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Negative Mortgages Set Another Milestone in No-Rate World

The world’s headlong dash to zero or negative interest rates just passed another milestone: Homebuyers in Denmark effectively are being paid to take out 10-year mortgages.

Jyske Bank A/S, Denmark’s third-largest lender, announced in early August a mortgage rate of -0.5%, before fees. Nordea Bank Abp, meanwhile, is offering 30-year mortgages at annual interest of 0.5%, and 20-year loans at zero.

Years of easing by central banks hacked away at interest rates around the world, distorting the traditional economics of lending and borrowing. This is most pronounced in Europe, where a composite home-loan rate across the euro area fell to 1.65% in June, the lowest since records began in 2000.

Euro Area Mortgage Rate Hit Record Low in June

While some regions have resisted the trend, borrowing costs are at or near rock-bottom in many major world markets. That’s boosted demand from homebuyers and spurred fierce competition among lenders for their business.

Here’s a snapshot of mortgage rates around the world:


The average American 30-year mortgage rate is 3.6%, the lowest since November 2016. A resulting surge in demand for homes sent total mortgage debt to $9.41 trillion in the second quarter, surpassing the peak reached during the 2008 financial crisis. Mortgage brokers, too, are rushing to keep up with demand for refinancing: Applications are running at a three-year high.

The benefits for home buyers are muted in cities such as New York and San Francisco, however, because the boom has led to a shortage of affordable homes.


French mortgage rates reached a trough of 1.39% on average in June, according to Bank of France data. The country’s banking industry is extremely competitive: Many lenders have jockeyed to lure customers with cheaper offers.


German mortgage rates also reached historic lows this year, with the average 10-year loan currently under 1%. Some lenders are offering rates around 0.5%, according to Interhyp, a comparison website.

The prospect of further declines in benchmark borrowing costs could drive many mortgage rates toward zero. This may have a limited impact on the residential market, however — only 46% of Germans are homeowners, compared with an EU average of 69%.

Cheaper by the Euro

Nearly 70% of euro area countries have lower mortgage rates this year

Euro-denominated loans for house purchase, includes floating and fixed rates


Mortgage rates in the U.K., by contrast, have been almost unchanged this year, despite a drop in overall borrowing costs amid a worsening economic outlook. The rate on a two-year fixed mortgage fell just 8 basis points from January to July, compared with a 38 basis-point drop in two-year swaps.

One reason for this, says Mark Gilbert of Bloomberg Opinion, is that the Bank of England’s regulatory arm has discouraged lenders from trying to win market share by easing standards because it’s concerned about their financial strength.


Mortgage costs are fairly high in Hungary because regulators steered almost all borrowers away from cheaper (but less secure) floating-rate loans. A 10-year fixed-rate mortgage is currently around 5%, compared with money-market rates near zero.

The attraction of security was heightened by memories of a fashion for mortgages taken out in Swiss francs before the financial crisis. The subsequent plunge in the forint against the franc hammered as many as 1 million Hungarians.


Mortgage rates have actually risen in Greece, burdened by sovereign and corporate debts. The average floating-rate home loan was 3.08% in June, an increase of 11 basis points from a year earlier.

Greek banks’ mountain of soured loans means they have become wary of extending new credit, even when secured by a house.

Hong Kong

Mortgage rates are also climbing in Hong Kong as the political crisisweakens the appetite for loans. Both HSBC Holdings Plc and Standard Chartered Plc increased effective rates by 10 basis points to 2.48% in July, according to Bloomberg Intelligence.


DBS Group Holdings Ltd., Singapore’s largest bank, is offering a three-year fixed-rate mortgage at 1.89% in the first year, rising to 2.18% in the second and third years. Floating-rate loans are set at about 1.13% above deposit rates.

Loan-to-value limits for mortgages were tightened last year to prick an incipient property bubble. Residential home prices have been recovering as foreign buyers return to the market, with private home sales jumping to the highest level in eight months in July.


The Bank of Japan’s negative-rate policy has kept home loans affordable. A 10-year fixed-rate mortgage can be had for about 0.65%, and Sumitomo Mitsui Trust Bank offers a rate as low as 0.53%.

This has spurred property purchases, and prices, in the larger cities, helping reverse years of decline following the bursting of the market bubble in 1991. Residential land prices in the greater Tokyo area rose 1.3% last year, while those outside major urban areas increased 0.2%, the first rebound in 27 years. Nationwide, though, prices stand at just 38% of their 1991 levels, according to the Land Ministry.


Mortgage rates have fallen about 40 basis points following the Australian central bank’s back-to-back interest rate cuts in June and July. The average standard variable rate at the nation’s big four lenders is currently 4.94%.

The decline in mortgage rates, along with an easing of lending rules and the surprise re-election of the center-right government, has fired up Australia’s housing market. Following a two-year slide, property prices in Sydney have risen over the past two months.

South Africa

The cost of a home loan remains relatively high in South Africa. Banks’ prime lending rate is about 10%, and mortgage borrowers can expect to pay anywhere from two percentage points below that rate to five points above it.

While banks are starting to extend more loans to compete for market share, mortgage rates are unlikely to drop much. Inflation is generally high, and the central bank has held its benchmark rate above 6% since 2015.


Nigeria has had double-digit inflation since 2016, with mortgage rates to match — as high as 30%. Those who contribute a small percentage of their income to the state-owned bank can get a much better 9% rate from the National Housing Fund.

Mortgage uptake is low because of high rates, low incomes and a long wait for government-backed loans.

Source: Bloomberg

People at the Heart of Smart Homes

A Housing Europe HEART Project webinar

People at the heart of Smart Homes – how to enjoy the benefits and prevent the pitfalls? This was the central question that the first webinar of Housing Europe within the framework of the Horizon 2020 HEART project, aimed to address.

How can we ensure that people, the main target of audience, are not actually in the end the ones who are left behind?

Dr. Claudio Del Pero, Senior Researcher at Politecnico Di Milano, Department of Architecture, Built Environment & Construction Engineering shared the ways in which the Horizon 2020 HEART Project is contributing to this end.

Dr. Max Craglia, Lead Scientist at the European Commission Joint Research Centre gave an overview of the relevant priorities in the 2030 strategy of the JRC including energy and digital transformation (DT). The science and knowledge service of the Commission studies the impact of key technologies including Aritficial Intelligence (AI)- see for instance their flagship report.

Stefano Zanini, User EXperience Research Leader at AssistDigital explained what is actually User Experience (UX) and made the case why it is so important, offering an analysis of the customer journey. Stefano gave a number of examples illustrating the so called ‘smart trends’.

The webinar concluded with a lively debate that generated even some partnership opportunities, so make sure you watch till the end…

The event was moderated by Housing Europe Innovation and Project Manager, Sebastien Garnier.

Source: housingeurope

The World’s Most Liveable Cities in 2019

For ten consecutive years, Vienna ranks first in the Mercer survey on cities with the best quality of life in the world. In this edition to the global ranking, eight Western European cities join the top ten, even when “trade tensions and populist undercurrents continue to dominate the global economic climate”, as Mercer points out in its report.

In its 21st edition, the consultancy includes — for the very first time — a separate ranking on personal safety, with Luxembourg named the safest city in the world.

Mercer, which specializes in advising multinational companies in the transfer of employees, has evaluated more than 450 cities around the world.

Their rankings take into account 39 factors divided into 10 categories, including socio-cultural, political and economic environment, medical and health considerations, educational and leisure opportunities, housing markets and natural environment. According to Mercer, the world’s most liveable cities in 2019 are:

1. Vienna, Austria

Adria Wien at Danube Canal. Vienna, Austria.. Image © Christian Stemper, via Vienna Tourist Board

Adria Wien at Danube Canal. Vienna, Austria.. Image © Christian Stemper, via Vienna Tourist Board

2. Zurich, Switzerland

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© Lukas Schlagenhauf [Flickr], under license CC BY-ND 2.0. ImageZurich, Switzerland

3. Vancouver, Canada

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© Rick Schwartz [Flickr], under license CC BY-NC 2.0. ImageVancouver, Canada

4. Munich, Germany

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© Mariano Mantel [Flickr], under license CC BY-NC 2.0. ImageMunich, Germany

5. Auckland, New Zealand

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© Klanarong Chitmung / Shutterstock.com. ImageAuckland, New Zealand

© Klanarong Chitmung / Shutterstock.com. ImageAuckland, New Zealand

6. Düsseldorf, Germany

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© Simon Collison [Flickr], under license CC BY-NC-ND 2.0. ImageDüsseldorf, Germany

7. Frankfurt, Germany

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© Telesniuk. ImageFrankfurt, Germany

© Telesniuk. ImageFrankfurt, Germany

8. Copenhagen, Denmark

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© LaMiaFotografia. ImageCopenhagen, Denmark

© LaMiaFotografia. ImageCopenhagen, Denmark

9. Geneva, Switzerland

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Geneva, Switzerland. Image © Samuel Borges Photography

Geneva, Switzerland. Image © Samuel Borges Photography

10. Basel, Switzerland

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© VV Nincic [Flickr], under license CC BY 2.0. ImageBasel, Switzerland

11. Sydney, Australia

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© Kevin Rheese [Flickr], under license CC BY 2.0. ImageSydney, Australia

11. Amsterdam, Netherlands

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Amsterdam, Netherlands. Image © Ali Suliman

Amsterdam, Netherlands. Image © Ali Suliman

13. Berlin, Germany

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© Daniel Mennerich [Flickr], under license CC BY-NC-ND 2.0. ImageBerlin, Germany

14. Bern, Switzerland

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© dmitry vetrov [Flickr], under license CC BY-NC-ND 2.0. ImageBern, Switzerland

15. Wellington, New Zealand

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Wellington, New Zealand. Image © Victor Maschek

Wellington, New Zealand. Image © Victor Maschek

16. Toronto, Canada

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© mariusz kluzniak [Flickr], under license CC BY-NC-ND 2.0. ImageToronto, Canada

17. Melbourne, Australia

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© f11photo. ImageMelbourne, Australia

© f11photo. ImageMelbourne, Australia

18. Luxembourg, Luxembourg

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Luxembourg City, Luxembourg. Image © Sabino Parente

Luxembourg City, Luxembourg. Image © Sabino Parente

19. Ottawa, Canada

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© Michael Muraz [Flickr], under license CC BY-NC-ND 2.0. ImageOttawa, Canada

20. Hamburg, Germany

© Carsten Frenzl [Flickr], under license CC BY 2.0. ImageHamburg, Germany

Source: archdaily

Trade War is Raising the Risk of U.S. Recession, Goldman Sachs Warns

The trade war with China is having a greater effect on the U.S. economy than expected, and the risk of recession is rising, Goldman Sachs Group Inc. said Sunday.

In a note to clients, Goldman analysts led by chief U.S. economist Jan Hatzius said a trade deal between the U.S. and China is no longer expected before the 2020 presidential election.

Goldman GS, -0.05%   said it now expects a 0.6% drag on the U.S. economy due to trade-war developments, up from earlier estimates of 0.2%. “Fears that the trade war will trigger a recession are growing,” Hatzius said in the note.

Goldman also lowered its fourth-quarter U.S. growth forecast by 20 basis points to 1.8%, saying the trade war is weighing down the economy.

“Overall, we have increased our estimate of the growth impact of the trade war,” Hatzius wrote. “The drivers of this modest change are that we now include an estimate of the sentiment and uncertainty effects and that financial markets have responded notably to recent trade news.”

Uncertainty caused by the trade war could cause businesses to lower spending until tensions are resolved, the report said. “Relatedly, the business sentiment effect of increased pessimism about the outlook from trade war news may lead firms to invest, hire, or produce less,” wrote Hatzius.

The Goldman analysts said they expect President Donald Trump to carry out his threat to impose 10% tariffs on an additional $300 billion in Chinese exports starting Sept. 1.

Source: marketwatch

US Stocks Suffer Worst Day of 2019 as Trade Tensions Mount

A sharp escalation in the trade war between Washington and Beijing and mounting concerns over the global economic outlook have put US equities on track for their biggest one-day drop of the year, with declines exceeding 3 per cent, and prompted a further rally in bonds.

A global sell-off on Monday after China allowed its currency to weaken below a key threshold also resulted in hefty declines for Asian and European stocks.

Declines for US stocks accelerated around midday in New York after it was reported that Chinese companies had suspended purchases of agricultural products, and Donald Trump took to Twitter to accuse Beijing of currency manipulation. The S&P 500 and Dow Jones Industrial Average were each down 3.1 per cent in afternoon trade in New York, putting both gauges on track for their biggest one-day drops since December.

The S&P 500 is facing a sixth consecutive day of declines, which would be its longest losing streak in 10 months. The Nasdaq Composite was down 3.7 per cent.

The Cboe’s Vix, a measure of volatility nicknamed Wall Street’s “fear gauge”, jumped above 23 points for the first time since mid-May. Chinese state media reported that companies had suspended purchases of US agricultural products and that Beijing had not ruled out the possibility of imposing tariffs on US agricultural products purchased after August 3.

Mr Trump said in a series of tweets on Monday that China had “used currency manipulation to steal our businesses and factories, hurt our jobs, depress our workers’ wages and harm our farmers’ prices. Not anymore!” The headlines saw government bonds extend a recent rally that took place against a backdrop of confusion about the Federal Reserve’s outlook for interest rates and the Trump administration’s announcement last Thursday that new tariffs will be placed on $300bn of Chinese goods next month. US government debt climbed sharply in price, leaving the 10-year Treasury yield down 11.4 basis points at 1.741 per cent on Monday. It has fallen about 80 bps since the start of May as concerns over trade and signs of a slowdown in the global economy have built. The moves in the bond market, with longer-term borrowing costs dropping even further below short-term ones, resulted in the difference between the yields on 3-month and 10-year Treasuries falling to its most negative since April 2007. The inversion of this yield curve has preceded every US recession of the past 50 years.

“If the trade war escalates we may end up talking ourselves into a recession — that is the concern we’re seeing in the markets today,” said Anik Sen, global head of equities for PineBridge Investments. “There is very little visibility in any of this and that is the frustration because it keeps changing from day to day.”

The drop for stocks, which mirrored those across European and Asian stock bourses, came after last week’s 3.2 per cent fall in MSCI’s All-World stock index — the heaviest retreat since the market ructions of late 2018. Britain’s FTSE 100 was down 2.5 per cent, France’s CAC 40 shed 2.2 per cent and Germany’s Dax declined 1.8 per cent. MSCI’s broad index of Asian stocks outside Japan fell 2.9 per cent, with Japan’s Topix sliding 1.8 per cent. Traders priced in further stimulus measures from the Federal Reserve, with futures trade suggesting the central bank’s main rate will be 1.14 per cent at the end of 2020, 10 bps lower than expected on Friday.


That means market participants are now forecasting 100 bps of rate cuts by December next year, after the Fed last week cut rates by 25 bps in the first such reduction since the financial crisis. Across the Atlantic, the yield on Britain’s benchmark 10-year government bond struck a historic low, breaching a trough it hit in the wake of the 2016 Brexit referendum. It fell as much as 5.9bp to 0.49 per cent. In Germany, the 10-year Bund yield struck a new record low, falling as much as 4.7bp to minus 0.53 per cent.

The drop in China’s renminbi to under 7 per US dollar also cascaded into other major emerging market currencies. South Korea’s won was among the worst hit, sliding 1.4 per cent against the US dollar, while other actively traded currencies like South Africa’s rand were also under pressure. Robert Carnell, head of Asia-Pacific research at ING, said China allowing its currency to fall below Rmb7 was probably a “deliberate decision, and part of what we imagine will be a concerted series of steps aimed at pushing back at the latest US tariffs”. Echoing that sentiment, Chiara Silvestre, economist at UniCredit, said the fall in China’s currency was a “clear escalation of the trade war”.

It comes after Mr Trump last week unnerved investors by announcing plans to hit $300bn in Chinese goods with a 10 per cent tariff. The threat marked the latest escalation in a trade skirmish that has rattled investor sentiment globally and affected major exporters such as Germany. Mr Trump said on Monday that the move amounted to “currency manipulation”. “This is a major violation which will greatly weaken China over time,” he said.

In currency markets, Japan’s yen, which tends to rise during times of strife as domestic investors pull money back from global markets, strengthened 0.5 per cent against the dollar to ¥106.08. In commodities, gold rose 1.6 per cent to $1,463.97 an ounce as traders sought havens while global oil marker Brent crude was down 3 per cent at $60.04 a barrel.

Source: ft

Dubai Named World’s Third Most Affordable City for Prime Property

Dubai has been rated the third most affordable city in the world for purchasing prime residential property.

The emirate is behind Cape Town and Kuala Lumpur, according to the Savills World Cities Prime Residential Index for the first half of 2019.

While in-house Savills research into prime residential rental yields, highlight Dubai as the fourth best global hub for returns on investment (4.6 percent).

The report reveals prime prices in Dubai have fallen almost 20 percent in the last five years, due to high levels of new build stock and global economic uncertainty. In the last six months, prices fell by 1.9 percent.

According to the figures, the average price per sq ft of a prime residential property in Dubai is $600. This compares to $330 per sq ft in Cape Town and $260 per sq ft in Kuala Lumpar.

Swapnil Pillai, associate, research Middle East, Savills, said: “It is a good opportunity for domestic and foreign investors to look at Dubai. Firstly, because the time is right as it is far more affordable to purchase prime residential property now due to lower transactional costs and overall lower prices when compared to other major cities. Investors are paying less for top class specifications. Secondly, strong rental yields mean that long-term investors could generate robust annual returns when letting out property in the city.”

“It is transparent that capital values in Dubai have not grown at the same rate as other global destinations over the past 10 years [decreased by 1.7 percent], but that is not to say that the next 10 years will mirror this.

“In Dubai, demand is still strong; however, a mismatch of supply and demand has compressed prices. As supply/demand balances out over time, prices will adjust accordingly, so investment towards the bottom of the cycle could be a shrewd move.”

At the upper end of the scale, the most expensive property is Hong Kong ($4,730 per sq ft), which saw growth of 1.3 percent in H1; and New York ($2,520 per sq ft), despite witnessing a decline of 1.8 percent.

Prices in London, a popular investment hub for Middle East investors, dropped by 1 percent since the start of the year.

Savills World Cities Prime Residential Index – capital values price per square foot and price movements in local currency – cities ranked by half year growth

Source: arabianbusiness

How Housing Density can Help Keep Cities Cooler

We all know Mid-Atlantic summers can be oppressively hot and humid. To me, sultry days in Richmond feel like I’m walking around inside someone else’s mouth! The bad news (for me and anyone else who experiences heat as a sweaty human) is that the number of days per year with a heat index—or a “feels-like” temperature—above 95°F is expected to at least double by mid century. Let’s talk about how land use factors into this equation.

As you probably know, extremely hot days can feel very different depending on where you are within a city. Sitting on a bench along a shady stretch of a densely-canopied park might feel reasonably comfortable compared to walking through a vast reach of hard and dark surfaces like a shadeless asphalt parking lot surrounded by brick walls.

Much like when you wear a dark shirt in direct sun, these low-albedo, impervious surfaces absorb and hold more of the sun’s energy during the day and then re-emit it back into the air during the afternoon and night as heat. These human-made structures physically amplify and extend heat waves more than natural landscapes.

This phenomenon is known as the “urban heat island effect.” It’s been studied extensively over the last several decades, and has its roots in weather observations from the early 1800s. But recent research I helped conduct revealed that some neighborhoods with tall buildings are actually relatively cool.

A 16 degree difference between different parts of the city

Just how much hotter these landscapes get and what particular aspects of underlying land uses lead to the most extreme temperatures (either hot or cool) has been for the most part an open question until recently. Being able to combine direct observations of urban air temperatures during heat events and land use/land cover in a machine learning algorithm has enabled us to learn more.

In summer 2017, the Science Museum of Virginia (where I work) and the Portland State University SUPR Lab teamed up with a network of local collaborators, volunteers, and newscasters to measure Richmond’s heat island effect. We observed a 16°F difference between the warmest and coolest spots in our city at the same time on the same day!

Last summer, with help from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Climate Program Office and the Office of Education, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the Anacostia Watershed Society, and the DC Department of Energy and Environment, and other organizations, we mapped and modeled the District’s heat islands during that late summer heat event you may remember on August 28, 2018.

To do this, volunteers used precise electronic temperature sensors hanging out of our cars’ passenger windows paired with GPS units running at the same time to keep track of where we were and how hot it was every single second. We collected data for one-hour time intervals at 6 am, 3 pm, and 7 pm to give us an approximation of the coolest, hottest, and early evening temperatures.

We threw out data collected when we were stopped, moving too slowly, or moving too fast so we could be confident in the data’s quality. In total, we collected over 74,000 temperature readings across the District. Here too, our results showed a ~16°F difference between the warmest and coolest spots in the city during the hottest time of the day (3-4 pm).

As you might guess, the coolest places had lots of dense shade canopy and vegetation (Rock Creek Park) while the hottest places were low-slung, high-density areas with very little tree cover and wide, multi-lane streets (Columbia Heights). Most of the hottest places also remained at these elevated temperatures well into the evening. Take a look at the heat DC map we produced with a neat-o slider feature here.

Image by NOAA.

Building size matters for shade too

Looking closely, you might notice that places with relatively narrower streets and taller buildings, or at least with more variation in building heights, seem to have more temperature variation than others like Shaw and Convention Center. This might seem surprising, given the press about air temperature and tree canopy that we’ve heard a lot about recently.

Turns out this is consistent with a study published in 2016 for a heatwave observed in Portland, Oregon. It showed afternoon temperatures were most strongly affected by nearby building heights and their local variation (closely trailed by tree canopy). This also held true for temperatures into the evening (7 pm).

While we didn’t explicitly model building height variation’s affects in our studies of DC, Richmond, and Baltimore, similarities pop out in that the dense, building height-varying urban cores have relatively lower air temperatures than the sprawling, wide-streeted but single-height residential areas that lack extensive tree canopy. Turns out this isn’t a new discovery, but it is one that we could use to advance density as a physical microclimate control.

In 2012, a University of Maryland/NASA scientist modeled the temperature impact of lowering building heights in areas of DC and Baltimore, concluding that this would actually raise the hottest daytime temperatures by almost 3°F, while adding tree canopy lowers these extremes by over 7°F.

Computer modeling studies that simulate increasing building heights in Adelaide, Australia show that once building heights surpass the width of the street, this creates urban canyons that shade the street surfaces and cool the air.

Observational and modeling studies of other cities in different parts of the world suggest this to be true as well. While we can’t completely offset the urban heat island effect with increasing urban canyons, adding in green infrastructure can further offset heat amplification (though this clearly depends on the land use/land cover too).

During San Francisco’s recent extreme heat wave, Kevin Burke, writing for the Bay City Beacon, outlines the housing policy that has historically limited the availability of shadows. He believes an aversion to housing density is inadvertently exposing people to warmer temperatures.

Is housing density—specifically designed to be taller than the width of the adjoining streets in order to increase shade—an underappreciated way to mitigate the impacts of climate change? These results are promising! If you’re interested in learning more, you can read the full report featuring Richmond’s urban heat island results, along with data collected in Baltimore, MD, and Washington, DC.

Source: ggwash

More than 8 Million Homeowners are leaving Big Money on the Table by not Refinancing

  • Mortgage rates have been on a roller coaster for the last year, but now they’re sitting at the bottom of the track, and that is boosting the number of borrowers who can benefit from a refinance by a lot.
  • With the average rate on the 30-year fixed mortgage hitting a three-year low of 3.73% last week, according to Freddie Mac, 8.2 million borrowers could refinance and lower their interest rates by at least 75 basis points, according to Black Knight.
  • The average borrower could save about $266 per month, bringing the total amount of potential savings to about $2.2 trillion.

Mortgage rates have been on a roller coaster for the last year, but now they’re sitting at the bottom of the track, giving a major boost to the number of borrowers who can benefit from a refinance.

The average rate on the 30-year fixed mortgage hit a three-year low of 3.73% last week, according to Freddie Mac. That means 8.2 million borrowers could refinance and lower their interest rates by at least 75 basis points, estimates Black Knight, a mortgage software and analytics company. It’s the largest group since the end of 2016.

It is also a jump of 6.3 million eligible borrowers since last November, when rates peaked at just over 5%. The average borrower could save about $266 per month, bringing the total amount of potential savings to about $2.2 trillion.

While most borrowers tend to refinance after several years, about 1.5 million borrowers, or 35% of those who took out their loans just last year, could benefit greatly. No surprise that refinances, also referred to as prepayments, have jumped in the past few months as rates began their swoon. Mortgage applications to refinance a home loan were up a striking 92% annually last week, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association.

Refinances for loans originated last year are leading the way, up 300% according to Black Knight.

“While we’ve observed increases across nearly every investor type, product type, credit score bucket and vintage, some changes stand out,” said Ben Graboske, president of Black Knight Data & Analytics.

“For instance, prepayments among fixed-rate loans have hewed close to the overall market average, rising by more than two times over the past four months. However, ARM [adjustable-rate mortgage] prepayment rates have now jumped to their highest level since 2007 as borrowers have sought to shed the uncertainty of their adjustable-rate products for the security of a low, fixed interest rate over the long haul.”

Refinancing can lower monthly payments, but it can also provide easy money for homeowners with high levels of home equity. Given the steep rise in home values over the past three years, homeowners currently hold an aggregate $5.98 trillion in tappable equity. Tappable equity is generally considered the value of the home beyond the 20% retained equity most lenders require.

Of the 44 million borrowers who currently have at least 20% equity in their homes, the average amount they can tap is $136,000, according to Black Knight.

While tappable equity had been growing quickly, it’s now slowing as home prices moderate. Last summer, there was $6.06 trillion in total. Tappable equity continues to grow in 47 states and 94 of the 100 largest markets, but it’s dropping in some major cities, like San Jose, San Francisco, Seattle, Houston, Portland, Oregon, and Baton Rouge, Louisiana

Today’s more conservative borrowers have not been taking advantage of their home equity. Just $54 billion was withdrawn in the first quarter of this year, which was the lowest volume in four years. Less than 1% of available equity was withdrawn.

During the last housing boom, in the early 2000′s, borrowers were using their homes like ATM’s. That resulted in negative equity positions when home values crashed, leading to the worst foreclosure crisis in history. Borrowers today appear to be much more reluctant to leave themselves without a cushion, remembering that home values can go down as easily as they can go up.

Source: cnbc

Better Houses for the Poor – and the Planet

When Ms Radwa Rostom was a civil engineering student at Cairo’s Ain Shams University, she participated in charity work for underprivileged communities in the city’s informal settlement of Ezbet Abu Qarn.

Her concern did not stop there. After finishing her studies, Ms Rostom returned with a small team, aiming to improve the quality of life for local residents, most of whom live in poverty.

After graduating, she trained with environmental engineering companies to acquire the technical skills to carry out her ideas.

In 2016, the young woman founded Hand Over, an Egyptian social enterprise that integrates construction into community development. This year, it was nominated for the Aga Khan Award for Architecture.

“Many companies design and build grand apartments, airports and buildings using traditional methods, which only a certain category of person can afford,” Ms Rostom says. “I wanted to build ‘humane’ housing for the marginalised, using eco-friendly materials.”

She embraced an old method known as “rammed earth construction”, using local eco-friendly materials such as gravel, mud, sand and cement.

In this way, Hand Over builds houses and community buildings such as schools and hospitals in traditional Egyptian architectural styles, such as mud-brick Nubian vault houses.

The technique is not only safer than modern construction methods, but also 25 per cent cheaper.

It also reduces heat and dampness within a building so that residents consume less energy, reducing carbon dioxide, or CO2, emissions by as much as 30 per cent.

Hand Over’s team started working in the Ezbet Abu Qarn slum, identifying the most disadvantaged families.

“Many people refused,” Ms Rostom says. “They weren’t keen because the houses looked simple and unusual.”

But one family accepted, and their house became the company’s first project.

Mr Ahmed Abdul Raada, the owner, says: “In my (former) house, each winter, snakes and rain came inside. I agreed to the project immediately. They took a year to build it, and rented an apartment nearby for my three children and me.”

Three years later, his house is still sound. “The walls feel cold, despite the fact that it’s 40 deg C outside.”

The company’s second project was a multi-specialist clinic in the remote village of Wadi Gharba in South Sinai, in collaboration with a non-governmental organisation (NGO), Catherine Exists.

A group of young doctors volunteered to work and live in the village alongside volunteer builders. Ms Rostom also lived in the area for more than four months until the project was complete.

Hand Over often collaborates with NGOs and local volunteers for community construction projects.

This was also the case for the company’s third project – a school for 300 students in Abu Ghadan, a village 80km from Cairo, built last year in partnership with the social charity Man Ahyaha.

Hand Over estimates that more than 1,000 people – students and those in need of affordable housing – have benefited from its projects.

Source: straitstimes

May calls for more Social Housing and Improved Design for New Homes

Prime minister Theresa May is set to urge the sector to deliver an increased number of social homes in a speech later today.

May  who is set to make a surprise appearance at the Chartered Institute of Housing conference this afternoon, will also call for new design standards to ensure high-quality homes and further tenant rights.

She is also expected to set out next steps on the Social Housing Green Paper agenda, with an action plan expected in September.

Her call to action comes as figures indicate that, by autumn, 1 million homes will have been added in under five years.

In Manchester, the number of extra homes being created is up 12%, in Nottingham by 43%, and in Birmingham by 80%. The number of affordable housing starts has also increased to nearly 54,000 this year.

May is expected to reiterate that the quality of housing must not be compromised by the drive to build more homes.

She will call for new regulations to mandate developers to build higher-quality housing, as while some local authorities make Nationally Described Space Standards a condition of granting planning permission, many do not.

Mandatory regulations would be universal, and provide a clear, national standards – potentially leading to increased housebuilding.

May is expected to say: “I cannot defend a system in which owners and tenants are forced to accept tiny homes with inadequate storage. Where developers feel the need to fill show homes with deceptively small furniture.

“And where the lack of universal standards encourages a race to the bottom.”

May is also set to confirm plans to end so-called “no-fault” evictions, with a consultation to be published shortly.

Responding to the announcement the LGA’s housing spokesman, councillor Martin Tett, said: “There is a critical need for renewed national leadership on standards for new homes, which give certainty to councils, developers and communities.

“These standards should future-proof all new homes ensuring they are accessible for all ages and all markets, meet the housing needs of our ageing population and are environmentally sustainable.”

Source: housingtoday
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