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These 10 cities offer best hope for a fresh start

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Lists of best places to live run rampant on the Web, but this

one might be of interest to those looking for a better job market

and standard of living.

Relocation.com‘s list of

Best Cities for a Fresh Start, released this week, cites cities

that have prospects for economic growth, good home affordability

and a strong community, reflected by rates of volunteerism.

Austin, Texas, topped the list, due to a vibrant technology

community and the strength of its government institutions, along

with favorable job growth, volunteerism rate and home

affordability. Dallas/Fort Worth came in second, thanks to a

diverse economy benefiting from Texas’ energy industry and a

housing market that didn’t get too overheated. Charlotte, N.C.’s

diverse economy and high rankings for popularity and volunteerism

earned it a third-place spot on the list.

Also in the top 10 were Denver.; Columbus, Ohio; Indianapolis;

Washington-Baltimore; Atlanta; Oklahoma City; Houston; Las Vegas;

and Seattle. Read the full list on


Read more real estate news in this week’s pages, including why

more home buyers are warming up to the idea of buying foreclosure

homes and a Realty Q&A about an idea to expand the first-time

home buyer credit to all buyers.

If you’re looking for a new place to get a fresh start, you’re

not alone.

“Studies have shown that many people don’t like where they

live. At the same time, a lot of people are looking for work,

whether they’re unemployed now or fearing layoffs,” said Sharon

Asher, chairman and founder of

“http://Relocation.com”>Relocation.com. “It’s a scary time, but

for some it might be a good time to think about starting


— Amy Hoak, Real Estate writer

Expanding home-buyer tax credit to all is on the


Is there any possibility that the tax credit for first-time

home buyers will be expanded to also include repeat purchasers who

already own a house but would like to move up? I understand there

has been some movement in Congress along these lines. See Realty


Obama to sign $490 million mortgage fraud bill into


Legislation that will give federal authorities more tools to

combat mortgage fraud and create a commission to examine the

financial crisis is on its way to the White House to be signed into

law by the President Obama after the House voted to approve the

measure. See full story.

Housing starts, permits hit record lows in


Optimism that the housing slump had hit bottom was damaged

Tuesday when the government reported that construction on new

housing projects slowed to a record-low pace in April. See Economic


It’s ‘nuts’ to hope for a housing


The drop in April home construction is good news, as far as

housing economist Thomas Lawler is concerned. With a huge inventory

of unsold homes crowding the market, “you wouldn’t like to have

people building a whole bunch of new homes. That’d be nuts,” says

the founder of Lawler Economic and Housing Consulting. Listen to

Audio Report.

Home builders more hopeful that sales will


Encouraged by low interest rates and the re-emergence of

first-time buyers, U.S. home builders’ spirits improved again in

May, the National Association of Home Builders said Monday,

bringing its sentiment index to the highest level since the

collapse of Lehman Bros. sparked a global financial panic in

September. See Economic Report.

Upbeat take on builder index doesn’t see the glass is

84% empty

Break out the bubbly. Home builders are as upbeat about their

prospects as they have been in the last eight months. An index that

measures builder sentiment is practically bursting at the seams, so

full of hope has it become. See First Take.

Gilded era is going, going, gone

VERO BEACH, Fla. — Richard and Amanda Peacock spent five years

building their dream home, a 10,000-square-foot, orange mansion

overlooking the ocean here. They filled it with leopard-skin

chairs, pinball machines, antique Coca-Cola signs and six sports

cars. It had a room full of 100 hunting trophies — including a

hyena and the head of an elephant — and an aviary out back housing

eight rare parrots. On a recent Saturday, they held a one-day

auction to try to sell it all. See full story.

Lowe’s profit sinks as DIYers think


Retail consultant Howard Davidowitz is finding it hard to find

the good news in Lowe’s better-than-expected quarterly earnings.

“The consumer is doing smaller and smaller projects, doesn’t have

money,” says Davidowitz, the chairman of Davidowitz and Associates.

“[Lowe’s is] doing less sales store for store, and making less than

the comparable quarter last year. That doesn’t sound too good to

me.” Meanwhile, Wal-Mart is beginning to roll out its expanded

electronics sections, and finding all kinds of big name-brands

hopping on its bandwagon. For Apple, Nintendo and Palm, that’s the

place to be, says Davidowitz, because Wal-Mart is gaining market

share and there are few retail alternatives. Listen to Audio


A battle plan for refinancing your


With mortgage rates holding below 5%, there has rarely been a

better time to refinance your home. But with a one-two punch of

tighter credit and falling prices roiling homeowners, the process

has never been more difficult. See full story.

House approves broad housing bill

House lawmakers on Tuesday approved a broad housing bill that

would allow the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. to temporarily

borrow as much as $500 billion from the Treasury for the agency’s

deposit insurance fund. The legislation also makes it easier for a

borrower to qualify for the Hope for Homeowners program that was

approved by Congress last year. See full story.

Mortgage applications rose 2.3% last week:


The volume of mortgage applications filed last week rose a

seasonally adjusted 2.3% compared with the week before, as mortgage

rates fell, the Mortgage Bankers Association reported Wednesday.

See full story.

More Americans considering foreclosures, despite their


An increasing percentage of Americans are willing to consider

the purchase of a foreclosure home, even knowing that there are

some negatives to acquiring distressed properties, according to

results of a survey released on Wednesday. See full story.

Mortgage refinancing is ‘where the action


The rush to refinance is keeping mortgage brokers busy, and is

responsible for last week’s increase in mortgage application

activity. “That’s where the action is,” says Inside Mortgage

Finance publisher Guy Cecala. “People can see big savings if they

refinance their loans.” But home buyers aren’t knocking down their

loan officers’ doors. The tougher lending standards and the worries

about home prices are making buyers hesitate. “No one wants to go

out to buy a house and find out it’s worth 2-3 percent less the

next day,” says Cecala. Listen to Audio Report.

Rates on fixed-rate mortgages fall


Rates on fixed-rate mortgages fell slightly this week, staying

below 5% for more than two months, according to Freddie Mac’s

weekly survey of conforming mortgage rates, released Thursday. See



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