family builders are experiencing some difficulties in keeping up with rising demand for new homes due to increasing construction costs and other factors."

Number of Improving Housing Markets Holding Steady in April

WASHINGTON, April 4 - Following seven consecutive months of gains, the list of improving U.S. housing markets remained virtually unchanged in April, with 273 metros on the National Association of Home Builders/First American Improving Markets Index (IMI), released today. This total reflects a net reduction of one market since March and again includes entrants from all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

The IMI identifies metropolitan areas that have shown improvement from their respective troughs in housing permits, employment and house prices for at least six consecutive months. Five new markets were added to the list and six markets were dropped from it this month. Newcomers included the geographically diverse locations of Macon, Ga.; Portland, Maine; Rocky Mount, N.C.; Eugene, Ore.; and Jackson, Tenn.

Sales of New Houses in U.S. Cap Best Two Months Since 2008

By Lorraine Woellert, Bloomberg

Sales (NHSLTOT) of new U.S. houses in February capped the best back-to-back months in more than four years, spurred by near record-low borrowing costs and improving job prospects.

Purchases of newly built homes fell 4.6 percent to a 411,000 annualized pace, following a 431,000 rate in the prior month that was lower than previously estimated, the Commerce Department reported today in Washington. The median estimate of 78 economists surveyed by Bloomberg called for a decrease to 420,000. It was the best two-month showing since August and September 2008.

List of Improving Housing Markets Rises to 274 in March

WASHINGTON, March 21 - The list of improving U.S. housing markets expanded for a seventh consecutive month in March to include 274 metros on the National Association of Home Builders/First American Improving Markets Index (IMI), released today. This total amounts to a net gain of 15 markets since February and includes entrants from all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

The IMI identifies metropolitan areas that have shown improvement from their respective troughs in housing permits, employment and house prices for at least six consecutive months. Thirty-four new markets were added to the list and 19 were dropped from it this month. Notable additions include such diverse locations as Birmingham, Ala.; Santa Barbara, Calif.; Colorado Springs, Colo.; and Bloomington, Ind.

Why higher mortgage rates will help the housing market

By Nin-Hai Tseng, FORTUNE –

Mortgage interest rates have been rising on signs that the U.S. economy is improving. Last week, the 30-year fixed rate reached the highest level in more than six months, climbing to an average of 3.63%, compared with 3.52% the previous week and 3.92% a year earlier. The current rate is the highest it's been since the week of Aug. 23 when the 30-year fixed rate averaged 3.63%, according to Freddie Mac.

With economic prospects improving, rates could rise even higher this year. This increase could mathematically make buying a home more expensive, but it's unlikely to stall the housing recovery. To the contrary, higher rates could actually support it.

New-Home Sales Surge 15.6 Percent in January

NAHB release:

WASHINGTON, Feb. 26 - Sales of newly built, single-family homes rose 15.6 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 437,000 units in January, according to newly released figures from HUD and the U.S. Census Bureau.  Amidst this quickened sales pace - the fastest since July of 2008 - the months' supply of new homes for sale fell to its lowest level in nearly eight years.

"The surge in demand for new homes this January is an excellent sign that the housing recovery is gaining steam and helping put more people back to work," said Rick Judson, chairman of the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) and a home builder from Charlotte, N.C. "While we can't expect to see double-digit sales growth every month, consumers are definitely coming off the fence as prices start to rise, and builders in some cases are having a tough time keeping up. Challenges related to credit availability, poor appraisals, dwindling lot supplies, spot shortages of skilled labor and rising materials costs are all weighing on the recovery process."

For Many, 2013 Will Be the Year to Finally Buy a Home

By Andrea Coombes, Wall Street Journal

Bidding wars. Buyers paying cash. Homes selling for more than asking price.

Are we entering another housing bubble? No. But prospective buyers in many markets may be shocked at the competitive nature of the home-buying process these days.

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