Citizens for Sox, a grassroots organization made up of 4000 residents and taxpayers of Sarasota County, Florida will hold a public meeting on Tuesday, July 29 at 6:00PM at the Hyatt Regency Sarasota Ballroom located at 1000 Boulevard of the Arts at 41 North in the center of the city of Sarasota. City Commissioner Kelly Kirschner and County Commissioner Joe Barbetta will give an update and take questions on the Boston Red Sox Spring Training Facilities relocating to Sarasota, Florida.

Florida Real Estate noted some positive movement in local housing markets in June, with an upswing in the statewide median price reported for both existing home sales and condominium sales over May 2008, according to the latest housing statistics released by the Florida Association of Realtors® (FAR).

The statewide existing-home median price in June was $205,500, up 1 percent from May’s median price of $203,300. The median price of an existing condo last month was $183,700, also up 1 percent from May’s figure of $181,800.

U.S. House leaders Wednesday approved a colossal housing package that allows the federal government to back up to $300 billion in refinanced loans for at-risk borrowers, a measure that could save thousands of Southwest Florida homeowners from foreclosure.

President Bush backed down from his veto threat of the broad-based legislation, fast-tracking passage of a bill aimed at stimulating recovery and boosting confidence in housing markets. The House vote was 272-152, and the Senate is expected to agree by week’s end, bringing relief to about 400,000 homeowners nationwide. This bill also included tax credits of up to $7,500 for first-time home buyers.

The package also entails a plan to bolster the ailing government-sponsored mortgage giants, Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, with emergency funding and enhanced oversight.

The two companies, which provide funding for or back roughly half the home loans written in the United States, have taken a beating from investors in recent weeks amid growing solvency concerns brought on by bad-loan losses. The proposal would allow the federal government to extend credit to the companies as they weather one of the worst housing meltdowns in recent history.

The bill sets up a permanent affordable-housing fund financed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and allocates $3.9 billion in local government grants to preserve property values and provide affordable housing through the purchase of foreclosures.
Additionally, the legislation would provide $180 million for foreclosure prevention efforts, another area of need for South Florida agencies overwhelmed by borrowers seeking assistance.

Rates on 30-year fixed mortgages fell for the second week in a row on increased speculation that the Federal Reserve will not raise interest rates before the end of the year.

30-year fixed-rate mortgages averaged 6.26% with an average 0.6 of a point in the week ending Thursday, down from 6.37% last week. Last year at this time, the 30-year loan averaged 6.73%.

The 15-year fixed rate mortgage this week averaged 5.78% with an average 0.6 of a point, down from last week when it averaged 5.91%. A year ago at this time, the 15-year fixed rate mortgage averaged 6.38%.

Five-year adjustable-rate mortgages (ARMs) averaged 5.80% this week, with an average 0.6 of a point, down from last week when it averaged 5.82%. A year ago, the 5-year ARM averaged 6.35%.

One-year Treasury-indexed ARMs averaged 5.10% this week with an average 0.6 of a point, down from last week when it averaged 5.17%. At this time last year, the 1-year ARM averaged 5.72%.

A point, or “discount point,” can be purchased at the time of closing to decrease the mortgage rate. Each point costs 1% of the loan amount and each point that a borrower purchases lowers the the loan interest rate.

Call or e-mail me if I can answer any mortgage questions.

Fishkind & Associates will conduct the study, which would be the first step in establishing Lakewood Ranch as its own city.

The study’s goal is to determine and document the viability of Lakewood Ranch becoming incorporated. As a city, Lakewood Ranch would have its own police department and other municipal services.

Other potential advantages include a decrease in tax payments and entitlement to sales, gasoline and alcohol consumption taxes.

The concept of transforming Lakewood Ranch into an incorporated city became a hot topic in 2006 when residents began to take a more active role in running the community. However, it was shelved after a transition committee decided that the shift was not beneficial enough to warrant the process.

There are drop-off locations for the Fighting Hunger summer food drive throughout the Lakewood Ranch vicinity. Local drop-off points include Lakewood Ranch Cinemas, ComCenter at Lakewood Ranch, Integrity Home Medical and two Sun Hydraulics plants.

Through Aug. 22, donors can bring nonperishable food items, toiletries and monetary donations to any of those places for weekly pickups. The supplies are going to The Food Bank of Manatee and All Faiths Food Bank.

Most of All Faiths’ food stores come from efforts like this one that are organized by businesses and groups, says Dan Dunn, executive director of the food bank in Sarasota.

“It’s a hard situation going on right now. We’re seeing people who used to be able to donate to us now getting food from us,” Dunn said.

But when communities come together to help neighbors, he said, it can really make a difference.

With house prices falling around the country, many renters are wondering if this is the time to jump in and score a deal.

The answer, of course, depends on where you live. In much of the U.S., you’re better off buying despite falling home values, say new data compiled by the National Low Income Housing Coalition and the Center for Economic and Policy Research.

Even more interesting to potential homebuyers is the chance to build equity. Here, too, there’s good news for many major metros. In 66 of the top 100 markets, you’d be in the black in four years should you buy a low-priced home today.

Safe doesn’t mean profitable, however. With prices falling in many markets, housing is too risky these days to expect you’ll make money on a house deal, experts caution. The object now is to avoid losing money.

“Don’t expect these markets to take off,” says Danilo Pelletiere, research director for the National Low Income Housing Coalition and co-author of the study, “Ownership, Rental Costs and the Prospects of Building Home Equity.”

“The housing boom passed them by because, in many cases, not much is happening in these towns.”

Buyers should look at the purchase as a conservative investment that’s unlikely to pay off like an oil-patch scheme and may even lose value, Pelletiere, says. Base the decision on more than profit, on intangibles like the chance to build stability, to join a community, to enjoy a neighborhood or love living in a particular home.

“I wouldn’t want anybody to interpret this data as saying here’s where you should put your money”, Pelletiere says. “What I am saying is, if you want to put your money into a home, these are the cities where owning makes sense.”

How much equity you’d have by 2012 if you bought a low-priced home today…

Metro area

6% loan

7% loan

8% loan

McAllen-Edinburg-Mission, Texas

$90,437

$89,871

$89,381

San Antonio

$90,017

$89,064

$88,239

New Orleans-Metairie-Kenner, La. 

$88,907

$87,473

$86,232

Houston-Sugar Land-Baytown, Texas 

$87,837

$86,703

$85,721

Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington, Texas 

$83,880

$82,669

$81,620

Rochester, N.Y. 

$82,898

$81,898

$81,032

Syracuse, N.Y. 

$80,231

$79,341

$78,571

Buffalo-Niagara Falls, N.Y. 

$77,934

$77,045

$76,275

Jackson, Miss.

$77,648

$76,659

$75,804

Austin-Round Rock, Texas

$70,007

$68,530

$67,251

Memphis, Tenn.-Mississippi-Arkansas *

$68,348

$67,286

$66,367

Baton Rouge, La. 

$61,802

$60,648

$59,651

Pittsburgh

$61,174

$60,221

$59,397

Tulsa, Okla. 

$58,599

$57,624

$56,780

Little Rock-North Little Rock-Conway, Ark. 

$58,420

$57,416

$56,548

Augusta, Ga.-Richmond County, S.C. 

$57,424

$ 56,465

$55,636

Lakeland, Fla.

$56,960

$55,793

$54,784

Columbia, S.C

$55,993

$54,936

$54,022

El Paso, Texas 

$55,100

$54,316

$53,637

Akron, Ohio 

$54,594

$53,410

$52,387

Greensboro-High Point, N.C. 

$54,592

$53,463

$52,485

Oklahoma City 

$54,431

$53,475

$52,648

Youngstown-Warren, Ohio-Boardman, Pa. 

$54,014

$53,176

$52,450

Wichita, Kan. 

$53,684

$52,764

$51,968

Dayton, Ohio 

$51,393

$50,327

$49,405

Detroit-Warren-Livonia, Mich. 

$50,599

$49,241

$48,067

Indianapolis-Carmel, Ind. 

$49,520

$48,330

$47,300

Albany-Schenectady-Troy, N.Y. 

$49,104

$47,630

$46,355

Omaha, Neb.-Council Bluffs, Iowa 

$47,823

$46,654

$45,643

Birmingham-Hoover, Ala. 

$47,404

$46,276

$45,300

Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Marietta, Ga. 

$46,314

$44,730

$43,360

Scranton-Wilkes-Barre, Pa. 

$46,251

$45,254

$44,391

Des Moines-West Des Moines, Iowa 

$46,078

$44,844

$43,776

Kansas City, Mo.-Kansas City, Kan. 

$45,699

$44,413

$43,300

Cleveland-Elyria-Mentor, Ohio 

$45,251

$44,025

$42,964

Grand Rapids-Wyoming, Mich.

$44,484

$43,304

$42,282

Toledo, Ohio 

$44,009

$42,928

$41,992

Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater, Fla. 

$41,847

$40,237

$38,843

Chattanooga, Tenn.-Georgia *

$41,025

$39,955

$39,029

Cincinnati-Middletown, Ind.-Kentucky  *

$40,454

$39,184

$38,086

Greenville-Mauldin-Easley, S.C. 

$40,268

$39,169

$38,218

Harrisburg-Carlisle, Pa. 

$37,456

$36,168

$35,054

Portland-South Portland-Biddeford, Maine 

$37,197

$35,204

$33,479

New Haven-Milford, Conn. 

$36,521

$34,284

$32,348

Deltona-Daytona Beach-Ormond Beach, Fla. 

$36,217

$34,643

$33,281

Charleston-North Charleston, S.C. 

$35,592

$34,062

$32,738

Louisville-Jefferson County, Ky.-Indiana *

$33,003

$31,809

$30,775

St. Louis -Illinois *

$32,933

$31,630

$30,503

Sarasota-Bradenton-Venice, Fla. 

$31,544

$29,577

$27,875

Charlotte-Gastonia, N.C.-Concord, S.C. 

$29,919

$28,524

$27,318

Columbus, Ohio 

$28,982

$27,628

$26,457

Albuquerque, N.M. 

$28,805

$27,356

$26,102

Jacksonville, Fla. 

$26,832

$25,241

$23,863

Nashville-Davidson-Murfreesboro-Franklin, Tenn. 

$26,567

$25,181

$23,982

Knoxville, Tenn. 

$24,862

$23,663

$22,625

Palm Bay-Melbourne-Titusville, Fla. 

$23,090

$21,467

$20,063

Richmond, Va. 

$21,500

$19,740

$18,217

Raleigh-Cary, N.C. 

$19,004

$17,386

$15,985

Springfield, Mass. 

$16,338

$14,591

$13,079

Philadelphia-Camden, N.J.-Wilmington, Del. -Maryland *

$14,492

$12,532

$10,836

Hartford-West Hartford-East Hartford, Conn. 

$13,494

$11,405

$9,598

Allentown-Bethlehem, Pa.-Easton, N.J. 

$12,779

$11,063

$9,578

Milwaukee-Waukesha-West Allis, Wis. 

$12,745

$11,076

$9,632

Virginia Beach-Norfolk-Newport News, Va.-North Carolina  *

$10,449

$8,515

$6,842

Orlando-Kissimmee, Fla. 

$9,400

$7,433

$5,730

Colorado Springs, Colo. 

$4,482

$2,736

$1,224