• China's wealth finds home in Washington state

    Updated: Fri, Dec 19, 2014

    MEDINA, Wash. (AP) — Savvy Seattle-area real estate agents have gained an advantage by paying attention to the growing connections between China and Washington state. "I'm so glad my mother made me study Chinese," laughed property broker Janie Lee, after showing a client from Beijing a $4 million home in the suburb of Medina. "I've been using it a lot." This year, Chinese visitors are on pace to top the list of international travelers to the Evergreen State. More than half of the 7,300 international students at the University of Washington are from the People's Republic. And a recent top-grossing Chinese romantic comedy featured a Beijing woman who finds love in Seattle.

  • US average rate on 30-year home loan 3.80 percent

    Updated: Thu, Dec 18, 2014

    Average U.S. long-term mortgage rates fell this week, with the benchmark 30-year loan rate reaching a new low for the year.

  • Average US 30-year loan rate falls to 3.80 percent

    Updated: Thu, Dec 18, 2014

    WASHINGTON (AP) — Average U.S. long-term mortgage rates fell this week, with the benchmark 30-year loan rate reaching a new low for the year. The rates' historically low levels could be a boon to potential homebuyers. Mortgage company Freddie Mac says the nationwide average for a 30-year mortgage dropped to 3.80 percent this week from 3.93 percent last week. It is now at its lowest level since May 2013. At the beginning of the year, the 30-year rate stood at 4.53 percent. The average for a 15-year mortgage, a popular choice for people who are refinancing, declined to 3.09 percent from 3.20 percent last week. Mortgage rates often follow the yield on the 10-year Treasury note, which also has fallen to its lowest l

  • Redevelopment company agrees to buy ex-GM sites

    Updated: Thu, Dec 18, 2014

    PONTIAC, Mich. (AP) — Former General Motors facilities in Oakland County are being sold to a company that plans to renovate them for manufacturing and office use. The Revitalizing Auto Communities Environmental Response Trust announced the agreement Wednesday with Industrial Realty Group. It's buying the Pontiac Centerpoint Campus West and the adjacent Pontiac Centerpoint Campus Central properties. The RACER Trust says other companies have expressed interest in new development on the properties, which encompass more than 1.7 million square feet of building space and more than 150 acres. Industrial Realty Group also bought a former GM assembly plant in Moraine, Ohio, and serves as the primary lessee of a former plant i

  • Michigan divides up $75 million in blight funding

    Updated: Tue, Dec 16, 2014

    DETROIT (AP) — Michigan has divided more than $75 million in federal funding to fight blight among 12 cities, with Detroit getting about two-thirds of the money, as part of efforts to deal with vacant and dilapidated buildings across the state, officials announced Tuesday. Detroit is getting $50 million from the U.S. Department of Treasury's "Hardest Hit" fund program, including $2.6 million in reserves from an earlier round of funding. Funding includes $6 million for Lansing, $5.5 million for Jackson, $5 million for Highland Park, $2.25 million for Inkster and $2.19 million for Ecorse.

  • California home prices cool their rise in November

    Updated: Tue, Dec 16, 2014

    IRVINE, Calif. (AP) — California home prices cooled in November as lack of affordability and low inventories kept potential buyers on the sidelines, a research firm said Tuesday. The median sales price for new and existing houses and condominiums was $381,000, barely changed from $382,000 in October and up 5.8 percent from $360,000 a year earlier, CoreLogic DataQuick said. It was the lowest annual percentage increase since March 2012. Sales tumbled to an estimated 29,459 homes, down 20 percent from 36,830 sales in October and down 11.9 percent from 33,429 a year earlier. It was the smallest November sales tally in seven years. The San Francisco Bay Area's median sales price was $601,000, unchanged from October but up

  • Mortgage deal monitor: Ocwen review may be flawed

    Updated: Tue, Dec 16, 2014

    WASHINGTON (AP) — The monitor overseeing a national mortgage settlement said Tuesday that Ocwen Financial Corp., one of the biggest U.S. servicers of home loans, has produced unreliable information about its business practices. Joseph Smith, who is monitoring banks' and mortgage servicers' compliance with the $25 billion settlement over foreclosure abuses, said Tuesday he has hired an independent accounting firm to re-evaluate Ocwen's progress in the first half of the year. Smith's investigation began in May after an Ocwen employee alleged there were "serious deficiencies" in the company's internal review. The employee's complaint raised questions about the review's independence from Ocwen management, Smith said in a report.

  • US home construction drops 1.6 percent in November

    Updated: Tue, Dec 16, 2014

    WASHINGTON (AP) — Construction of new homes fell slightly in November, reflecting weakness in construction of single-family homes. Builders started construction at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.03 million homes and apartments last month, the Commerce Department reported Tuesday. That was a decline of 1.6 percent from October when construction activity had posted a 1.7 percent gain. The weakness last month came from a 5.4 percent fall in construction of single-family homes, which offset a 6.7 percent rise in the more volatile apartment sector. Applications for building permits were also down in November, falling 5.2 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.04 million.

  • Memories of financial crisis fading as risks rise

    Updated: Mon, Dec 15, 2014

    WASHINGTON (AP) — Six years after the collapse of Lehman Brothers, the lessons of the financial crisis may already be fading from collective memory. Just last week: — Congress acted to loosen the regulation of the high-risk investments that ignited the 2008 crisis. — Housing regulators cut minimum down payments on home loans. — The Institute of International Finance declared it "worrisome" that global indebtedness, as a share of world economic output, has reached record levels. All this comes as subprime auto loans for financially stretched buyers are surging.

  • US homebuilder sentiment slips in December

    Updated: Mon, Dec 15, 2014

    U.S. homebuilders are feeling slightly less confident in their sales prospects heading into next year, even as their overall sales outlook remains favorable. The National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo builder sentiment index released Monday slipped this month to 57, down one point from 58 in November. Readings above 50 indicate more builders view sales conditions as good, rather than poor. Builders' view of current sales conditions and their outlook for sales over the next six months also declined slightly. A measure of traffic by prospective buyers held steady. The index also found sentiment had improved in the West and Northeast, but took a step back in the Midwest and South, which accounts for half o

  • Florida continues to lead the nation in foreclosures

    Updated: Mon, Dec 15, 2014

    ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — Even though foreclosure activity is down substantially for the year in the Sunshine State, Florida still leads the nation in foreclosures. New figures released last week by the research firm RealtyTrac show that Florida once again had the nation's highest foreclosure rate in November. Florida has been at the top of the list for 13 of the past 14 consecutive months. One out of 462 housing units had a foreclosure filing in Florida in November. But Florida's foreclosure rate is trending in the right direction: downward. In November, Florida had a 15 percent annual decrease in foreclosure activity and a 4 percent monthly drop.

  • Iowa court declines to expand homebuyers' remedy

    Updated: Fri, Dec 12, 2014

    IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) — The Iowa Supreme Court declined Friday to give banks and real estate developers the same legal remedy that protects homebuyers from defective construction. In a pair of decisions, the court refused to expand Iowa's implied warranty of workmanlike construction, which allows buyers and renters to sue builders for major housing defects. Courts in Iowa and across the country created the doctrine to provide a remedy for consumers living in poorly built homes that can require expensive repairs and endanger their health. The doctrine says buyers can sue for damages when homes are not constructed in a "good and workman like manner" and they had no reasonable way of discovering the defects.

  • US average rate on 30-year home loan 3.93 percent

    Updated: Thu, Dec 11, 2014

    Average U.S. long-term mortgage rates edged higher this week after four weeks of declines.

  • Average US 30-year loan rate rises to 3.93 percent

    Updated: Thu, Dec 11, 2014

    WASHINGTON (AP) — Average U.S. long-term mortgage rates edged higher this week after four weeks of declines, but they remained at historically low levels that could entice potential homebuyers. Mortgage company Freddie Mac said Thursday that the nationwide average for a 30-year mortgage rose to 3.93 percent this week from 3.89 percent last week. It is now at its lowest level since June 2013. Rates are about a half-point lower than at the beginning of the year, when the benchmark 30-year rate stood at 4.53 percent. The average for a 15-year mortgage, a popular choice for people who are refinancing, increased to 3.20 percent this week from 3.10 percent last week.

  • Lifespan health system elects new board chairman

    Updated: Wed, Dec 10, 2014

    PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — The board of directors of Rhode Island's largest health system has named a new chairman. Lifespan announced Wednesday that Lawrence Aubin Sr. was elected to head the board at its annual meeting. Aubin first joined the Rhode Island Hospital board of trustees in 1994, becoming vice chairman in 2005 and chairman in 2007. He became vice chairman of the Lifespan board in 2011. For nearly 20 years he has chaired or co-chaired the Hasbro Children's Hospital charity golf tournament, which has raised more than $5 million. He is also president and CEO of the Aubin Corp., a real estate firm in Seekonk, Massachusetts. Aubin takes over from Scott Biren Laurans, who served a three-year term as chairman.

  • Why areas with good jobs have hard-to-afford homes

    Updated: Tue, Dec 9, 2014

    WASHINGTON (AP) — It's the new career trade-off: Around the country, areas with the strongest job markets increasingly have some of the costliest homes. And areas with the most affordable homes lack a solid base of middle class jobs that attract workers. College graduates and younger families have been clustering in coastal cities such as New York, San Francisco and Seattle, where incomes are generally ample and solid middle-class jobs plentiful. Yet studies and government data show that homes in these areas have become prohibitively expensive. The result is that the dream of home ownership for many is proving frustrating, being deferred or abandoned, even for people with comfortable incomes.

  • Why areas with good jobs have hard-to-afford homes

    Updated: Tue, Dec 9, 2014

    WASHINGTON (AP) — It's the new career trade-off: Around the country, areas with the strongest job markets increasingly have some of the costliest homes. And areas with the most affordable homes lack a solid base of middle class jobs that attract workers. College graduates and younger families have been clustering in coastal cities such as New York, San Francisco and Seattle, where incomes are generally ample and solid middle-class jobs plentiful. Yet studies and government data show that homes in these areas have become prohibitively expensive — driven up in part by demand from the very residents who find homes there too costly.

  • More Americans to buy homes with 3 percent down

    Updated: Mon, Dec 8, 2014

    WASHINGTON (AP) — Some Americans will soon be able to buy a home with a down payment as low as 3 percent, compared with the current minimum of 5 percent, the mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac say. The new lending guidelines announced by the companies Monday are designed to help more low-income and first-time buyers afford homes. Millions of Americans lost their savings or no longer had the income needed to set aside money for a home in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis and the Great Recession. That has held down the sales of houses and condominiums and slowed the economic recovery. The guidelines are designed to prevent the kind of reckless lending that fueled a housing bubble and eventually triggered the

  • US consumer debt rises $13.2 billion in October

    Updated: Fri, Dec 5, 2014

    WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. consumers increased their borrowing in October but at a slightly slower pace than in the previous month as credit card use slowed. Overall borrowing rose $13.2 billion following a $15.4 billion gain in September, the Federal Reserve reported Friday. The gains have pushed consumer debt excluding real estate loans to a record level of $3.28 trillion. The category that includes credit card debt edged up by $922 million after a rise of $1.4 billion in September. The category that covers auto loans and student loans jumped by $12.3 billion after a $14 billion increase in September.

  • Troubled US homeowners get more government relief

    Updated: Thu, Dec 4, 2014

    WASHINGTON (AP) — Homeowners whose mortgages were modified to stave off foreclosure could next year receive an additional $5,000 reduction in their loans from the government, the Treasury and Housing and Urban Development departments said Thursday. The payments would impact roughly 1 million borrowers who received reduced mortgage rates through the Home Affordable Modification Program during the Great Recession. The discounted 2 percent mortgage rates are scheduled to rise by a percentage point for many of these borrowers entering the sixth year of the program. That would increase monthly payments for those who might still be struggling to find work or additional income.