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New HUD Deputy Secretary sworn in

After a lengthy nomination process, HUD’s news Deputy Secretary has been sworn in, which carries great weight for the housing industry as government agencies, banks, and consumers scrap over how to fix housing.

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Maurice Jones returns to public service

After President Obama nominated Maurice Jones last fall, Jones sailed through Senate confirmation hearings ending on March 29th. Jones was sworn in this week as the Deputy Secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), becoming second in command to Secretary Shaun Donovan. Jones will manage HUD’s day-to-day operations, a nearly $47 billion annual operating budget, and the agency’s 8,900 employees.

During his confirmation hearings, Jones told the Senators, “Usually, your top challenge to moving any organization to a standard of excellence is having the right people in the right places. Second to that, you also – in these tough times – you have to make sure the organization is operating as efficiently as possible.”

“President Obama and Secretary Donovan have blessed me with the opportunity to join HUD during this critical period when we continue to support a fragile recovery from an historic housing crisis,” said Jones. “I’m ready to help continue transforming an organization charged with moving beyond the yesterday’s experiences to tackle today’s challenges and those we’ll face tomorrow.”

HUD’s Donovan emphasis on Jones’ skill is telling

“Maurice has one of the strongest public and private sector track records I’ve seen for building consensus and solving big problems,” said HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan “As we continue to confront our current housing challenges, HUD will certainly benefit from Maurice’s intellect, his proven management experience and his great people skills.”

Donovan’s comments are quite telling, as he emphasizes Jones’ ability to build “consensus,” which Donovan needs help with in light of his recent housing battles, including his persistence in pushing for principal reductions for troubled homeowners, which the Federal Housing Finance Finance Agency strongly opposes as a means to repair housing.

Jones’ public service and private sector background

Jones added, “Public service has been a passion of mine since my high school days in rural Lunenburg County, Virginia. As a ninth grader, I was fortunate enough to be selected to serve as a page during that year’s legislative session of the Virginia General Assembly. The experience changed my life. I resolved then and there to enter public service when I grew up so that I too could work to make things better.”

This appointment means a return to that public service for Jones, who was the deputy chief of staff for then-Governor Mark Warner, and later the commissioner of the Virginia Department of Social Services. Jones was also special assistant to the general counsel of the U.S. Treasury Department during the Clinton administration. Jones was also legal counsel to the Community Development Financial Institutions Fund and director of the fund during his time at the Treasury.

In the private sector, Jones joined Virginia news outlet, The Pilot in 2005 and was promoted to Vice President and General Manager in 2006, then Publisher in 2008. During the nomination process, he remained at The Pilot but did not engage in political endorsements.

Jones graduated from Hampden-Sydney College, then attended Oxford University in England on a Rhodes scholarship, and later earned a law degree from the University of Virginia.

Tara Steele is the News Director at The American Genius, covering entrepreneur, real estate, technology news and everything in between. If you'd like to reach Tara with a question, comment, press release or hot news tip, simply click the link below.

Austin

Austin tops the list of best places to buy a home

When looking to buy a home, taking the long view is important before making such a huge investment – where are the best places to make that commitment?

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Looking at the bigger picture

(REALUOSO.COM) – Let us first express that although we are completely biased about Texas (we’re headquartered here, I personally grew up here), the data is not – Texas is the best. That’s a scientific fact. There’s a running joke in Austin that if there is a list of “best places to [anything],” we’re on it, and the joke causes eye rolls instead of humility (we’re sore winners and sore losers in this town).

That said, SelfStorage.com dug into the data and determined that the top 12 places to buy a home are currently Texas and North Carolina (and Portland, I guess you’re okay too or whatever).

They examined the nerdiest of numbers from the compound annual growth rate in inflation-adjusted GDP to cost premium, affordability, taxes, job growth, and housing availability.

“Buying a house is a big decision and a big commitment,” the company notes. “Although U.S. home prices have risen in the long term, the last decade has shown that path is sometimes full of twists, turns, dizzying heights and steep, abrupt falls. Today, home prices are stabilizing and increasing in most areas of the U.S.”

Click here to continue reading the list of the 12 best places to buy a home…

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Housing News

Average age of houses on the rise, so is it now better or worse to buy new?

With aging housing in America, are first-time buyers better off buying new or existing homes? The average age of a home is rising, as is the price of new housing, so a shift could be upon us.

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The average home age is higher than ever

(REALUOSO.COM) – In a survey from the Department of Housing and Urban Development American Housing Survey (AHS), the median age of homes in the United States was 35 years old. In Texas, homes are a bit younger with the median age between 19 – 29 years. The northeast has the oldest homes, with the median age between 50 – 61 years. In 1985, the median age of a home was only 23 years.

With more houses around 40 years old, the National Association of Realtors asserts that homeowners will have to undertake remodeling and renovation projects before selling unless the home is sold as-is, in which case the buyer will be responsible to update their new residence. Even homeowners who aren’t selling will need to consider remodeling for structural and aesthetic reasons.

Prices of new homes on the rise

Newer homes cost more than they used to. The price differential between new homes and older homes has increased from 10 percent traditionally to around 37 percent in 2014. This is due to rising construction costs, scarcity of lots, and a low inventory of new homes that doesn’t meet the demand.

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Housing News

Are Realtors the real loser in the fight between Zillow Group and Move, Inc.?

The last year has been one of dramatic and rapid change in the real estate tech sector, but Realtors are vulnerable, and we’re worried.

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Why Realtors are vulnerable to these rapid changes

(REALUOSO.COM) – Corporate warfare demands headlines in every industry, but in the real estate tech sector, a storm has been brewing for years, which in the last year has come to a head. Zillow Group and Move, Inc. (which is owned by News Corp. and operates ListHub, Realtor.com, TopProducer, and other brands) have been competing for a decade now, and the race has appeared to be an aggressive yet polite boxing match. Last year, the gloves came off, and now, they’ve drawn swords and appear to want blood.

Note: We’ll let you decide which company plays which role in the image above.

So how then, does any of this make Realtors the victims of this sword fight? Let’s get everyone up to speed, and then we’ll discuss.

1. Zillow poaches top talent, Move/NAR sues

It all started last year when the gloves came off – Move’s Chief Strategy Officer (who was also Realtor.com’s President), Errol Samuelson jumped ship and joined Zillow on the same day he phoned in his resignation without notice. He left under questionable circumstances, which has led to a lengthy legal battle (wherein Move and NAR have sued Zillow and Samuelson over allegations of breach of contract, breach of fiduciary duty, and misappropriation of trade secrets), with the most recent motion being for contempt, which a judge granted to Move/NAR after the mysterious “Samuelson Memo” surfaced.

Salt was added to the wound when Move awarded Samuelson’s job to Move veteran, Curt Beardsley, who days after Samuelson left, also defected to Zillow. This too led to a lawsuit, with allegations including breach of contract, violation of corporations code, illegal dumping of stocks, and Move has sought restitution. These charges are extremely serious, but demanded slightly less attention than the ongoing lawsuit against Samuelson.

2. Two major media brands emerge

Last fall, the News Corp. acquisition of Move, Inc. was given the green light by the feds, and this month, Zillow finalized their acquisition of Trulia.

…Click here to continue reading this story…

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