The Princeville real estate market

Kaua'i - Princeville: St. Regis Princeville Pool
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The Princeville real estate market, found on the Garden Island of Kauai, benefitted from the overall strength of the Kauai housing market, which saw a sharp increase in the number of single-family homes. Although Princeville in particular saw extremely strong growth in the month of November, the median sales price fell sharply over the same period. According to the Honolulu Star Advertiser, all three of the main neighbor island housing markets are poised to finish the year with a mixture of lower prices and higher sales volume. The town of Hanalei, which is home to the Princeville Resort, saw a total of eleven sales in November of 2010 compared to only two in November of 2009. On the Garden Island as a whole, buyers purchased forty single-family homes, a sharp increase of seventy-four percent from twenty-three a year earlier. The median sales price decreased, although not as sharply as sales volume increased. The average figure was $452,500, a nineteen percent drop from the $558,000 reported in November of 2009. However, given the small total number of homes sold, the median may not be as accurate as in a larger market, with just a few home or homes potentially skewing the figures.
Condominiums, on the other hand, saw a more modest increase in the number of sales, but saw positive growth in the average sales price. Whereas seventeen condos were sold in November 2010, sixteen were sold in November of 2009, marking a modest six percent increase year-over-year. Over the same time period, the median price increased by thirty percent, moving from $300,000 to $390,000 between November 2009 and November 2010. Over the entire January-November period, there were three hundred and sixteen single-family homes sold on Kauai relative to two hundred and twenty-four a year ago, while there were two hundred and seventeen condominiums sold compared to one hundred and forty five a year ago. Over the same eleven-month period, the median price for single family homes rose from $453,000 to $475,000, while the average price for condominiums dropped from $392,500 to $345,750.

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The Costa Mesa real estate market

The Segerstrom Concert Hall of the Orange Coun...
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The Costa Mesa real estate market, found in the midst of the larger Orange County, California housing market, saw a decrease in the median sales price along with a relatively tepid pace of home sales. According to figures compiled by the Orange County Business Journal, the month of November saw the average price of a pre-existing Orange County home break the half million dollar mark. The California Association of Realtors found that the median figure was $502,170, marking an increase of slightly less than three percent compared to the month of October, and an increase of less than one percent compared to the same time last year. Although this number is just less than twenty percent above the lowest point of the market in January 2009, it is approximately one-third less than the numbers seen when the market was at its strongest point in April 2007. A report by Canada’s MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates which took condominiums as well as single family homes into consideration found that the median price was closer to $435,000, marking a marginal year-over-year increase and a slight decrease from October 2010.

Relative to the rest of California, Costa Mesa homes for sale posted much stronger figures along with the Orange County. According to a report from the Orange County Register, the median selling price for the entirety of California was $296,820, a decrease of two and a half percent from November 2009 levels. For the whole Golden State, sales activity was off by almost nine percent, meaning that there significantly fewer homes sold compared to the same time next year. The number of sales in Orange County decreased by about four percent relative to last month, but the figure was a fall of more than fourteen percent compared to November of 2010. This general weakness may be a result of the expiration of the federal housing tax credit. Basically, the distribution of stimulus money in order to encourage higher homes sales may have sapped sellers from later in the year and encouraged them to invest in real estate during the summer months when the credit was available.

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Newport Beach Real Estate

Newport Beach Places to Kiss
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Southern California has long been famous for its high-priced real estate, and the heart of that market lies in Orange County. Further, Newport Beach could arguably take the distinction of being the most exclusive and high-priced market within Orange County so the trends of its real estate market can give onlookers important signs and clues about the area.

However, because many of the Newport Beach homes for sale are so expensive, the market caters to a different clientele than most and can tend to be quite insular. This must be taken into consideration, as those who can afford $5 million homes are not necessarily representative of the region as a whole.

In a three-week period ended Feb. 16, real estate tracking by DataQuick quoted in the Orange County Register showed that the four Zip codes in Newport Beach showed mostly positive signs for the Newport Beach real estate market. Median prices ranged from $1 million to almost $5 million, and all four Zip codes’ mean prices had increased since the same period of last year.

Sales volume showed mostly positive signs as well, with activity up in all but one Zip Code. The two most active areas had 19 and 16 sales, respectively, increases of 26.7% and 60%. In January 2010, two Zip codes showed zero increases year-over-year in sales volume. In the month of January, one Zip code saw a decline in median prices year-over-year, which was evidently compensated for in February.

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Bradenton Real Estate

Downtown Tampa, FL
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Located in the southern region of Tampa Bay, Florida, the city of Bradenton has recently experienced a surge in home sales, providing local real estate experts with optimistic views of the future of the Bradenton real estate market. However, experts still point out that the real estate struggle isn’t over yet, considering the continuing decline in median sales prices and a still heavily distressed housing inventory. The Tampa Bay area has suffered from sharp declines in median prices and high foreclosure rates due to the recession that began in the fall of 2008. However, affordable housing prices, low interest rates, and the federal first-time homebuyer’s tax credit have enticed many prospective homebuyers to reenter the Bradenton real estate market, making Bradenton one of the most improved real estate markets in the Tampa Bay area in terms of single-family home sales.

According to the Tampa Bay Business Journal, the region has recently posted major increase in both its single-family home sales and condominium sales. Realtors say the recent burst of real estate activity has resulted in almost a 111 percent increase in condo sales. However, at the same time, the region also posted a 21 percent decline in median sales prices from about $131,000 in November of 2008 to $104,000 in November of 2009. Bradenton posted the largest increase in single-family home sales with a 63 percent jump from 482 sales to 784 sales between November of 2008 and 2009. However, Bradenton real estate also suffered from a 7 percent decline in median sales prices. Nevertheless, realtors are optimistic that the federal tax credit will continue to spur real estate activity in the region, promoting a successful and speedy recovery in the near future.

Tampa Bay Online has also noted the recent improvements in the Tampa Bay region real estate market. Most realtors in the region have reported that most homebuyers are saying that the federal tax credit was a major influence in urging them to invest in real estate. The Bay area posted a 34 percent increase in home sales in November from the previous month, with much activity taking place towards the end of November when the federal tax credit was expected to expire. However, since the deadline for the tax credit was extended to April, local realtors hope it will continue to promote real estate growth in the region.

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Santa Barbara real estate update 2009

housing bubble
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Santa Barbara real estate is poised for recovery and stability, according to economist Mark Schniepp through a Pacific Coast Business Times article published on November 17, 2009, by Hendry Dubroff. While commercial real estate markers and other economic benchmarks like job growth and a turnaround of other measures may continue to be problematic for Santa Barbara, it is a good sign to see the housing market begin to level off.

RealtyStore.com’s October 2009 California Foreclosure Report was released on October 31, 2009, and brought good news for real estate in Santa Barbara. Based on NODs, or Notices of Disclosure, Santa Barbara and the surrounding county saw only a 26% increase while the rest of the state suffered from a jump of 34%. “The figures indicate that many California homeowners are struggling even more in 2009 to meet their mortgages.” However, it is important to realize that the actual foreclosure rate in Santa Barbara is also much smaller than that of other cities and communities in the state. Although the number of notices increased by about a third, this doesn’t mean that 33% more homes were actually foreclosed by banks.

Santa Barbara homes for sale aren’t completely free of worry yet, though. David Streitfeld wrote on October 27, 2009 in the New York Times that “even as new figures show house prices have risen for three consecutive months, concerns are growing that the real estate market will be severely tested this winter. Artificially low interest rates and a government tax credit are luring buyers, but both those inducements are scheduled to end. Defaults and distress sales are rising in the middle and upper price ranges. And millions of people have lost so much equity that they are locked into their homes for years, a modern variation of the Victorian debtor’s prison that is freezing a large swath of the market.”

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Remittances in Retreat

Day 240 - El Salvador vs. the United States
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A smaller percentage of Mexican immigrants in the United States sent money back to their homeland than in 2006, according to new data from the Inter-American Development Bank’s Multilateral Investment Fund (MIF). The drop in remittances was steepest in states where immigration most recent — in so-called “new destination” states including Georgia, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania, remittances plunged from 80% in 2006 to just 56% in 2007. The data come from a survey of 900 Mexican and Central American immigrants, both legal and undocumented.

These reports are consistent with data from the Mexican central bank, which reports that remittances to Mexcio were essentially flat during the first half of 2007 as compared to the same period last year. In contrast, remittances to El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras rose by an average 11% during the first half of 2007, compared with the same period last year. The explanation for the difference, suggests the MIF, is that Mexicans are far more likely to live in “new destination” states than are Central American immigrants.

The New York Times picks up the story from the political angle, suggesting that the uncertaintly regarding immigration laws in the United States has spurred immigrants to save. 83% of the immigrants survey said that they felt discrimination against Latino immigrants in the United States was growing. Nearly half of all immigrants surveyed in “new destination states” said they expected to be living in the United States in five years.

Mark Thoma at the Economist’s View points out that the “I might go home” story is only one of several that might explain the dip in remittances. Remittance rates can go down because immigrants decide to save more in anticipation of a return-trip to Mexico. But they can also go down because immigrants have less money to send. An unstable economy, unemployment, and the soft housing market are all good reasons to think that the immigrants in MIF’s survey may simply not have the cash to send home that they did last year.

These two hypotheses — call them the “I might go home” story versus the “I have no cash” story — are testable, presuming the data is available. And, of course, the two stories are probably intimately related, i.e. “I might go home” because “I have no cash.” In addition to citing increased discrimination, the immigrants surveyed by the MIF stated that finding a good-paying job this year was harder than it was last year. Heightened discrimination against Latinos was amongst the reasons they cited for *why* finding a good job was harder today. If I’m having trouble making ends meet in the United States, it’s probably a combination of heightened discrimination and the economic squeeze effecting all Americans. And if I’m having trouble making ends meet here in the U.S., I’m unlikely to be able to send much home. I might even start planning to head back to Mexico myself, which means I need to save, which means even less money to send home.

Why should we care? Remittances to Mexico from the United States totalled $23 billion in 2006, making them the country’s second-largest source of foreign income after oil. About 2 million Mexicans depend on remittances as a major source of their incomes, according to Donald Terry, manager of the MIF, and the slowing of remittances represents a lost “vital lifeline.”

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Minority Report- India celebrates 60 years of independence

In the Himalayas, in general the term Jhula is...
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Dispatch from Uttarakhand, India

This week, India celebrates 60 years of independence. There is much to celebrate: rapid economic growth, an increasingly muscular foreign policy, expanding cultural influence, and 60 years of nearly uninterrupted democratic praxis in a part of the world long hostile to democracy. But there is also much that needs to change in India. Independence Day is an appropriate time to reflect on the greatness of a country, as well as what it must do to remain great. It is in that spirit that I file this Minority Report.

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There is currently a religious festival, known as the Kanwar Mela, underway in the holy city of Haridwar in Northern India, not far from where I am based. The festival entails what the Hindustan Times characterizes as “a sea of humanity” descending on the Ganges river to collect small bottles of holy water in containers known as kanwars. Pilgrims then return to their villages and put the holy water in their local temples to honor the Hindu god Shiva.

In the same Hindustan Times article describing the festival, the author tries to summarize the pros and cons of the affair from the perspective of local residents. On the “pro” side, he notes that the influx of pilgrims has led to a boom in business for local traders. This makes sense, as do further claims, on the “con” side, about the increasing noise and congestion resulting from the sudden influx of pilgrims.

And then, suddenly, there is this surprising claim, not by a resident, but by the journalist himself: “a large number of those making kanwars are Muslims so that the Mela can be seen as an excellent example of the secular character of our society.” Now, there are many things one could say about this sentence. To start, someone coming from the American tradition of “objective” news reporting would find it difficult to understand how an editorial comment of this type could be considered “news.”

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Snakes on a Stealth

Hear that distant whir traveling across the sky at 500 miles per hour? Can’t see anything? Convinced it’s a UFO? Do you live in Missouri, the South Pacific, or maybe on an atoll in the Indian Ocean? Perhaps what you’re hearing is one of our very own stealth bombers, relic of the cold war and torchbearer of our nuclear triad (bombers and subs and silos, oh, my!). It’s worth more than twice its weight in gold. Our air force boasts 21. When we moved two of them from the U.S. to our base in Diego Garcia, it was as if the economies of Niger and Rwanda were hurling invisibly through the air. Well, not completely invisibly – maybe with the radar signature of a sparrow. Not bad for a plane with a wingspan of 170 feet and a bomb payload of over 20 tons.

And now, we want to replace or, rather, augment it. The latest issue of the Journal of the Air Force Association reports that the B-2’s purported inability to “prosecute critical daytime targets” led the Defense Department to propose in its Quadrennial Defense Review a “2018 bomber.” Apparently, our assortment of B-1’s, refurbished B-52’s, F-15’s, F-22’s, cruise missiles, and yes, B-2’s will not be able to meet the QDR’s call for an increase in “long-range strike capabilities” of 50% by the year 2025.

But why all of this? At its core, policymaking is about two things: choice under constraint and opportunity cost. Agendas are set, and those in a position to fashion an array of choices wield a considerable amount of power. Programs begin as fantasy, and quickly move to artists’ renditions, constituencies in multiple states, and, soon enough, line items that persist over time. Currently, much of our focus is on the cost and missed opportunities of the war in Iraq. But progressives should keep a watchful eye on the rest of the defense budget and the opportunity costs that it represents. After all, research and production costs for the B-2 were equivalent to the current gross national product of Pakistan, a comparison that if made of our annual expenditures in Iraq would undoubtedly have progressives up in arms. Ironically, as suggested by Robert Kaplan in a forthcoming Atlantic Monthly article, the thinking behind the B-2 was that “the pressure to counteract such a stealthy and powerful nuclear bomber would lure the Soviets into further wrecking their economy.” As we ponder our own economic future, and detect a distant clamoring for the “2018 bomber,” it would serve us well to hearken back to the birth of the B-2.

Lady in Blue: Mayawati Rules

Last week, the American magazine Business Week selected Mayawati, the Chief Minister of the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, as one of the 50 most powerful people in India. How did the equivalent of a state Governor from one of India’s most backward states make it onto this list?

Uttar Pradesh (UP) is India’s largest state. Approximately 170 million people live there, 1/6 of the Indian population, and a substantial proportion of the world’s poor. Most of India’s prime ministers have come from U. P. and the state is also at the center of the important transformation of caste politics in India in the last two decades.

Mayawati is indeed the most powerful Dalit (the group formerly known as “untouchable,”) leader in India today. This is her fourth stint as Chief Minister, but it is the first time that she commands a stable majority in the state legislature. In fact, her recently inaugurated government is the first majority government in U. P. in about 15 years. Unstable coalitions have been blamed for U. P.’s notoriously inefficient and corrupt government, so, if the analysts are right, we should expect big things from a stable majority.

Solidarity Now? The solidarity economy comes to the US

“Solidarity”? After years of disdain, the concept may be gaining new life in the US. In July, a group of progressive organizers and academics launched the US Solidarity Economy Network (SEN-US), and its ambitions stretch well beyond picket-line chants. Founded at the US Social Forum in Atlanta, SEN-US aims to develop economic frameworks and practices based on democracy, equity, and sustainability. Examples include cooperatives (worker, producer, consumer, housing, financial), land trusts, fair trade, community supported agriculture (CSA), worker-controlled pension funds, and participatory budgeting.

Sound idealistic? Maybe it is, but solidarity economy networks have already seen results. Canada’s network leveraged $132 million in government funds for investment, research and training, for a comprehensive national policy framework. In countries such as Brazil and Argentina, solidarity economy advocates have developed national legislation and municipal policies that promote cooperatives.

The US may not be so far off. Organizations on the SEN-US Coordinating Committee, such as The US Federation of Worker Cooperatives, Grassroots Economic Organizing, The Center for Labor and Community Research, and The Center for Popular Economics, have already been fostering more democratic economic practices and enterprises. SEN-US aims to raise the visibility of these efforts, link them together through a broader economic framework and vision, develop common resources, and promote supportive public policies. After all that, solidarity might even become fashionable in the least likely of places…