Archives for September 2013

Bank fees rise for 15th straight year

Bank fees rose for the 15th straight year, with fees for overdrafts and out-of-network ATM usage hitting record highs, according to Bankrate.com.

The average overdraft charge rose 3 percent in 2013, to a record $32.20, Bankrate says. The average cost for using another bank’s ATM rose 2 percent, to $4.13—also a record.

Fees continue to go up, and it’s best to spend time strategizing how to avoid them

“Overdraft and out-of-network ATM fees are the low-hanging fruit in terms of raising fees,” says Greg McBride, senior financial analyst for Bankrate.com.

Overdraft fees have risen so far that a recent study by Moebs Services says that it’s cheaper to borrow $100 from a payday lender than it is to bounce a $100 check. The median price for a $100 loan from a payday lender is $18, Moebs says.

atmfeesThe fees in both cases are entirely avoidable, McBride says.

Overdraft fees were steepest in Milwaukee, where they average $34.16, and lowest in San Francisco, where they average $27.18.

Out-of-network ATM fees were highest in Denver, where they average $4.70, and lowest in Baltimore, when they average $3.59. The calculation includes the fee from the owner of the ATM and from your bank. The charge for using another bank’s ATM rose 4 percent, to $2.60, while the average fee from your bank for using another bank’s ATM fell 3 percent, to $1.53.

A few bank products became more affordable, according to the Bankrate survey of 10 banks in each of 25 large U.S. markets. The average minimum balance to offer a no-interest checking account fell 19 percent to $60.27—about where it’s been since 1998.

Good luck finding a free interest-bearing checking account: Just 3 percent were free to all customers, unchanged from 2012. But 95 percent of all the institutions surveyed would waive the fee if you kept an average balance of $5,802, down 5 percent from last year. Average monthly service fee fell 1 percent to $14.65. Average monthly service charge for a non-interest-bearing checking account: $5.54, up 1 percent from last year.

So far, fewer than 1 percent of banks charge for using a debit card.

“Fees continue to go up, and it’s best to spend time strategizing how to avoid them,” McBride says. “There’s always room for consumers to shop around.”

Banks do take notice when you leave, particularly when you take a big balance with you, McBride says. Seventy percent of consumers consider switching banks when checking account fees get too high, and those who are most likely to do so often have the highest balances.

SOURCE: CNBC

VIDEO: The Marketing Alliance Activities and Status Report


For “Visit Sun Valley” executive director Arlene Schieven, there were the typical surprises that came with a new job when she moved to the Valley two years ago to lead the promotion initiative, but none greater than having to adjust to a relatively small million dollar budget. The native Canadian, having spent more than a decade working for Whistler with marketing budgets well into the tens of millions, Schieven has remained constantly challenged on how to spend such limited resources to have the most marketing impact.

In her interview with the Keystone early last August, Arlene shares her thoughts on where . . . Read More

SOURCE: Ketchum Keystone

Case Shiller: Home Prices Continue To Rise

Home prices rose in July by less than two percent for the first time since March but still reached their highest level since August 2008, according to the Case Shiller Home Price Indexes released Tuesday. The 20-city index was up 1.8 percent in July – 12.4 percent in the last year — while the companion 10-city index was up 1.9 percent, 12.3 percent since July 2012.

Economists surveyed by Bloomberg had expected the 20-city index to increase 2.0 percent from June, a 12.4 percent annual improvement.

All 20 cities included in the survey improved both month to month and year to year.

The two surveys have improved month-month and year-on-year for 14 consecutive months.

The Case Shiller report came as the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) said its House Price Index rose in July at the fastest pace since March. The FHFA index tracks values for only those homes with loans eligible for purchase by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac generally those with lower values.

The Case Shiller 20-city index rose 1.4 percent in March and then by more than 2.0 in April, May and June. The 10-city index rose 1.3 percent in March followed by three straight months of gains greater than 2.0 percent.

The 10 city index rose to 176.52, up 3.23 from June’s 173.29, June’s index itself was revised down from the originally reported 173.37. The 20-city index was up 2.90 from June’s 159.59. The June index was not revised. In August 2008, the 10-city index was 176.71 and the 20-city index was 164.65.

In July, according to the National Association of Realtors, the median price of an existing since family home dropped 0.1 percent but was up14.7 percent from a year earlier.

Even with the slower growth in July, the two indices have improved by double digits year-year for five straight months and the July year-year growth was the strongest since March 2006 for the 10-city index and since February 2006 for the 20-city index. While good news for home sellers, the continued sharp increases are likely to revive concerns of a growing housing bubble as personal income growth continues to stagnate.

Still the increase in home values, according to economic theory, should mean improved consumer spending. The “wealth effect” theory holds that consumers spend based on increase in net worth, not income. Home values accounted for about 25 percent of the increase in net worth in the first quarter, according to the latest data from the Federal Reserve.

The Case Shiller indices have gone up for eight straight months and 14 times in the last 16; each index dipped last October and November.

The month-month increases were led by Chicago, where prices rose 3.2 percent from May to July. Prices have increased more than 3.0 percent per month in Chicago for three straight months and the index there is at its highest level since August 2010.

Prices rose more than 2.0 percent in July in Las Vegas (2.8 percent), Detroit (2.7 percent), Tampa (2.3 percent), San Francisco (2.2 percent), Atlanta (2.2 percent), Los Angeles (2.1 percent and San Diego (2.0 percent).

Half of the cities which showed month-month price gains of 2.0 percent or greater were in the West; none in the Northeast.

Prices have increase for 22 consecutive months in Phoenix, 18 straight in Minneapolis and 17 straight in San Francisco and Los Angeles. The price index for Denver, according to the July report is at its highest level since the Case Shiller tracking began in January 1987.

The four cities with year-year price growth of greater than 20 percent were also in the West.

Year-year the price gains were led by Las Vegas where prices were up 27.5 percent since July 2012 and San Francisco where prices rose 24.8 percent in the last 12 months followed by Los Angeles, up 20.8 percent in the last year and San Diego which saw a 20.4 percent year-year gain.

Despite the July improvement, the 10-city index is down 22.0 percent from its June 2006 high of 226.29 and the 20-city index is off 21.3 percent from its July 2006 peak of 206.52.

SOURCE; DC News

 

Ski Magazine Best Ski Resorts 2014: Sun Valley Ranks # 4

Sun Valley Ski Resort Ranks # 4 as Best Ski Resorts by Ski Magazine

“No lines, incredible grooming and amazing scenery, not to mention gold-plated commodes and granite counter tops in all the ski lodges. Sun Valley is a five-star experience.”

“It is that perfect little ski town that you read about in books. With ice skating, shopping, and dinner all within a short walk this is a place you will enjoy visiting.

Source: Ski Magazine

VIDEO: Are we still heading toward 5% mortgages?

Prospective buyers who have been shying away from the housing market due to rising rates may have reason to start shopping again.

On Wednesday, the Federal Reserve surprised market watchers when it announced that it would not start tapering its purchases of mortgage-backed securities and Treasury bonds.

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Mortgage rates have risen significantly amid concerns that the Fed would cut back on its $85 billion a month bond-buying program. Rates on a 30-year fixed mortgage are currently averaging 4.6%, up from 3.35% in early May. That rate increase has meant an extra $140 a month in payments for a homebuyer with a $200,000 30-year loan.

But now that the Fed has said it will continue to purchase the bonds, rates will likely retrace some of those gains, said Keith Gumbinger of mortgage information provider HSH.com.

Buyers may have reason to start shopping again

“Now, we do have some space for rates to fall,” he said. “I don’t expect a plummet, just a drop of 0.1 percentage points or so over the next week or two.”

Should the economy gain more momentum, however, fears that the Fed will taper off its bond purchases will most certainly resurface and rates will move higher again, he said.


Frank Nothaft, chief economist for Freddie Mac, expects rates to hit about 5% by mid-2014. That’s an increase of less than $24 a month for every $100,000 borrowed — enough to weed out borrowers who are struggling to afford homes but not enough to impact overall demand.

Despite recent increases, rates are still low by historical standards. During the housing boom years, they typically ranged between 6% and 7%.

And higher rates should prompt some banks to ease up on their lending standards, helping more people to buy homes, said Jed Kolko, chief economist for Trulia.

“Rates will be slightly higher next year but not enough to derail the housing market recovery,” he said.

SOURCE: CNN Money

Lenders Revive ‘Lock and Shop’ Programs

Some lenders are bringing back “lock and shop” programs to help home buyers lock in mortgage rates during their house hunt so they won’t need to fear rising rates.

The threat of increasing interest rates stripping away a borrower’s loan approval is removed from the equation

Premier Nationwide Lending is the latest lender to announce it will now offer a “lock and shop” program. After approving a home buyer for a Monopoly-Man-Color100loan, the company will agree to lock in their interest rate until they find a property to purchase. The home buyer will then be protected against any mortgage rate increases while they look for a home. If rates move lower in that time, the home buyer will have the option to float down to the lower rate.

“The threat of increasing interest rates stripping away a borrower’s loan approval is removed from the equation,” says John Hudson, Premier Nationwide Lending vice president of regulatory affairs .

The “lock and shop” program mostly vanished from lenders’ offerings when the market began to get more volatile, Andrew Weiss-Malik, 360 Mortgage COO, told HousingWire. Lenders are reviving the program to gain a competitive edge, he says.

“As the lending market becomes more competitive, some lenders are exploring riskier products to replenish declining loan volumes,” Weiss-Malik says.

One risk from such programs, experts note, are that “lock and shop” programs may prompt home buyers to prolong their home search and place more risk upon the lender. There is no time limit given within the program, so home shoppers can lock in the rate as long as it takes to find a home.

SOURCE: Realtor Online

FHA offers mortgage backing to the once bankrupt

The Federal Housing Administration is making it easier for once-struggling homeowners to qualify for a mortgage backed by the agency.

For borrowers who meet certain requirements, the FHA is trimming to one year the amount of time that homebuyers must wait after a bankruptcy, foreclosure or short sale before they may qualify for a FHA-backed mortgage.

The waiting period had been two years after the completion of a bankruptcy and three years after a foreclosure or a short sale.

But only certain consumers who’ve been in those circumstances will be able to meet the criteria attached to the eased restrictions. Borrowers must be able to show their household income fell by 20 percent or more for at least six months and was  tied to unemployment or another event beyond their control. They also must prove they have had at least one hour of approved housing counseling and, among other things, have had 12 months of on-time housing payments.

“FHA recognizes the hardships faced by these borrowers, and realizes that their credit histories may not fully reflect their true ability or propensity to repay a mortgage,” said FHA Commissioner Carol Galante, in a letter to mortgagees announcing the changes.

FHA-backed mortgages are a popular option for first-time buyers and for consumers with lower credit scores who might not otherwise qualify for a loan backed by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac. However, the agency has recently increased the fees tied to FHA-backed loans.

VIDEO: Starting to Become Easier to Get a Mortgage

Sept. 16 (Bloomberg) — In today’s “This Matters Now,” Doug Lebda, founder and CEO at Tree.com, talks with Tom Keene about the mortgage market and why it is becoming easier for lenders to secure a mortgage. He speaks on Bloomberg Television’s “Bloomberg Surveillance.”

VIDEO: Sun Valley Resort Unscathed by the Beaver Creek Fire

Sun Valley Resort Video: We are pleased to report that the resort is unscathed by the Beaver Creek Fire and operating normally.

SOURCE: Sun Valley Resort