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You can tell a lot about the way an area grew by the age of its homes. The pace of suburban sprawl, for example, can be mapped just by observing the way homes get newer as you get further from the city's center. Houses built in the 1920s give way to homes from the '50s and '60s and so on. But that's not all you can learn from paying attention to the collective age of the country's housing stock. You can also tell a lot about the housing market's ups-and-downs. One example can be found in a recent analysis from the National Association of Home Builders. According to the NAHB, the median age of owner-occupied homes is now 37 years, which is up from 31 years in 2005. In fact, more than half of our homes were built before 1980 and 38 percent were built before

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Home buyers this year have faced higher prices, more competition, and rising mortgage rates. In short, it's been a challenging year. But that's not to say it isn't a good time to buy a house. There are many reasons to be optimistic about homeownership, in fact – and a few that put current conditions in perspective. Take mortgage rates, for example. According to Freddie Mac, the long term average is 8.16 percent, which means today's rates are still low historically. Also, home equity is increasing. In fact, it's up 13% year-over-year. And rising home equity means today's homeowners are seeing their investment grow. There is also evidence that market conditions may begin to improve. For one, new home construction has been making gains and that means more

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Searching for a home to buy can be frustrating. Mostly because it's not always easy to find a house in the right neighborhood with every one of the features you dreamed of. If you find the perfect kitchen, the house will have too few bedrooms. Or you'll find a house with the right number of bedrooms and the kitchen will be too small. In other words, buying a house means compromise. And, in today's market, buyers are having to make difficult choices. For example, a new analysis from the National Association of Realtors' consumer website found that for 73 percent of recent buyers school district was an important factor in deciding which house to buy. But, among those buyers, nearly 80 percent said they had to give up other home features in order to find a

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Maintenance is a big part of being a homeowner. Put simply, owning a home means having a never-ending to-do list and, depending on your level of know-how, some of it will require the help of a professional. These jobs can range from major renovations such as putting an addition on your house to basic upkeep and repairs like having ducts cleaned and fixing leaks. Essentially, you are your home's temporary caretaker and how well you take care of it will affect not only how comfortable and enjoyable your home is to live in but also how much you can ask for it when you sell. These days, it seems Americans are increasingly interested in fixing up their homes. In fact, newly released data from the National Association of Home Builders shows home remodeling

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Maintenance is a big part of being a homeowner. Put simply, owning a home means having a never-ending to-do list and, depending on your level of know-how, some of it will require the help of a professional. These jobs can range from major renovations such as putting an addition on your house to basic upkeep and repairs like having ducts cleaned and fixing leaks. Essentially, you are your home's temporary caretaker and how well you take care of it will affect not only how comfortable and enjoyable your home is to live in but also how much you can ask for it when you sell. These days, it seems Americans are increasingly interested in fixing up their homes. In fact, newly released data from the National Association of Home Builders shows home remodeling

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With rental costs and home prices both increasing, it's become more challenging for renters to save for a down payment. How much so? Well, according to one recent analysis, the typical renter will have to save for nearly six and a half years to come up with a 20 percent down payment on a median-priced home. And, since the median home value is currently $216,000, depending on your prospective neighborhood, it could take even longer to save up for a house. Renters who aspire to homeownership shouldn't get discouraged, though. Despite the fact that a 20 percent down payment is the standard amount recommended by financial experts, it is not a requirement in order to buy a house. In fact, depending on the particular terms of your mortgage, you can put down as

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The vast majority of surveyed Americans say that homeownership is among their retirement goals, according to a recent survey. In fact, 85 percent of non-retiree respondents said they want to own their own home in retirement and believe they can pay off their mortgage before they retire. But, though non-retiree participants feel like they'll have their mortgage paid off in time, more than 25 percent of retired respondents said they're still paying off a mortgage and over half of those had a balance of more than $50,000. In short, Americans may be a bit too optimistic. But regardless of whether or not they make it, the debate about home ownership and retirement will continue. On the one hand, tax breaks and equity make a good case for the wealth-building

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The challenge of finding an affordable entry-level home in today's housing market gets a lot of coverage. First-time buyers facing higher rent, difficulty saving for a down payment, and low inventory are an important demographic and their habits have implications for the overall health of the market. But, at the same time as the starter-home market has been hot, demand for luxury homes has also ramped up. In fact, new research shows sales of homes $1 million and higher are up 25 percent over last year – which represents the largest jump since January 2014. In short, the improved economy and job market has also led to an increase in demand for luxury homes, the same way it has elevated demand across all segments of the housing market. Among specific

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There are two reasons home buyers typically have to pay more for a house on the water. The first is that people want to live on the water. It's a desirable location. Secondly, there are a limited number of houses with water access. And when you combine high demand and low supply, you usually have a recipe for higher prices. But new research shows that waterfront property isn't selling at as high a premium this year. In fact, waterfront homes in the first quarter sold for a 36 percent premium, which is the lowest level since 2002. By comparison, the average premium since 1996 is 41 percent and in 2012 the premium was as high as 54 percent. In other words, the difference in price between homes on the water and those further inland is lower than normal. But

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Perception doesn't always match reality but, when it comes to financial markets, it can make a difference. For example, if you've ever invested in the stock market, you know that a company's stock can rise or fall based on the day's news, even if the company's fundamentals and outlook remain the same as the day before. In short, perception matters. And, in today's housing market, there's a perception that there are few affordable homes available to prospective buyers. In fact, according to a recent analysis from Fannie Mae, though only 8 percent of homeowners consider their current mortgage unaffordable, 45 percent said that affordable housing is difficult to find in their area. Which provides a snapshot of what is going on in many markets across the

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