Texas Sales Tax Revenue Up 15.2%, Comptroller Says

By Barry Harrell


Texas saw sales tax collections rise in June, with revenue of $1.98 billion, a  15.2 percent increase over the same month last year, the state comptroller’s  office said Wednesday. It was the 27th consecutive month in which sales tax  revenue has increased, the comptroller’s office said.

Sales tax is an important source of revenue for the state, paying for a number  of services, from schools to prisons.

The collection numbers reported Wednesday reflect sales made in May.

“Strong business spending in industries such as manufacturing and oil and  natural gas boosted the latest sales tax collections,” Texas  Comptroller Susan Combs said in a news release. “Revenue from consumer  spending in the retail trade and restaurant sectors also did well.”

The comptroller’s office said it will distribute $535 million in local sales  tax allocations to cities, counties, transit systems and other taxing  entities, a 12.7 percent increase over July 2011.

Most Central Texas cities saw their sales tax allocations for July increase  over the same month last year, according to data from the comptroller’s  office.

Austin’s allocation rose to $12.5 million, a 10.7 percent increase over July  2011’s $11.4 million.

Among other Central Texas cities, Dripping Springs (25.6 percent), New  Braunfels (20.6 percent), Bastrop (18.9 percent) and Kyle (18.4 percent) saw  the biggest percentage increases in sales tax allocations. Cities seeing  declines from last year were Buda (-7.5 percent), Round Rock (-4.7 percent)  and Sunset Valley (-3.9 percent), according to data from the comptroller’s  office.

Contact Barry Harrell at 

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Texas Is America’s Top State for Business 2012


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Published: Tuesday, 10 Jul 2012 | 4:30 PM ET

By: Scott Cohn
Senior Correspondent, CNBC

Texas has done it again.

The Lone Star State makes a triumphant return as America’s Top State for Business—its third time at the top of our rankings.

“Listen, there is a reason that Caterpillar moved their hydraulics manufacturing and their engine manufacturing to the state of Texas,” said Gov. Rick Perry in November during the CNBC Republican presidential debate.

We can attest to that.

In our sixth annual study, Texas racked up an impressive 1,604 points out of a possible 2,500, with top-10 finishes in six of our 10 categories of competitiveness. Texas has never finished below second place since we began the study in 2007.

Each year, we score all 50 states on the criteria they use to sell themselves. This year’s analysis is the most comprehensive yet, using 51 metrics developed with the help of the National Association of Manufacturers and the Council on Competitiveness, as well as input from the states themselves.

This year’s categories and possible point totals are:


Continue Article……


30-Year Fixed Mortgage Rate Continues to Fall to Record-Breaking Lows

Date: July 10, 2012 | Author:

Mortgage rates for 30-year fixed mortgages fell this week, with the current rate borrowers were quoted on Zillow Mortgage Marketplace at 3.39 percent, down from 3.43 percent at this same time last week.

This represents the lowest rate reported since Zillow Mortgage Marketplace launched in April 2008. The previous low was 3.43 percent, first reported one week ago on July 3. The 30-year fixed mortgage rate hovered between 3.41 and 3.47 percent for the majority of the week, dropping to the current rate this morning.

“Last week, rates were pushed to another all-time low by the worse-than-expected employment report on Friday. This week, rates should remain fairly flat with limited scheduled news to alleviate US and European concerns,” said Erin Lantz, director of Zillow Mortgage Marketplace.  “Although these low rates reflect the fragility of the global economic recovery, the silver lining for some U.S. homeowners is the opportunity to refinance at much lower rates, and programs like HARP are extending these opportunities to underwater homeowners who had previously been sidelined.”

Additionally, the 15-year fixed mortgage rate this morning was 2.83 percent and for 5/1 ARMs, the rate was 2.43 percent.

What are the rates right now? Check Zillow Mortgage Marketplace for up-to-the-minute mortgage rates for your state.

*The weekly rate chart illustrates the average 30-year fixed interest in six-hour intervals


10 U.S. Real Estate Markets Drawing International Buyers


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The 10 markets, ranked by highest share of foreign buyers, according to public records data, are:

  1. Lakeland-Winter Haven, Fla.
  2. Cape Coral-Fort Myers, Fla.
  3. Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford, Fla.
  4. North Point-Bradenton-Sarasota, Fla.
  5. Miami-Fort Lauderdale-Pompano Beach, Fla.
  6. Phoenix-Mesa-Glendale, Ariz.
  7. New York County, N.Y. (Manhattan)
  8. Honolulu, Hawaii.
  9. Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater, Fla.
  10. Las Vegas-Paradise, Nev.

New Home Sales Dropped In February


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By Les Christie@CNNMoney March 23, 2012: 11:00 AM ET

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) — New home sales fell in February, dashing construction industry hopes that the long-overdue housing recovery may be finally arriving.

The Census Bureau reported Friday that new homes sold at an annualized pace of 313,000 during the month, adjusted for seasonal factors. That was a 1.6% decline compared with January’s 318,000 sales but 11.4% above last February’s 281,000.

Sales fell short of the 323,000 that analysts had expected.

There was a bit of good news for home builders in the report. The median price of new houses sold jumped to $233,700, well above the $217,000 median recorded in January.

The fake housing recovery

The supply of new homes available for sale dropped slightly during the month to 150,000, a 5.8-month supply.

New home sales remain very depressed compared with the mid-2000 boom years. In July. 2005, new homes sold at a 1.389 million annual pace.

New home sales data is eagerly anticipated because increases in construction translates into broad economic gains. All sorts of jobs, in construction, trucking, and furniture, appliance and carpet manufacturing, rise along with new home construction.

The one number to watch for a housing market recovery

Each new home built during a year supports about three jobs, according to David Crowe, chief economist for the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB).

The decline came as somewhat of a surprise to Crowe. He said NAHB members have reported a boost in shoppers looking for new homes as abnormally warm weather brought out more house hunters than usual this winter.

The increase in shoppers has not led to a rise in actual buying, he said, and tight credit has been one factor hurting sales.

No presidential fix for housing crisis

“Many people come in pre-approved for mortgages but, ultimately, can’t pass the underwriting process,” he said. “They’re qualified but they can’t get a high-enough appraisal on a house.”

If the appraisal comes in low, mortgage banks won’t provide all the funds needed for buyers to complete their purchases. That has short-circuited many new home sales recently.


30-Year Fixed Mortgage Rate Rises to 3.97% For the First Time in Five Months


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Date:  March 20, 2012  |  Author:  Camille Salama

Mortgage rates for 30-year fixed mortgages rose this week, with the current rate borrowers were quoted on Zillow Mortgage Marketplace at 3.97 percent, up from 3.74 percent at this same time last week.

This signifies the highest rate recorded on Zillow Mortgage Marketplace in the last five months. The 30-year fixed mortgage rate steadily rose for the majority of the week, dropping to 3.9 percent on Monday. The rate briefly reached 4 percent late Monday night before falling to the current rate early this morning.

“Mortgage rates hit 4 percent for the first time in five months after a collection of positive news. The Federal Reserve delivered a better assessment of the economy and reduced speculation that the Fed would buy even more mortgage-backed securities, bank stress test results were more positive than many expected, and Greece’s second bailout plans appeared on track,” said Erin Lantz, director of Zillow Mortgage Marketplace.

“Rate movement this coming week should help indicate whether we return to the even lower levels we’ve enjoyed for the past five months, or whether we’ve reached a new plateau,” said Lantz.

Additionally, the 15-year fixed mortgage rate this morning was 3.16 percent and for 5/1 ARMs, the rate was 2.85 percent.

What are the rates right now? Check Zillow Mortgage Marketplace for up-to-the-minute mortgage rates for your state.


8 Banks to Be Fined for Wrongful Foreclosures


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Daily Real Estate News | Tuesday, March 20, 2012

The Federal Reserve announced it will fine eight more banks for allegedly improperly foreclosing on home owners. The financial institutions were not included in the recent $25 billion mortgage settlement involving the nation’s five largest banks.

The eight companies are: EverBank, Goldman Sachs Group, HSBC Holdings PLC, PNC Financial Services Group, MetLife, OneWest Bank, SunTrust Banks, and U.S. Bancorp. The Fed did not disclose the amount of the fines on the banks.

Banks continue to face fines and new mandates from federal and state officials due to the way they handled foreclosures over the last few years. Last April, government regulators had ordered 14 lenders and servicers to reimburse home owners who in 2009 and 2010 were improperly foreclosed upon. Eligible home owners have until July 31 to apply for reimbursement.

Source: “U.S. Fines Eight Banks for Alleged Foreclosure Abuse,” Associated Press (March 19, 2012)