July 2013

National Home Prices In May Post Highest Annual Gain In Seven Years

Economists are optimistic that the housing market continues to recover as the most recent data on monthly home prices was released.  The data from May show the highest annual gain in home values since March 2006.

The data was compiled in Standard & Poor’s/Case Shiller 20-city home price index.  On average, prices rose 2.4 percent from April into May, and have increased over 12 percent since May 2012.

Some cities posted better data than others, especially Dallas and Denver.  Homes in the two cities reached the highest value on record.

Flood Insurance Rate Hikes Delayed Though Not Eliminated

Coastal American homeowners and legislatures spent the last few months fighting proposed rate hikes on standard flood insurance plans.  The US Senate Appropriations Committee last week approved a bill that will delay the proposed hikes on coastal properties for one year, though many southern residents believe the bill still does not go far enough.

Most Drivers Unaware They Qualify For Car Insurance Discounts

Approximately 40 percent of all drivers either don’t receive discounts on their car insurance, or are unaware they qualify for these discounts.

One of the easiest ways to save money on car insurance is to receive paperless statements.  Many people choose to do their banking online as the paperless option saves money – as well as being healthy for the environment.  But a national study says only one-third of drivers recognize a similar discount is available by managing car insurance online.

Racial Profiling Mortgage Securitization Lawsuit Will Proceed

Federal Court Judge Harold Baer ruled earlier this week that a discrimination lawsuit against financial advisor Morgan Stanley may proceed.  The case is groundbreaking as it is the first legal challenge to connect racial discrimination with mortgage securitization.  Legal counsel claims that Morgan Stanley violated civil rights laws laid out by the Fair Housing Act.


Americans Charged Higher Car Insurance Rates Due To Job And Education

Drivers could pay higher car insurance rates depending on their level of education and employment status. That’s the message of a new report released by the Consumer Federation of America.

The CFA created a fictional person, and plugged the personal details into the websites of the 10 largest insurance companies in the US.  On each company’s website, the CFA changed only the education and occupation of the character to determine what affect those changes might have on the quoted rates.

A Summary Of The Week’s Financial Headlines

Mortgage rates fell to their lowest level in three weeks as the country struggled to come to terms with the Detroit bankruptcy.  Meanwhile, a new mobile phone application could prove to be the future of ATM cash withdrawals.

•  Mortgage rates reached their lowest level in three weeks after rising in reaction to strong language from the Federal Reserve.  30-year fixed mortgage rates fell to 4.31 percent this week after rising to 4.37 percent last week.  The 15-year fixed option also fell to 3.39 percent this week, though the decline from the previous week was only 0.02 percent.

Half Of HAMP Refinanced Homeowners Defaulting Again

The federal government’s signature Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP) is less successful than intended.  A federal inspector revealed that nearly half of all homeowners who modified their loans under HAMP defaulted once again, as of the end of April.

HAMP was launched by the Obama administration in 2009 to help Americans approaching foreclosure reduce their monthly mortgage payments.  The Treasury Department set aside over $38 billion to finance HAMP, but after four years only $8.6 billion was spent.


Unusual Credit Card Offers And Their Potential For Harm

Many Americans will start noticing offers from credit card companies shortly after their 18th birthday.  But some households receive offers that are less common, and meant for family members who are either too young to own a credit card, or are of a different species.

One case of irregular credit card offers involves the daughter of Jessica Dickler, who worked as a personal financial writer for CNN Money.  Jessica’s daughter was only three years old in 2011, when she began receiving offers from American Express to apply for a new credit card.

Detroit Citizens Register Outer City Addresses For Low Insurance Rates

As Detroit grapples with a municipal bankruptcy, voter education specialist and city council contender Vincent Keenan identified unaffordable car insurance as one reason for such high poverty rates in the city. 

According to his firm Publius, a large number of Detroit residents are registering to vote at addresses located outside the city, primarily in the suburbs and surrounding communities.  Keenan says people will use these addresses when they renew their driver’s licenses, and then submit the locations to car insurance companies.

Diebold And Paydiant Launch Smartphone ATM Withdrawal Solution

A partnership between Diebold, a leading innovative technology firm, and Paydiant, a leading mobile wallet provider, creates a new way for Americans to get cash from ATMs.  The companies believe their new platform will reduce, and one day eliminate the need for debit and credit card withdrawals at ATMs.