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Christoph Gielen, from the book “Ciphers,” courtesy Jovis Verlag Berlin 2013, via

“I think the death of sprawl was probably pronounced too soon,” said Taylor Anderson, an engineer in Atlanta, where at one point the 2010 census was expected to show that the metropolitan area had expanded into Alabama.

If there is any town that could support Anderson’s claim it would be the small city of Otsego, just thirty miles from downtown Minneapolis.

Defined by its proximity to two highways, its two wastewater treatment plants, one grocery store, and low crime rate, Otsego is the definition of suburbia. And while trends have indicated an increase the desire for city living––smaller spaces with high walkability scores and mass transit––as soon as the housing market showed signs of resuscitation, building in Otsego immediately followed.

This reemergence of urban sprawl is likely due to the fact that single-family homes still define the American dream and prospective home buyers overwhelmingly prefer them; However, the price of sprawl has become undeniable. For moderate-income families transportation costs have ballooned to a quarter of their income, cities have discovered that low-density developments fail to pay for their own infrastructure, and new studies have indicated that sprawl can even prevent access to higher paying jobs.

In 2011, the National Association of Home Builders projected the ideal home size to shrink. But the median size US home has continued to rise, reaching a record high in 2012. Still, unlike Anderson, others believe that our country is moving in the right direction. In fact, even before the recession, trends indicated a decrease in driver’s licenses and commute times, and found that the rate of farmland lost during the boom had decreased by almost a third.

According to Jennifer Dempsey, director of the Farmland Information Center, sprawl had reached its limit at the height of the boom. “We were pleasantly surprised,” she said.

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widemodern_singlefam_130724620x413Though the housing recovery appears to remain strong as home sales hit an annual rate of 470,000––the highest number since May 2008––housing numbers aren’t on a uniformly upward trajectory. June data indicates that housing starts slowed by nearly 10% from May, due partly to higher mortgage rates.

While at a record low at the end of 2012, investor fears that the Federal Reserve will taper its quantitative easing stimulus program has caused mortgage rates to rise dramatically. The average rate on a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage is now nearly 4.4%, according to Freddie Mac’s latest Primary Mortgage Market Survey.

New home sales may be booming now compared to where they were mid-recession, but rates remain far below where it was before the crash and there is plenty of room for growth.

This article can be found in its original form at USNews


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According to the National Association of Realtors, single women are buying homes at roughly twice the rate as single men. While the number of single people buying homes has dipped in the last few years, women have been outpacing men in this area since the late 1990s––a trend likely fueled by demographic changes.

Studies have shown that women are the main breadwinners in a record 40% of households with children, two-thirds of which are single women. This number is nearly 4 times the level in 1960.

“It really is a market that wasn’t there a couple of decades ago,” said Hale Walker, mortgage lender and founder of Michigan Mutual.

In Walker’s experience, single women tend to be more proactive in planning for their financial future and view buying a home as an investment to expand their portfolio. “They’re coming in with a good handle on what they’re trying to accomplish,” he said.

This article can be found in its original form at NYTimes

In housing markets where distressed properties and lingering foreclosures are more common, all-cash deals are growing increasingly prevalent. Metropolitan areas like Atlanta––which boasts one of the highest foreclosure rates––have become attractive to private equity firms and investors looking to make a purchase before home prices begin to rise.

“The U.S. housing market is slowly but surely moving toward a more normalized and sustainable pattern after a flurry of institutional and cash buyers flocked to residential real estate last year, pushing up prices and picking clean the best inventory available in many areas,” said Daren Blomquist, vice president at RealtyTrac. “To compete in a market like New York, cash is king.”

According to Realty Trac, the top 10 cities where cash rules are:

all cash deals screenshot

This article can be found in its original form on CNNMoney.