National / International News

Police officers fail fitness tests

BBC - Mon, 2014-05-26 15:52
Hundreds of police officers in England and Wales fail fitness tests which are due to become compulsory later in the year, new data shows.

Sinn Féin's Anderson tops Euro poll

BBC - Mon, 2014-05-26 15:50
Martina Anderson, Sinn Féin, has topped the poll in the European elections for Northern Ireland.

The brave new world of DIY faecal transplant

BBC - Mon, 2014-05-26 15:29
The people desperate to be cured with someone else's faeces

VIDEO: Do we really need digital carpets?

BBC - Mon, 2014-05-26 15:23
The BBC's Dougal Shaw checks out a digital carpet, that can be pre-programmed with a visual display, or take in data from the internet live.

Wills of Scots soldiers go online

BBC - Mon, 2014-05-26 15:22
The wills of 31,000 Scottish soldiers - including relatives of some famous Scots - are made available online.

Scotland 'becoming more diverse'

BBC - Mon, 2014-05-26 15:22
One in six households in Scotland are of mixed ethnicity, according to a study, which found ethnic diversity was increasing through Scottish society.

Skiing in the Sahara desert

BBC - Mon, 2014-05-26 15:14
The desert ski shop with no customers

Child sight loss 'on the increase'

BBC - Mon, 2014-05-26 15:14
Increasing numbers of British children are being registered as blind or partially sighted as more very premature babies survive, say campaigners.

The school of mum and dad

BBC - Mon, 2014-05-26 15:10
'Dad told me I could do anything - so I bought a baseball team'

VIDEO: The school of mum and dad

BBC - Mon, 2014-05-26 15:10
Chief executives of some of the world's biggest firms credit their success to their upbringing. They explain what their parents taught them.

What should capitalism do?

BBC - Mon, 2014-05-26 15:06
Do we need to rethink the current system?

Anger over 'invisible' rabies toll

BBC - Mon, 2014-05-26 15:06
A shortage of funds for vaccinating dogs is costing the lives of tens of thousands of children every year, say animal health experts.

Watch Dogs faces next-gen scrutiny

BBC - Mon, 2014-05-26 15:04
Watch Dogs and the dawn of next-gen gaming

Firms taking on more staff says CBI

BBC - Mon, 2014-05-26 15:01
Businesses are taking on more people as optimism hits its highest level since 1998, according to the business lobby group, the CBI.

Seven tips for first time home buyers

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2014-05-26 14:10

It can be discouraging for a first time home-buyer out there right now. High prices and a lot of cash buyers can make the process of finding and buying a new home for the first time fairly frustrating. Here are some tips from RealtyTrac’s Daren Blomquist.

1. Have your financing in place: be pre-qualified and pre-approved for a loan so you are ready to move quickly.

2. Don’t make your offer contingent on financing or inspection (even though you are getting financing). This is happening a lot in competitive markets like Seattle. It’s a bit risky though, because if for some reason the deal fell through, you could lose your earnest money.

3. Write a love letter! Seriously, write a letter to the seller of the house. Try to explain why you really need this house, connect with the seller on an emotional level.

4. Brace yourself. You’re not gonna get the first house you put an offer on. You’re going to be making many offers, and you should be prepared to for this. Fight buyer fatigue.

5. Go where the cash buyers aren’t. Co-ops in NYC, for example, or homes that need more rehab than usual.

6. Find sellers before the cash buyers do. Look at unlisted bank-owned homes, pre-foreclosures, or just knock on doors to find out who’s going to sell soon.

7. If you can’t beat them join them. Some people have found crowd-funding works, where they pool money with friends and family to purchase a home with cash. You can also use a self-directed IRA, a type of retirement account you can use to buy with cash.

Inside the minds of Froch and Groves

BBC - Mon, 2014-05-26 14:07
Before the rematch between Carl Froch and George Groves on Saturday, Ben Dirs dissects the war of words.

Where have all the first time home buyers gone?

Marketplace - American Public Media - Mon, 2014-05-26 13:59

For about six months, Kevin Erspamer has been looking to buy his first home, in Brooklyn. “We’ve looked at 30 places at least,” he says.

His verdict? “We’re holding off for now.”

Him and would-be first-time homeowners across the country. 

At one point, first-time home buyers accounted for 50 percent of all home sales. Right now, they’re 29 percent.  And that number is pretty much where we were four years ago. Even counting the fact we are in a post-bubble, post-recession recovery, “first-time home buyers are down 20-25 percent from where they would normally be in the market,” says Chris Mayer, Paul Milstein Professor of Real Estate at the Columbia School of Business.   

In Erspamer’s case, prices have been high, for starters – sometimes rising 30 percent in just the time he’s been looking. Another problem he’s run into is the all-cash offer.

“You go, the open houses are completely full, and then the guy is like, we’ve had a number of offers over asking price, including all cash offers,” he recalls. “It makes you feel a little discouraged, like why would they ever accept my offer with financing if they have an all-cash offer.”

In the first quarter of 2014, 43 percent of U.S. residential property sales were all cash. 

“That’s the highest number we’ve ever seen and it’s really an astounding number,” says Daren Blomquist, vice president of RealtyTrac.

So who are these people who can lay down cash?

“Investors – just regular investors, as well as a new breed of investors entering this market, what we call institutional investors backed by hedge funds,” Blomquist says.

In some markets, foreign buyers looking for a place to park cash are an issue. Florida, California, Arizona, Texas, and New York account for 61 percent of international home purchases, according to the National Association of Realtors.  But there’s also a significant domestic competitor, says Blomquist.

“You also have retirees who in some cases are selling their homes in other parts of the country, and because they have built up equity they have cash to go buy a place in Florida,” where they can downsize.

While it might seem easy to blame Wall Street, the foreigners, and Grandma, there’s more going on.

“In a sense its crowding out, but it’s really just a reflection of the challenges that younger households are having coming into the market to buy a first home,” Mayer says.

There’s less inventory and more demand, which has pushed prices higher than many first-time buyers are comfortable with. Replenishing that inventory will “take some time because that’s going to require home builders building more homes and current homeowners who own a price deciding they have sufficient equity to sell their home and move up,” says Mayer. “That’s another missing piece – the move-up buyers,” he adds.

Mortgage lenders are still extremely fearful of lending to anyone without the most pristine credit. “Until very recently, the last couple weeks, if you were a lender for Fannie or Freddie, and the borrower missed any payment in the first 36 months, you’re facing the potential of having to buy that loan back from Fannie or Freddie.” 

Student loans are crowding out first time homebuyers’ ability to buy as well. “People with student loan debt, historically, have also been more likely to have a mortgage,” says Mayer. “Which meant they were able to buy a home. That has switched to the point that people with student loans today are less likely to have a mortgage. So it looks like student loan debt is pushing back the age of first time home purchase for many people.”

And don’t forget that the Federal Housing Authority now charges much higher default insurance premiums, meaning consumers can’t turn to the government for the same kind of support as in the past. “In typical years, the FHA’s share of the first-time home buyer market has been as high as 60 to 70 percent, it’s dropped to the 30 percent range,” says Malcolm Hollensteiner, director of retail lending  sales and production at TD Bank.

In the short term, these factors don’t appear to be changing much.

“Until that first-time homebuyer regains confidence and becomes more active in the marketplace, we’re going to continue to have a very soft housing recovery,” Hollensteiner says.

Wawrinka knocked out of French Open

BBC - Mon, 2014-05-26 13:43
Third seed Stan Wawrinka is the first major casualty at the French Open as he loses in four sets to Guillermo Garcia-Lopez.

'Irregularities' in Sarkozy funding

BBC - Mon, 2014-05-26 13:25
A senior member of France's opposition UMP party admits there were "anomalies" in the accounts of Nicolas Sarkozy's 2012 presidential campaign.

Celebrating 100 Years Of Ham Radio

NPR News - Mon, 2014-05-26 12:59

This will be a special year for the hundreds of enthusiasts who converge annually on W1AW, a small station in Newington, Conn., known as "the mecca of ham radio," to broadcast around the globe.

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