What is San Francisco Doing to Combat its Astronomical Housing Prices?

Sep 14, 15 What is San Francisco Doing to Combat its Astronomical Housing Prices?

Posted by in Featured, Home Living

With housing prices in San Francisco and across the Bay Area showing no signs of letting up on their precipitous rise, affordable-housing activists have tried nearly every avenue of protest in the book. They haven’t, however, tried taking legal action against high housing prices — until now. According to the Inquisitr, the housing activist group San Francisco Bay Area Renters Federation (SFBARF) recently launched an effort to file a lawsuit against the city of Lafayette, CA called Sue the Suburbs. In its mission statement, the group argues that the city’s move to build a luxury gated development of single-family homes instead of a moderately-priced apartment complex is only adding to the Bay Area’s housing crisis. The city’s decision to build 44 single-family homes, priced at about $1.2 million each, equates to far fewer spaces for new residents. Lafayette isn’t the only city contributing to the housing crisis. Over the last few years, several cities and counties in the area have built just half the needed number of housing units to accommodate the current economic and population boom taking place. As a result, the Bay Area — and San Francisco in particular — has the highest housing prices in the nation. In one recent poll, 41% of Americans reported that they would rather purchase a brand-new home rather than an existing one. In San Francisco, where the median home value for both new and existing homes is more than $1.225 million, it’s nearly impossible for members of the middle class to afford either option. In fact, 100% of the housing in San Francisco is now unaffordable for those on a teacher’s salary, the San Francisco Chronicle recently reported. SFBARF’s lawsuit filing comes just a week after activists held a rally against additional luxury developments in the city. Currently, the city of Lafayette is considering instating a ban on additional high-priced luxury constructions — though it’s unclear if this is a direct result of SFBARF’s pending lawsuit or...

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Mortgage Interest Rates Rise to Highest Level This Year

Aug 27, 15 Mortgage Interest Rates Rise to Highest Level This Year

Posted by in Home Living

Mortgage rates rose modestly in the week preceding Aug. 20, according to the Bankrate regular report, with the average rate on the benchmark 30-year fixed-rate mortgage reaching its highest point since October of 2014. Bankrate calculated the rate at 4.06%, a slightly more conservative figure than the 4.29% reported by Ellie Mae the day before. The rise is probably linked to anticipation of the Federal Reserve raising interest rates for the first time since the global financial crisis. The continuing recovery of the housing market is likely also a factor. Residential construction is growing at a faster rate than expected; July construction reached levels not seen since 2007, when housing prices first started to decline with the burst of the housing bubble. The National Association of Home Builders also reported in August that homebuilder confidence was at a nearly 10-year high. “The housing market is a leading light of the economy and it looks like that will be the case for a while,” commented Joel Naroff, president and chief economist at Naroff Economic Advisors, in a Bankrate news release. Disarticulated Markets Still, there are several signs that the recovering housing market and the mortgage market are not quite in sync. As Lorraine Woellert wrote for Forbes Aug 19, overall mortgage debt is falling even as home prices are rising. Part of that is that buyers are putting more money down on houses. That’s a good thing; the general rule is that monthly debt payments, including mortgage payments, shouldn’t exceed 36% of a household’s gross monthly income, and putting more money down is a way to achieve that goal. But that’s not the only factor at play. Changes that were intended to correct the “anything goes” mortgage market that caused the housing bubble to burst have now swung in the other direction and made it difficult for people who should be qualified homebuyers to get approved. “The upshot,” Woellert summarized, is that “mortgages are harder to get, even for the people who deserve...

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Are Solar Shingles Finally Catching On? No, No They’re Not

Jul 30, 15 Are Solar Shingles Finally Catching On? No, No They’re Not

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In sun-parched California, improved solar shingles are becoming a favorite roofing option for sustainable energy advocates, and this July, solar shingle maker Integrated Solar Technology finalized a partnership with Solar Roof Dynamics, which will install the panels on homes. But although solar shingles might be seen as a viable roofing option for California energy activists, that doesn’t mean they’re actually catching on with regular consumers. “By working together, we can provide roofing contractors an attractive and cost-effective roof-integrated solar solution for their customers,” said Deborah Lewis, IST’s business development manager. As more companies start producing solar shingles, and as Chinese competitors enter the market, the price of solar shingles has finally started to drop, with some advocates saying it will soon catch up to the more popular roof-mounted solar systems. But not everyone agrees, because although the price of the shingles might be dropping, there are few indications the market itself is expanding. Plus, costs unrelated to the price of the materials remains too high for many homeowners. When repairing or replacing a roof, the vast majority of American homeowners (72%) prefer roofing materials that require little maintenance or materials known for their durability (88%). Installing a new roof, of any type, isn’t cheap. A standard shingle roof can cost $20,000 to replace on an old home, if the maximum three layers of shingles have already been installed. A new solar system can cost twice that much; however, because such systems are installed on top of existing roofing materials, there are other problems. If the home’s roof fails or breaks, then the entire solar system might have to be taken down, then re-installed after roof repair work. That means for homeowners worried about price, solar shingles are rarely practical for old homes. Still, with the amount of investment in green energy, new technological solutions could eliminate such...

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Don’t Fall For This Shockingly Common Scam Targeting Baby Boomers

Jul 29, 15 Don’t Fall For This Shockingly Common Scam Targeting Baby Boomers

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Con men disguised as contractors have long targeted aging Americans for their home improvement scams, but new trends in home remodeling put elderly U.S. citizens at even more risk than ever before. U.S. homeowners are expected to spend more than $151 billion on remodeling projects this year, and scammers are eager to siphon off some of that money. Homeowners put off remodeling and renovation projects during the recession; however, home remodeling spending is now steadily growing. Plus, spending per project on top home renovations has finally started to increase as well. About 60% of homeowners said they planned to spend more on remodeling in 2015 than in previous years. In addition, as the baby boomer generation ages, “universal design” has become the new in-demand trend in home improvement spending. Universal design is the term for designing or remodeling homes for accessibility, such as open floor plans, wider doorways, roll-in showers, and greater wheelchair access. At the once-in-a-decade White House Conference on Aging held July 13, universal design was touted as a major priority for older Americans. In fact, it was one of the most publicized elements of the entire conference, with universal design expert Barbara Beskind, 91, asking Americans to design homes “with” baby boomers, not “for” baby boomers. That means older Americans are spending more than ever on custom homes and remodeling projects, making them more vulnerable to scammers than ever before. Home improvement scams are so widespread that television channel Spike even hosts a reality show called “Catch a Contractor,” starring comedian Adam Carolla. On the show, Carolla’s team tracks down contractors who have stolen money, performed shoddy work, or left projects uncompleted. Then, they ambush the perpetrators, exposing their alleged crimes and threatening them with legal action. In one of the show’s recent episodes, the production crew tracked down a pair of so-called contractors who stole more than $75,000 from a family in California. The name of the contractor’s phony company? Universal Design...

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Con Artists Pulling Home Improvement Fraud Arrested After Allegedly Taking $50,000 From Elderly Woman

Jul 15, 15 Con Artists Pulling Home Improvement Fraud Arrested After Allegedly Taking $50,000 From Elderly Woman

Posted by in Featured, Home Living

Homeowners love working on their houses, but they have to be careful. According to a Houzz survey from 2013, 84% of respondents planned to decorate or redecorate, 40% planned to remodel or build an addition, and 10% of participants were in the process of building a custom home. However, not all contractors are as trustworthy as they should be, as homeowners in Connecticut recently discovered. Police arrested two brothers who are accused of home improvement fraud, and of stealing from a woman who’d hired them to do work on her house. Wesley and David Zaino approached an elderly woman living alone about doing some work on her house, according to police. She paid them almost $50,000 between June 2014 and March 2015 to replace her roof, paint, put up curtains, refinish the floors, fix sidewalks, install electrical wiring, and make other upgrades. They did little of the work promised, and what they did do was of such poor quality that it couldn’t even pass an inspection. For example, they stripped half of the shingles from her roof, and covered it “haphazardly” with a tarp, which consequently caused water damage. An investigation also revealed that the two brothers weren’t licensed contractors, and didn’t have the proper permits required to work on the woman’s home. While working on the house, the Zaino brothers allegedly stole her jewelry, and sold it at area pawn shops. Wesley Zaino allegedly took $5,700 worth of jewelry, and David Zaino took about $1,000 worth, which police were able to recover a portion of. The brothers couldn’t account for where the money the woman paid them went. Authorities are continuing to investigate, as police believe the Zaino brothers may have others victims. Before having any contractor work done to a house, police warn homeowners to verify the contractors’ credentials first, and to head to the website of the state’s Department of Consumer Protection to verify the contractor’s licensing in order to avoid being...

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Canadians Have Begun Living in Homes Made Out of Old Shipping Containers

May 18, 15 Canadians Have Begun Living in Homes Made Out of Old Shipping Containers

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Only about 33% of consumers are willing to purchase a car online, despite the incredible growth of online shopping marketplaces and “shopping mall” smartphone apps in the past few years. But maybe more consumers would be willing to purchase homes made out of the shipping containers that were once intended for all those car sales? One Vancouver company decided it was worth a shot, and now Canadians are starting to see shipping container housing developments spring up across the city, thanks to Atira Property Management Inc. The housing program started as a pilot project, according to the Huffington Post, in the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver, where many families struggle to find reasonably-priced living spaces in safe communities. Huffington Post describes the situation as an “overheated real estate market,” and it’s been a problem in Vancouver — and many other major cities throughout the country — causing residential real estate prices to skyrocket. As CNBC recently noted, housing prices in Canada have increased by 60% since 2000, and the average Canadian home is overvalued by about 20%. For middle-class families, finding affordable housing isn’t easy, and this is where the shipping container idea plays a role. It’s most likely that the shipping container house trend began for this reason, and not because consumers simply liked the idea of living in old shipping containers. But regardless of how the housing design picked up speed, it might just be one of the best solutions to the housing problem in packed Canadian cities. Currently, Atira Property Management is planning on expanding the initial project in Vancouver to communities in British Columbia, Alberta, and Nunavut. Most of the targeted communities are aboriginal, where building new homes out of durable materials isn’t always possible, simply because transporting the material is too difficult and too expensive. The shipping containers, on the other hand, are fairly easy to transport (no surprise there) and are a great way for Canadian cities to recycle old containers. And according to residents of these new trending...

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