Latest market trends



New report from housing consultant Tracy Cross & Associates Inc. reveals that builders signed contracts to sell 4,404 homes here last year is up 27 percent from 2012.

In 2013, the growth mirrors double-digit gains in the re-sale market as builders enjoyed less competition, low interest rates and rising homebuyer confidence, according to Crain’s Chicago Real Estate news. Tracy Cross, president of the Schaumburg-based firm expects new home sales will rise another 20 percent this year.

“Programs that maintain a presence in Chicago should be very profitable going forward”, Cross said.

He also stated that city developers posted a 47.5 percent sales jump, but over a low base in 2012, when only 558 new-homes sold in the city.

The report showed suburban sales rose 23.1 percent, with activity strongest in northwest suburban Elgin and in suburbs including Naperville, Aurora and Oswego.

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Chicago is one of the most affordable cities to live in the United States, according to popular mortgage resource website,

In an article entitled ““The Salary You Must Earn to Buy a Home in 25 Cities,” took the National Association of REALTORs' 2013 third-quarter median home prices, as well as its average interest rates for 30-year, fixed-rate mortgages in the quarter, and plugged them into a mortgage calculator to determine the principal and interest payment needed to buy a median-price home with a 20 percent down payment in 25 major metropolitan areas.

As a general rule, a home's purchase price should be anywhere between three to five times annual household income – with the total monthly payment 31 percent of gross monthly income.

Here are the results:

Top 5 most affordable:

  • Cleveland - $22,348.03 (home price $127,000/monthly payment $521.45/salary increase of nearly $7,000 from the beginning of 2013)
  • Cincinnati - $25,151.04 (home price $142,100/monthly payment $586.86/salary up about $6,000)
  • St. Louis - $25,277.82 (home price $143,700/monthly payment $588.65/salary up nearly $8,000)
  • Atlanta - $26,862.53 (home price $152,300/monthly payment $626.79/salary up nearly $9,000)
  • Tampa - $26,930.35 (home price $151,800/monthly payment $628.37/salary up about $5,000)
  • Chicago - $37,078.02 (home price $209,000/monthly payment $865.15/first city on the list to see a salary increase of more than $10,000 at nearly $12,000)

Top 5 most expensive:

  • Washington, DC - $68,345.39 (home price $392,500/monthly payment $1,594.73/salary up over $14,000)
  • Boston - $68,956.41 (home price $393,7000/monthly payment $1,608.98/salary up nearly $17,000)
  • New York City - $71,254.65 (home price $405,400/monthly payment $1662.61/salary up over $13,500)
  • Los Angeles - $79,176.55 (home price $448,900/monthly payment $1,847.45/salary up almost $25,000)
  • San Diego - $85,842.74 (home price $485,000/monthly payment $2,003.00/salary up nearly $21,000)
  • San Francisco - $125,071.78 (home price $705,000/monthly payment $2,918.34/salary up almost $28,000)

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U.S. ECONOMY UP 3.2% IN Q4 2013


The U.S. economy grew at a 3.2% annual clip in the fourth quarter, powered by a strong gain in consumer spending, according to the Commerce Department's report on Thursday.

The report also showed that the last six months of 2013 were the best stretch of economic activity since October, 2011-March 2012.

"The U.S. economy appears to be hitting its stride," said PNC Financial economist Stuart Hoffman. "Consumers are slowly but steadily increasing their spending thanks to moderate job and income growth and gains in stock and home prices."

Report also revealed:

  • Consumer spending, which accounts for two-thirds of the economy, grew at an annual pace of 3.3%. That's the most in three years.
  • Businesses raised overall spending at a 3.8% pace but at a 6.9% rate for equipment. In the third quarter, business spending grew at a 4.8% rate.
  • The country also got a boost from its shrinking trade deficit, as rising exports added 1.48 percentage points to growth. Exports were up at an 11.4% annual rate from the third quarter.
  • The fourth quarter saw one last big negative hit from the Washington budget fights, which led to the 16-day partial government shutdown in October. Federal government spending fell 12.6%, led by a 14% drop in defense spending, the Commerce Department said. The shutdown contributed to a drop in federal spending that shaved 0.93 percentage points from growth.

Hoffman forecasts GDP growth of about 3% in 2014 compared with 1.9% in 2013 and 2.8% in 2012.

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Standard & Poor’s (S&P) latest data released January 28 revealed that Chicago an 11% year-over-year gain-- the highest since December 1988.

The annual rates of change improved for both composite indices and 10 of 20 cities, including Chicago, where the annual rate improved from 10.9 percent in October to 11.0 percent in November.

In a press release, Standard & Poor’s Index Committee Chairman David M. Blitzer said, "Combined with low inflation – 1.5% in 2013 – home owners are enjoying real appreciation and rising equity values.” But he cautioned, "While housing will make further contributions to the economy in 2014, the pace of price gains is likely to slow during the year.”

However, compared with October, prices fell 1.2 percent in Chicago.

Blitzer said, “Despite the slight decline, the 10-city and 20-city (indexes) showed their best November performance since 2005. Prices typically weaken as we move closer to the winter.”

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On January 15, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emmanuel presented a five-year housing plan to city council that called for investing $1.3 billion to produce or preserve 41,000 units of housing.

The plan which was called “Bouncing Back” aims to focus on putting vacant and foreclosed properties back into the market. It also emphasizes in unloading the 8,000 residential parcels the city owns.

Andrew Mooney, commissioner of planning and development said they would like to create a much smoother and more efficient process for getting those parcels back out to people who can use them.

According to the official press release, the 2014-2018 plan includes strategies to:

  • Target resources geographically for maximum impact.
  • Advance new land-use policies in neighbourhoods with large vacant areas.
  • Develop new financing programs for housing rehabilitation programs.
  • Encourage innovative re-use options for vacant and abandoned buildings.
  • Integrate housing into broader community-development plans.
  • And provide affordable housing to the city’s most vulnerable residents.

Read full press release.

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Gibraltar has officially become a full signatory to the Multinational Memorandum of Understanding (MMoU) of the International Organization of Securities Commissions (IOSC), this month.

Nicola Smith, managing director of hedge fund administrator Helvetic said that this is a significant move as it bolsters Gibraltar as a location for international hedge funds looking for a geographic foothold within the AIFMD zone.

Under the Alternative Investment Fund Managers Directive, the passport system established allows funds to operate throughout the EU once they have received regulatory approval in one member country.

The result has been an increased level of interest from international fund managers seeking territories that blend a skilled workforce, high quality provision of services such as audit and administration, and a regulatory framework that meets international standards.

The MMoU is one more significant step that positions Gibraltar in the global market as the gateway to the EU.

“We will see 2014 as the first year which requires hedge fund managers to take positive action in response to the AIFMD,” says Smith.

She also added that the key to the changes introduced by the legislation is the better transparency through increased monitoring and reporting on risk management and investment activities.

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For a more secure and faster way of reporting to the tax body, HM Revenue and Customs is now offering online services to be used by QROPS managers and administrators. Overseas scheme managers can use the service to:

1. Notify or re-notify HMRC that a scheme is a recognized overseas pension scheme; to report payments made out of funds received from a UK pension scheme.

2. To report change of details, status or fund value.

3. To report any additional information required for schemes that were formerly QROPS. The new service also makes it easier to send reports about multiple transfers or scheme members in one go.

As IFAonline explains:

“UK scheme administrators will be able to notify HMRC that a UK registered pension scheme has transferred sums or assets to a QROPS via the online service.

Both QROPS scheme managers and UK scheme administrators will be able to continue using the paper process.

UK scheme administrators can access the service using their existing Pension Schemes Online details, while overseas managers will receive a letter from HMRC with their enrolment details in early January.”

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The year 2013 has been great for the US housing market: home values have skyrocketed in many markets, mortgage rates have risen from their bottom and most recently, negative equity fell at the fastest pace ever. This year, real estate database giant, Zillow predicts these positive trends will continue.

Zillow Chief Economist Stan Humphries said, "We expect these gains to continue into next year, though at a slower pace. The housing market is transitioning away from the robust bounce off the bottom we've been seeing, toward a more sustainable, healthier market. This will result in annual appreciation closer to historic norms of between 3 percent and 5 percent."

As Zillow explained in their website:

“In 2013, home values rose rapidly (roughly 5 percent nationwide and more than 20 percent in some local markets) and while these gains were beneficial at the time to pull home values up from unnaturally low levels, they were also unsustainable. Many metros saw appreciation well above historic norms, sometimes 4 or 5 times their historic appreciation levels. This year, home value gains will slow down significantly because of higher mortgage rates, more expensive home prices, and more supply created by fewer underwater homeowners and more new construction.”

The website also reported recently that overall cumulative value of all homes in the U.S. at the end of 2013 is expected to be approximately $25.7 trillion, up almost $1.9 trillion, or 7.9 percent, from the end of 2012. The $25.7 trillion total value of the country's entire housing stock is more than the combined gross domestic products (or GDP) of China and the U.S. in 2012.

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New survey showed December has been a great month for the US employment adding 238,000 jobs, up slightly from 229,000 in the previous month. Construction industry made a big gain among other industries and figures showed that the US economy gained momentum at the end of 2013.

Payroll processor ADP report showed:

  • Strong gains in higher-paying jobs.
  • Construction firms hired 48,000 additional workers in December, the most since 2006.
  • Manufacturers added 19,000 positions.
  • Companies in retail, transportation and utilities gained 47,000 jobs.
  • In an interview with Crain’s Business Chicago, Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody's Analytics said, ""The job market has kicked into a higher gear. We're now 4 ½ years into this economic recovery and there have been a lot of false starts. ... But this time it does feel more fundamental, more real, more broad-based."

    Economists are also expecting 3 percent or higher growth in 2014 up from earlier estimates that were closer to 2 percent.

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    According to recent report by, Chicago is one of the 10 metro areas across the United States to watch in 2014 when it comes to home-selling activity. The property comparative website based this on the high number of hits and visits from people searching for Chicago homes.

    Also on the list of hot metro searches are Boston, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Phoenix. Chicago ranked fourth and also the only city in the Midwest to make the top 10 according to the list.

    So why do people want to buy houses in Chicago?

    According to Lanny Baker, CEO of Ziprealty, there are two reasons which make Chicago area hot for property investors:

    1. Lack of inventory-- The housing inventory in the Chicago area has fallen 25 percent from November of 2012 to the same month in 2013.

    2. Quick sales---The median number of days on the market for Chicago-area homes fell 31 percent from November of 2012 to November of 2013.

    It can also be noted that investors prefer to put their money in Chicago properties because of the growing “flipping” trend that generates higher profit for them.

    “In the third quarter (of 2013) alone, investors flipped 562 homes, a 28 percent increase from a year ago but down 15 percent from the second quarter. On average, home flippers made a gross profit of $85,814 in the third quarter, a 33 percent uptick from a year ago, making the Chicago area the 21st best market for flippers, RealtyTrac found”, reports the Chicago Tribune.

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