One of the fastest-growing crimes in the U.S. is cell phone theft, and the nation’s four largest U.S. carriers, along with the Federal Communications Commission, have banded together to curtail it with a national registry of lost and stolen phones. They’re hoping it can be used to deny activation of reported stolen phones as well as reduce the value of stolen smartphones that thieves try to sell.
The database lists stolen 4G/LTE smartphones, and the plan is to integrate it with international databases. The database will be maintained by each carrier and will track all phones reported stolen via the phone’s serial number.
“The matter of stolen devices is extremely important to wireless providers,” says Steve Largent, president and CEO of CTIA-The Wireless Association. “As more countries and more carriers around the world participate in the 3G and 4G/LTE databases, criminals will have fewer outlets since these stolen phones would be blacklisted and could not be reactivated.”
CTIA still encourages consumers to use apps or programs to protect their phones from theft as well. Several services exist to help find lost phones or remotely wipe them clean to secure data, such as Android Device Manager or Find my iPhone. Apple recently debuted the Activation Lock feature on the iOS 7, which makes it impossible to reactivate a lost or stolen device without an Apple ID and password.
Source: CTIA-The Wireless Association and “CTIA hopes to deter smartphone theft with global, multi-carrier common database for lost and stolen devices,” TechSpot (Nov. 28, 2013)
As home prices rise, lenders are showing less willingness to grant short sales, RealtyTrac reports.
The number of short sales has been gradually dropping the last few months. Short sales represented 5.3 percent of all sales in October, down from 6.3 percent the previous month and down from 11.2 percent last October, according to RealtyTrac data.
The National Association of REALTORS® recently reported in its October existing-home sales report that short sales tend to sell at an average discount of 14 percent below market value.
“After a surge in short sales in late 2011 and early 2012, the favored disposition method for distressed properties is shifting back toward the more traditional foreclosure auction sales and bank-owned sales,” says Daren Blomquist,vice president at RealtyTrac. “The combination of rapidly rising home prices — along with strong demand from institutional investors and other cash buyers able to buy at the public foreclosure auction or an as-is REO home — means short sales are becoming less favorable for lenders.”
Source: RealtyTrac and “Short sales falling out of favor with lenders as prices surge,” Inman News (Nov. 25, 2013)
Fixed-rate mortgages dropped this week due to weaker economic data, particularly a decline in manufacturing growth and overall inflation rates, says Frank Nothaft, Freddie Mac’s chief economist.
Freddie Mac reports the following national averages for the week ending Nov. 21:
- 30-year fixed-rate mortgages: averaged 4.22 percent, with an average 0.7 point, dropping from last week’s 4.35 percent average. Last year at this time, 30-year rates averaged 3.31 percent.
- 15-year fixed-rate mortgages: averaged 3.27 percent, with an average 0.7 point, dropping from last week’s 3.35 percent average. A year ago, 15-year rates averaged 2.63 percent.
- 5-year hybrid adjustable-rate mortgages: averaged 2.95 percent, with an average 0.5 point, dropping from last week’s 3.01 percent average. Last year at this time, 5-year ARMs averaged 2.74 percent.
- 1-year ARMs: averaged 2.61 percent, with an average 0.4 point, holding steady from last week. A year ago, 1-year ARMs averaged 2.56 percent.
Source: Freddie Mac
“In the near term, homeowner spending on improvements is expected to see its strongest growth since the height of the housing boom,” says Kermit Baker, director of the Remodeling Futures Program at the Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies.
Home remodeling is posting a strong recovery as more home owners regain equity and look to spruce up their homes. Projects surged 14 percent in September over year-ago levels, according to BuildFax, which tracks building permits.
However, smaller remodeling projects — those under $10,000 — are dropping.
One reason behind the trend is that regular home owners may be starting to renovate more and spend more as they regain equity. In recent years, remodeling activity was mostly dominated by smaller projects from investors who had purchased single-family homes to turn into rentals. Investors are lessening their share in remodeling as regular home owners show more interest in home remodeling. Your comments?
Source: “Remodeling? Now you can snoop inside your neighbors’ kitchen,” CNBC (Nov. 19, 2013)
Fixed-rate mortgages are on their way up this week for the second consecutive week, with the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage reaching its highest level since Sept. 19 when it averaged 4.50 percent, Freddie Mac reports.
“Fixed mortgage rates increased this week following stronger than expected economic data releases,” says Frank Nothaft, Freddie Mac’s chief economist. Nothaft notes the employment report for October was stronger than expected with revisions adding 60,000 additional jobs to the prior two month of releases.
Freddie Mac reports the following national averages for the week ending Nov. 14:
- 30-year fixed-rate mortgages: averaged 4.35 percent, with an average 0.7 point, rising from last week’s 4.16 percent average. Last year at this time, 30-year rates averaged 3.34 percent.
- 15-year fixed-rate mortgages: averaged 3.35 percent, with an average 0.7 point, rising from last week’s 3.27 percent average. Last year at this time, 15-year rates averaged 2.65 percent.
- 5-year hybrid adjustable-rate mortgages: averaged 3.01 percent, with an average 0.4 point, rising from last week’s 2.96 percent average. A year ago at this time, 5-year ARMs averaged 2.74 percent.
Source: Freddie Mac
The shutdown resulted in 6.6 million days of lost work, the report said. Other effects from the shutdown also include missed fees from interest due on late payments, among other items. The government shutdown also has been blamed on the fall of consumer and business confidence.
“Millions of Americans were impacted by the shutdown, due to furloughs of federal employees, reduced services for the public and delays in payments to federal grantees, states, localities, contractors and individuals,” Sylvia Mathews Burwell, budget director.
A report by Standard & Poor’s estimated the shutdown cost the U.S. economy $24 billion in losses and reduced fourth-quarter growth from 3 percent to 2.4 percent.
Unless Congress passes a budget or provides an alternative for financing the government, a second shutdown may loom at the beginning of 2014.
Source: “White House Puts Price on Government Shutdown,” The New York Times (Nov. 8, 2013)
Mortgage rates reversed course this week, moving upwards for the first time in three weeks amid more positive economic data, Freddie Mac reports in its weekly mortgage market survey. Production in the manufacturing industry and non-manufacturing sector alike showed signs of expanding.
Freddie Mac reports the following national averages for the week ending Nov. 7:
- 30-year fixed-rate mortgages: averaged 4.16 percent, with an average 0.8 point, rising from last week’s 4.10 percent average. Last year at this time, 30-year rates averaged 3.40 percent.
- 15-year fixed-rate mortgages: averaged 3.27 percent, with an average 0.7 point, rising from last week’s 3.20 percent average. A year ago, 15-year rates averaged 2.69 percent.
- 5-year hybrid adjustable-rate mortgages: averaged 2.96 percent, with an average 0.5 point, holding the same average as last week. Last year at this time, 5 year ARMs averaged 2.73 percent.
- 1-year ARMs: averaged 2.61 percent, with an average 0.5 point, dropping from last week’s 2.64 percent average. A year ago, 1-year ARMs averaged 2.59 percent.
Source: Freddie Mac
The California housing market had a decent performance in 2013 so far. For the first nine months of 2013, sales of existing single-family detached homes were down 3.2 percent when compared to the same period of last year. This decline in sales was attributed partially to the hike in interest rates in recent months, as the average 30-year fixed rate increased more than 100 basis points since April 2013 and was the highest since the mid of 2011.
Looking forward, annual sales of detached homes are expected to decline slightly from 439,420 units in 2012 to 430,270 units in 2013, with 2014 improving to 444,040 units.
Smartphone manufacturers are racing to create mainstream curbed-screen devices that are so bendable they can fold multiple times to fit it in your pocket or purse.
Samsung Electronics and LG Electronics recently became the first companies to release flexible-screen smartphones, but they are only available in the South Korean market so far. It’s part of the companies’ test runs to gauge consumers’ appetites for the bendable devices. Samsung’s Galaxy Round smartphone is selling for $1,000, and LG’s G Flex phone has yet to disclose pricing.
Experts say the flexible screens can have lots of benefits to users, such as lighter displays and screens that don’t crack as easily. Manufacturers are replacing the glass in the back panel of the phones with plastic but are finding that the bendable technology poses challenges. Plastic makes the devices more vulnerable to scratches and moisture getting inside the screen, two big hurdles they’re working to overcome.
Samsung reportedly is working on making the plastic scratch-proof, highly resistant to heat, and elastic enough that it can bend at sharp angles, yet still as clear as glass, the Wall Street Journal reports.
“Curves are a preliminary step towards the realization of flexible displays,” says Lee Bang-soo, a senior vice president at LG Display Co., which makes screens for companies such as Apple. “The technology behind this will allow for the development of new products that are … bendable, foldable, and rollable.”
Source: “Smartphone Makers Race to Build Flexible Screens,” The Wall Street Journal (Nov. 4, 2013) and “LG Electronics Unveils Curved Smartphone in Race Against Samsung,” Reuters (Oct. 28, 2013)
More than 70 percent of the U.S. housing stock was built prior to 1990, and an aging housing stock may present more opportunities for buyers searching for a bargain, according to RealtyTrac’s Aging Homes Analysis.
“The high percentage of homes that are at least 20 years old and likely in need of some major repairs is eye-opening,” says Jake Adger, chief economist at RealtyTrac. “However, given the low inventory of homes available for sale in today’s market, this challenge of aging U.S. housing supply can also be an opportunity for buyers looking for a bargain and home owners looking to update their living space and improve the value of their homes.”
On average, homes built prior to 1990 sold for $233,211 this year, compared to $256,292 for newer homes.
“The lower price point on older homes is not surprising given many are in need of some rehab and are more likely to have maintenance issues,” Adger says. “But this also presents an opportunity for buyers willing to take on that older inventory. Those buyers can purchase at lower price points and face less competition from institutional investors,” who tend to buy newer homes.
Source: “Aging Housing Inventory Presents Bargain-Hunting Opportunities,” Mortgage News Daily (Oct. 31, 2013)