Thursday, June 26, 2008

What you need to know about the market

The economic downturn is causing some Baby Boomers to downsize or postpone retirement, but they still are in no hurry to pay off their mortgages, according to the annual “Affluent Boomers at 60” survey from Oaklandbased Bell Investment Advisors. Historically, most seniors paid off their mortgage before retiring. Not so today. More than 55 percent of those surveyed who currently hold a mortgage don’t intend to pay off their loan until their 70s, if then. That could change if the economy worsens or the slowdown is prolonged. One in four Baby boomers already are changing their retirement plans and 40 percent are “downsizing” their lifestyles. More than one quarter (28 percent) have lost a job in recent months or know someone over age 60 who has. As a result, 22 percent say they are cutting down on charitable contributions, 21 percent are changing vacation plans, 18 percent are reducing the amount they are saving, and 11 percent are postponing retirement entirely. Sixty-nine percent say the economy is causing them to change to a more conservative investment strategy. The survey included equal numbers of men and women born in 1948, all of whom reported investable assets of $1 million or more.

The rapid rise in gas prices is causing similar lifestyle changes on America’s highways and byways, particularly those leading to and from the suburbs. The U.S. Dept. of Transportation reported that American drivers reduced the number of miles they drove in March by 4.3 percent over the same month a year ago. Now, Coldwell Banker says 81 percent of the agents it surveyed said their clients increasingly are looking to urban housing as a way to cut commuting costs. A third study by CEOs for Cities, a government-business coalition, said higher gasoline prices will push new housing developments closer to the urban core in many U.S. cities and cause home values to decline in those suburbs where there are few transit options for commuters.

The percentage of American households headed by homeowners experienced its most significant decline in two decades at the end of the first quarter of 2008, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Only 67.9 percent of households were headed by homeowners, down from a record 69.1 percent achieved in 2005. Renter households increased from 30.9 percent to 32.2 percent, erasing gains achieved in recent years. The jump in renter households was not unexpected: it simply happened far faster than anticipated. The Joint Center for Housing at Harvard University projected the number of renters would increase by 1.8 million between 2005 and 2015. Instead, the housing market decline and subsequent dramatic rise in foreclosures pushed 1.5 million additional households into rental housing between 2005 and 2007 alone. Not surprisingly, rents have increased by about 11 percent and vacancy rates have fallen in many urban markets over the same period.

Compliments of the California Association of Realtors

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