Here are this week's Worthy Nods from the news and from around the blogs ...
Wall Street Journal: Steve Forbes Says Obama's Economic Policy Repeats Bush's Mistakes - Here's what you've been waiting for - the chance to agree with Steve Forbes! "The most disastrous Bush policy that Mr. Obama is perpetuating is mark-to-market or 'fair value' accounting for banks, insurance companies and other financial institutions... Banks and life insurance companies that have positive cash flows now find themselves in a death spiral. Of the more than $700 billion that financial institutions have written off, almost all of it has been book write-downs, not actual cash losses..." A must read, excellent article.
BusinessWeek: Signs of Life From the Real Estate Market - In some ZIP codes across the country, as once-inflated property prices bottom out, housing sales are increasing dramatically. So nice to see signs of land.
New York Times: Housing Market's Upside - Houses in the United States are now more affordable than at any time in the last 40 years, when compared with personal income. In the summer of 2005, when funny-money mortgages were readily available and helping to drive up home prices, the national median sales price of a home was almost eight times as much as the average per capita after-tax income of Americans. That multiple has now fallen to less than five.
New York Times: Looking for a Mortgage? Check Out FHA's Rules - Good FHA primer and rundown of the rules and requirements. If a borrower has less than perfect credit and less than 20 percent in home equity, an important threshold, you’ll have to pay a lot more for a loan. That’s why many of those borrowers are turning to the FHA insured loan program.
Calculated Risk: Rising Early Payment Defaults on FHA Loans - In the past year alone, the number of borrowers who failed to make more than a single payment before defaulting on FHA-backed mortgages has nearly tripled. Experts attribute the jump in these instant defaults to factors that include the weak economy, lax scrutiny of prospective borrowers and most notably, foul play among unscrupulous lenders looking to make a quick buck. Here we go again.
Washington Post: Obama's Budget Seeks to Shrink Tax Benefits of Owning - Is the Obama administration serious? The administration isn't commenting on anything beyond what was proposed in its first budget, submitted last week, but housing and banking trade groups are worried that the proposal to cut back on the ability of upper-income families to write off mortgage interest and other expenses is just the opening move in a longer-range effort to reform the federal tax code.
Wall Street Journal: Delinquent Mortgages Hit Record Level - A recent report showed the sharpest increases in loans 90-days past due were in Louisiana, New York, Georgia, Texas and Mississippi. The delinquency rates for fixed-rate mortgages climbed in the fourth quarter and the percentage of loans at least 30 days past due rose to a record 7.88%, up from 6.99% in the third quarter and 5.82% a year earlier -- the biggest quarterly jump for delinquencies since the survey began in 1972.
The Huffington Post: Trump Luxury Resort Venture Folds Leaving Buyers Strapped - What's in a name? In this economy, even the Trump names means little in the loss game. Trump and his children heavily promoted the northern tip of Mexico's Baja California coast. Trump's luxury hotel-condo plan collapsed, leaving little more than a hole in the ground and investors out of their deposits, which totaled $32.2 million. Investors were told last month their money was spent and they won't get a penny back. Not even a so sorry? Ivanka is now lauding the Panama City, Panama, real estate market as one of the strongest in the world. They just happen to have a huge casino/hotel/condo tower there. I wouldn't consider it a strong market!
New York Times: The Last Days of the Oligarchs - I know I keep bringing up the Russian oligarchs but, to tell you the truth, I am just fascinated. The ones that I have come across in hotels around the world were much more likely to be oligarch want-to-be's or mini-mini oligarchs, but the attitude is the same. So easy to spot in the hotel lobby or bar, and not from the language. "They are larger-than-life figures who saw themselves as the Carnegies or Rockefellers of Russia. ... and may soon be thrown into the dustbin of history by the economic crisis.
The Big Picture: Retired and Scared - Read on if you dare, but if you're like me and refuse to read your statements, just put your head back in the sand. Can you handle the truth?
The Future of Real Estate Marketing: Home.com Adds to iPhone Apps - The sure cure for real estate junkies. Homes.com joins the ranks of Trulia and StreetEasy this week and announced the launch of a new iPhone application (iTunes link).
Economix/NYT: Housing Prices Heat Map - Great interactive map for a stroll down the memory lane of housing prices over the years.
Economix/NYT: A Map of the (Drinking) World - Another cool Times' map. Just interesting, that's all.