Housing

There is something new and different for home mortgages: Jumbo loans are being made at lower interest rates than traditional home loans. That's kind of like a first class airplane ticket being cheaper than riding in coach.

At first this seems crazy. For as long as anybody can remember, homeowners have had to pay a premium to get jumbo loans. That's because they're not guaranteed by the federal government. If they're not guaranteed, they're riskier, so they cost more in interest payments.

The U.S. economy held steady with "modest to moderate" growth between early July and late August, as Americans bought more cars and auto factories ramped up hiring.

The Federal Reserve's so-called Beige Book, comprising reports from 12 geographic districts around the country, showed that manufacturing activity "expanded modestly" and that several districts reported that "demand for inputs related to autos, housing, and infrastructure were strong."

Two key economic indicators — home prices and consumer confidence — both seem to signal that slow, steady economic growth lies ahead.

Tuesday's reports:

-- Confidence. The Conference Board's widely watched consumer confidence index increased only slightly in August, to 81.5 from 81 in July, the business research group says.

Proving once again that when it comes to economic data there's almost always a "but" to watch out for:

The housing sector has been one of the economy's stars in recent months, as we said Thursday when the news broke that sales of existing homes rose an estimated 6.5 percent in July from June.

But ...

In just the past week we've seen a bunch of signs that the housing recovery is gaining steam. Data out Wednesday showed that existing-home sales rose to their highest level in nearly four years, while prices were up 14 percent from a year ago.

Retailers Home Depot and Lowe's both reported strong earnings growth and attributed that to the housing rebound.

And most important for the economy, homebuilders are hiring more workers and building more houses.

courtesy of Colorado State University

It’s that time of year; students are coming back to Colorado State University in Fort Collins and the University of Colorado in Boulder. They'll find something new on both campuses.

There was a strong increase in sales of existing homes in July, the National Association of Realtors reports, in yet another sign that the important housing sector is back on its feet.

In fact, says The Associated Press, sales approached "a healthy level for the first time since November 2009."

According to the NAR:

A task force commissioned by President Obama says that cities hit hardest by Super Storm Sandy need better construction to respond to the stronger storms spun by climate change.

In a report released today, the Hurricane Sandy Task Force lays out suggestions like building a more resilient and modern electric grid, new flood-protection and more stringent building standards in the affected areas.

The suburbs can be a creepy place. And they are at their creepiest in Patrick Flanery's new novel, Fallen Land. Set outside an unnamed American city, this dark and complex thriller plays out in a half-built subdivision where construction ground to a halt during the housing crisis.

Beth Glover was a juror on the trial of former Goldman Sachs trader Fabrice Tourre. When the lawyers were discussing the mortgages tied to the securities at the center of the case, Glover realized that, for all intents and purposes, they were talking about her mortgage.

"When they were looking at the subprime mortgage groupings, I think I would have been in one of those," Glover told me. "I didn't have as great as FICO score at that time."

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