You Can Buy A House For One Dollar Or Less In Economically Depressed Cities All Over America

Free House In Yakima, WashingtonWould you like to buy a house for one dollar?  If someone came up to you on the street and asked you that question, you would probably respond by saying that it sounds too good to be true.  But this is actually happening in economically-depressed cities all over America.  Of course there are a number of reasons why you might want to think twice before buying any of these homes, and I will get into those reasons in just a little bit.  First, however, it is worth noting that many of the cities where these “free houses” are available were once some of the most prosperous cities in the entire country.  In fact, the city of Detroit once had the highest per capita income in the entire nation.  But as millions of good jobs have been shipped overseas, these once prosperous communities have degenerated into rotting, decaying hellholes.  Now homes that once housed thriving middle class families cannot even be given away.  This is happening all over America, and what we are witnessing right now is only just the beginning.

The photo that I have posted below was sent to me by a reader just the other day.  It is a photo of a house in Yakima, Washington that is apparently being given away for free.  At one time it was probably quite a lovely home, but now nobody seems to want it…

Free Home In Yakima, Washington

This piqued my curiosity, so I started doing some research and I discovered that homes all over the nation are being sold off for a dollar or less.  The following are just a few examples…

Buffalo, New York: “The Urban Homestead Program that is offered by the City of Buffalo enables qualified buyers to purchase a home that has been deemed ‘homestead eligible’ for $1.00 and there are plenty of properties left. There are three main requirements when purchasing a homestead property; the owner must fix all code violations within 18 months, have immediate access to at least $5000, and live there for at least three years. You also have to cover the closing costs of the purchase.”

Gary, Indiana: “Officials say that a third of the houses in Gary are unoccupied, hollowed dwellings spread across a city that, like other former industrial powerhouses, has lost more than half its population in the last half-century.

While some of those homes will be demolished, Gary is exploring a more affordable way to lift its haggard tax base and reduce the excess of empty structures: sell them for $1.”

South Bend, Indiana: “How could you refuse this offer? The city of South Bend, Indiana wants to give this handsome circa-1851 Italianate farmhouse away to anyone willing to properly restore it. Aside from the boarded up windows (the boards are painted to look like real windows), the place is in pretty good shape, with a completely restored exterior, new roof, and all new HVAC, plumbing and electrical systems. All you’ll need to do is restore the gutted (but clean as can be) interior.”

Detroit, Michigan: “Now that the motor city has effectively run out of gas and declared bankruptcy, some rather eye-popping deals are presenting themselves to first time home buyers who appreciate the challenge of a fixer-upper.

Hundreds of Detroit homes currently listed on Zillow have asking prices below $5,000, with at least one seller so desperate as to offer his house for just $1, ABC News reported.”

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And guess who is selling more “one dollar homes” than anyone else?

If you guessed “the federal government” you would be correct.

Right now, the federal government is selling foreclosed homes to low income families all over the country for just one dollar

HUD’s Dollar Homes initiative helps local governments to foster housing opportunities for low to moderate income families and address specific community needs by offering them the opportunity to purchase qualified HUD-owned homes for $1 each.

Dollar Homes are single-family homes that are acquired by the Federal Housing Administration (which is part of HUD) as a result of foreclosure actions. Single-family properties are made available through the program whenever FHA is unable to sell the homes for six months.

By selling vacant homes for $1 after six months on the market, HUD makes it possible for communities to fix up the homes and put them to good use at a considerable savings.

Before you get too excited, there are a whole bunch of reasons why you wouldn’t want to actually buy any of these one dollar homes.

First of all, most of them have been totally trashed.  Just to get them up to livable condition would take thousands of dollars in most cases.  Many of them are full of asbestos, and severe wiring and plumbing issues are quite common.

Secondly, you assume all of the liability for a home when you buy it.  So if a homeless person stumbles in and injures himself, you could be liable for his injuries.

Thirdly, many of these homes are in very high crime neighborhoods.  In some of these areas, people will literally rip up and carry away anything that is not bolted down.

Fourthly, property taxes are very high in many of these cities.  Local governments are desperate to get people into these homes so that they can get the taxes flowing again.  In many cases, what you would pay in taxes for a year is more than the true value of the home itself.

So, like I said, these homes are not the “great deal” that they may appear to be at first glance.

But that is not really the issue.

The real question is this: What is causing our communities to decay so dramatically?

And of course a big part of the answer is that the middle class in America is dying.

According to Time Magazine, one new report has discovered that nearly half the country is constantly living in a state of “persistent economic insecurity”…

But as evidenced by a report out Thursday from the Corporation for Enterprise Development, nearly half of Americans are living in a state of “persistent economic insecurity,” that makes it “difficult to look beyond immediate needs and plan for a more secure future.”

That same report also found that 56 percent of all Americans now have “subprime credit”.

We are a nation that is losing our independence and sinking into poverty.

Right now, 49.2 percent of all Americans are receiving benefits from at least one government program, and the U.S. government has spent an astounding 3.7 trillion dollars on welfare programs over the past five years.

Millions of our jobs have been shipped overseas, the control freak bureaucrats that are running things are absolutely killing “the little guy”, and poverty in the United States is exploding at a frightening pace.

Things are “changing” in this country, and not for the better.

One way that the death of the middle class is manifesting itself is in the death of shopping malls all over America.  The following is an excerpt from a recent Business Insider article

All across America, once-vibrant shopping malls are boarded up and decaying.

Traffic-driving anchors like Sears and JCPenney are shutting down stores, and mall owners are having a hard time finding retailers large enough to replace them. With a fresh wave of closures on the horizon, the problem is set to accelerate, according to retail and real estate analysts.

According to that same article, one prominent retail analyst believes that we could see up to 50 percent of the shopping malls in America close within 20 years…

Within 15 to 20 years, retail consultant Howard Davidowitz expects as many as half of America’s shopping malls to fail. He predicts that only upscale shopping centers with anchors like Saks Fifth Avenue and Neiman Marcus will survive.

And did you catch that last part?  Only the shopping malls in wealthy areas will survive because the wealthy will be the only ones with enough money to support them.

For much more on this phenomenon, please see my previous article entitled “What Recovery? Sears And J.C. Penney Are DYING“.

At this point, things have already gotten so bad that now even Wal-Mart is having trouble.  In fact, Wal-Mart is blaming the recent slowdown in sales on cuts to the federal food stamp program

Wal-Mart announced today that cuts in a federal food stamp program as well as record cold temperatures hurt its fourth quarter profits.

After previously reporting “relatively flat” sales for the quarter, Wal-Mart Stores Inc. now says that sales for its namesake store and its Sam’s Club locations would be “slightly negative” for the November-January quarter, according to Agence France-Presse.

Wal-Mart’s Chief Financial Officer, Charles Holley, blamed the revised forecast on deeper-than-expected cuts to the U.S. Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and the extreme cold weather occurring in the past month.

This is how far the middle class in America has fallen.  So many people are now on food stamps that even a slight reduction in benefits has a huge impact on the largest retailer in the entire country.

And actually, many rural communities could end up losing their Wal-Mart stores in the years ahead as the economy continues to deteriorate.  In a recent CNBC article entitled “Time to close Wal-Mart stores? Analysts think so“, it was suggested that Wal-Mart should close about 100 “underperforming” supercenters in rural locations around the nation.

We are rapidly becoming “two Americas”.  In the “good America”, the wealthy will still have plenty of retail stores to choose from within easy driving distance from their million dollar homes.

In the “bad America”, which will include most of us, our shopping malls will be closing down and the rotting, decaying homes of our neighbors will be sold off for next to nothing.

So which America do you live in?  Please feel free to share what is going on in your neck of the woods by posting a comment below…

Soaring Mortgage Rates Are Going To Make It Far More Difficult To Buy Or Sell A House

Home For SaleDid you actually think that mortgage rates were going to stay at all-time lows forever?  Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke was able to grossly distort the market for a while by buying up massive amounts of government bonds and mortgage-backed securities, but there was no way in the world that the market was going to stay that distorted forever.  It simply does not make sense to give American families 30 year mortgages at a fixed interest rate of less than four percent when the real rate of inflation is somewhere around eight to ten percent and the mortgage delinquency rate in the United States is 9.72 percent.  If we actually did have “free markets” and they were behaving rationally, mortgage rates would be far, far higher.  Well, now that the Fed has indicated that they are going to be starting to “taper” QE at some point, bond yields have skyrocketed and this is rapidly pushing up mortgage rates.  According to Freddie Mac, we just witnessed the largest weekly increase in mortgage rates in 26 years.  Sadly, this is only just the beginning.  Unless the Federal Reserve intervenes, mortgage rates are going to continue to try to revert to normal.

When mortgage rates go up, so do monthly payments.  All of a sudden, families that could afford the monthly payments on a $300,000 mortgage are no longer able to do so.  This is why when mortgage rates rise, it tends to push housing prices down.

If rates continue to go up, it is going to become increasingly difficult to sell your house.  Less people will be able to afford the monthly payments as rates rise.  Many families will have to end up reducing their selling prices.

And right now we are watching rates rise at a rate that we have not seen since the 1980s.  According to Freddie Mac, the average rate of interest on a 30 year fixed-rate mortgage jumped by more than half a percentage point just last week…

The average 30-year fixed-rate mortgage rose from 3.93 percent last week to 4.46 percent this week; the highest it has been since the week of July 28, 2011. This represents the largest weekly increase for the 30-year fixed since the week ended April 17, 1987.

A year ago, the 30 year rate was sitting at 3.66 percent.

The monthly payment on a $300,000 mortgage at that rate would be $1374.07.

Currently, the 30 year rate is sitting at 4.46 percent.

The monthly payment on a $300,000 mortgage at that rate would be $1512.93.

If the 30 year rate rises to 7 percent, the monthly payment on a $300,000 mortgage would be $1995.91.

Does 7 percent sound crazy to you?

It shouldn’t.

As the chart posted below demonstrates, a 7 percent mortgage was considered “normal” a decade ago…

30 Year Mortgage Rate

As you can see, mortgage rates have nowhere to go but up.

And as they go up, they are going to absolutely crush any semblance of a “housing recovery”.

Meanwhile, Americans continue to get poorer.

This week we learned that real per capita disposable income plunged at an annualized rate of 9.21 percent in the first quarter of 2013.

That is absolutely astounding.  We haven’t seen anything like that since the darkest days of the last recession.

If Americans do not have money to spend, that is going to hurt every industry – including housing.

And already we are seeing pain in the housing market.  For example, the number of mortgage applications has fallen by 29 percent over the last eight weeks.

And rising rates are also causing a lot of families to turn to adjustable rate mortgages.

Remember those?

They played a major role in the last housing crash, and according to CNBC they are now making a comeback…

After hovering around record lows for the past few years, mortgage rates are rising dramatically. That has consumers not only shopping more but also considering adjustable rate mortgages, which offer lower rates and lower monthly payments.

These ARMs, many requiring interest payments only, were popular during the latest housing boom but quickly fell out of favor when safer, fixed-rate loan rates fell to record lows.

So what does all of this mean?

It means that the tiny little “mini-bubble” that we have seen in housing this year is rapidly coming to an end.

It also means that it is going to become far more difficult to buy or sell a house.  Monthly payments are going to go up substantially, and many homeowners are going to find that they are not going to be able to sell their homes for what they had anticipated.

If you are already in the process of buying a house, hopefully you locked in a really good rate while you could.  Those record low mortgage rates sure were nice, and we will probably never see them again.

Now we are headed for a very painful “adjustment” thanks to Ben Bernanke and the Federal Reserve.  They should never have distorted the housing market so much, and now we are all going to suffer the consequences.

The Sobering Reality Of What Life Is Like In Reno, Nevada

What do you do when the city where you live is dying?  All over the United States formerly great cities are crumbling, but some are definitely in worse shape than others.  One reader recently wrote to me about what she sees happening all around her in Reno, Nevada.  The unemployment rate in Reno is now up to 11.7 percent, which is well above the national average of 8.3 percent.  But that doesn’t tell the whole story.  The recent recession hit Nevada particularly hard and people have been moving out of the state in waves.  In fact, the labor force in Nevada has shrunk by close to 20 percent over the past year as workers have moved elsewhere in search of work.  But even though the labor force is now nearly 20 percent smaller, the unemployment rate is still well above 11 percent.  There simply are not enough jobs in large Nevada cities such as Reno and Las Vegas.  Unfortunately for Reno, it does not have the same kind of big corporate money pouring into it that Las Vegas does.  The good news is that you can buy a house very, very cheaply in Reno because homes were foreclosed on in droves during the housing crash.  Even today, some housing developments that were put up near the end of the boom times look like virtual ghost towns.  The main industry in Reno is “entertainment”, but many of Reno’s strip clubs and gambling establishments have aged so badly at this point that they just look kind of depressing.  I guess that is kind of fitting, because Nevada has the fifth highest suicide rate in the nation, and Reno has been ranked as one of the top 10 depressed cities in the entire country.  As the city has declined, gangs have moved in and the drug trade is flourishing.  Reno has been called the meth capital of America, and crime is on the rise.  Despite being surrounded by tremendous natural beauty, Reno has become a very unpleasant place in which to live.  But what is happening in Reno is also happening in hundreds of other communities across the United States.  Our economy is collapsing and our cities are crumbling right in front of our eyes, and it is only going to get worse from here.

A reader of my site named Heather who has been unemployed since November of last year recently shared the following with me….

I am living in Reno/Sparks Nevada and I feel like it is ground zero for collapse. There are a lot of people who are in denial right now and cannot see the larger picture. I keep also saying we are the canary in the coal mine for the rest of the country.  It is quite depressing driving around seeing empty office buildings with vacancies and retail areas just empty. Went to the stores and retail seems pretty slow also. I am volunteering at ProNet locally and it helps unemployed people finds jobs and skills. It has been depressing there too with very little jobs out there for many people who need one.

She said that I should share what is happening in Reno with my readers.  She wanted people to know what those living in Reno are going through.

You might think that since Reno is so sunny, so warm and surrounded by such natural beauty that it would be one of the happiest places in America.

Unfortunately it turns out that the opposite is true.

Reno is actually a very sad place.

In fact, last year Men’s Health ranked Reno as the ninth saddest city in the United States.

In response to this ranking, one resident of Reno wrote the following….

In light of this disheartening list-making, it is, of course, important for Nevadans to look on the bright side. Rather than allowing these statistics to depress us further, we can consider them a series of challenges that make living in places like Reno and Las Vegas all the more impressive. You don’t just live in Reno. You survive Reno! To dwell in Reno, you must triumph over the odds that are stacked against you—one of the things we’re supposed to do best here.

If we can withstand all of the emotional curveballs thrown at us because we have selected such a turbulent location in which to reside, we can probably survive anything.

As a lifelong Renoite, I am inclined to respond to these lists with defiance. Yeah, things can look pretty grim sometimes when no one can find a job, and there seems to be no way out.

And that is how many Americans are feeling these days.  They are broke, unemployed, depressed and out of options.

How can you pick up and start a new life somewhere else when you have no job and no money?

Sadly, a lot of younger Americans are turning to drugs in an attempt to escape the pain of their daily lives.

One article that I found attempted to find humor in the raging meth epidemic that is happening in Reno….

Reno has been affectionately called the meth capital of the nation. Some foolishly think mass drug usage can ravage a city as swiftly as it can ruin a user’s clear complexion. In all reality, drug addiction is no more than an endearing quirk, certainly not a cause for concern. Babies and adolescents with addiction-addled parents should stop being coddled and learn how to take care of themselves. I’ve been doing my own laundry since I was six months old­ — I’m sure they can do the same. If there is anything disturbing about the meth problem in Reno, it’s that it shows the lack of variety in this town. Why don’t you try some uppers like MDMA? Your teeth will thank me.

Unfortunately, Reno is far from alone.  In the past I have written about how formerly great cities such as Detroit, Cleveland and Baltimore are completely falling apart as well.  This kind of thing is literally happening from coast to coast.

There is a very serious lack of decent jobs in America right now.  At this point only 24.6 percent of all jobs in the United States are good jobs.

This has made it increasingly difficult for Americans to be able to take care of themselves.

If you can believe it, more than 100 million Americans are on welfare at this point.

And that number does not even include the tens of millions of people that are on Social Security and Medicare.

What in the world has happened to us?

These days most Americans work really hard all of their lives but never end up reaching their dreams.

In fact, one recent study found that 46 percent of all Americans die with less than $10,000 worth of financial assets.

Talk about depressing.

But instead of having us focus on how bad the economic numbers are, the Federal Reserve wants to start measuring how “happy” everyone is.  The following is from a recent ABC News article….

Ben Bernanke wants to know if you are happy.

The Federal Reserve chairman said Monday that gauging happiness can be as important for measuring economic progress as determining whether inflation is low or unemployment high. Economics isn’t just about money and material benefits, Bernanke said. It is also about understanding and promoting “the enhancement of well-being.”

So what would you say if the Federal Reserve contacted you and asked if you are happy?

Please feel free to post a comment with your thoughts below….

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