Data Surfer

Sites you need to see

ourhousecrop.jpg If you use Google Maps, you know that service provides satellite views of streets and buildings. The level of detail varies from place to place, but generally the closest images display homes as fuzzy stamp-size blobs. Microsoft Live Search, on the other hand, offers a bird's eye view of properties. Actually four views -- each looking at the house from the east, west north and south. It's pretty creepy seeing one's home from four, relatively close-in angles that look like what Superman would see -- if he hovered outside your house.

In fairness to Google, the search leader does have 360-degree, street-level views of buildings. Not all streets are included, but there's a growing number of residential areas included. To use this feature, go into Google Maps, find an address and then drag the little orange man icon (found atop the zoom control) onto that location. If Google has street views for that spot, the street will turn blue and shift to the 360-degree photo. If the street isn't blue, then you're out of luck. You manipulate the street view with controls that let you pan up and down, as well as zoom in and out. 

credit.jpgThere's really nothing like a map to get a good overview of the economic situation. The New York Federal Reserve recently debuted two cool (and disturbing) interactive maps showing the extent of mortgage and credit card problems throughout the country.

The first map displays non-prime (subprime and Alt-A) mortgage conditions in the United States as revealed by 12 indicators, such as the number of non-prime loans per 100,000 households, percent of loans that are adjustable-rate and percent loans in foreclosure. These metrics are color-coded light to dark, with the darker colors expressing worse conditions in a particular state or county. The other U.S. map shows bank card and mortgage delinquency rates, plus their percent changes over four quarters. Again the data is color-coded light to dark to highlight states and counties with the worst personal credit problems.

Generally speaking, California's Central Valley counties are experiencing the toughest credit challenges in the state.

Yesterday Bee business writer Dale Kasler reported that 30-year fixed rate mortgages fell to an average of 5.19 percent, the lowest weekly level recorded since the lending giant Freddie Mac began surveying rates in 1971. The Freddie web site has a ton of historic mortgage data, including weekly 30-year fixed rates back to April 1971.

What was the highest rate during that period? The 30-year rate peaked at a mind-boggling 18.63 percent the week of Oct. 9, 1981.

Bee data guru Phillip Reese just posted a new interactive map showing home price trends in the Sacramento area communities from 2003-2008. The map is color-coded to indicate how much median home prices have fallen in the past year (red -- 35 percent or more, yellow -- 20-24 percent, green -- 20 percent or less). Generally speaking, the neighborhoods closest to downtown had the biggest annual drop.

If you're curious to see how home prices in our region fared historically in comparison to other California places, check out the market data available on the California Association of Realtors web site. There you'll find monthly median sales prices (Jan. 2002 to Sept. 2008) for all the cities and counties in the state. Out of curiousity, I checked which city had the biggest gain and the biggest loss during the seven year period. Not unexpectedly Santa Monica led with a percent change of 127.7 percent ($379,000 to $863,000). And poor Richmond showed the biggest drop, -20.0 percent ($225,000 to $180,000). Sacramento city had a nominal decline of -1.64 percent ($162,500 to $160,000). Of course, most home prices rose to an amazing height around 2006 only to fall precipitously when the bubble burst.

Thumbnail image for foreclosure.JPGThe mortgage crisis affects more than homeowners. Renters also suffer when they are unexpectedly evicted from foreclosed properties. Across the country, state and local governments are trying to legislate some protection for families caught in the middle of a loan default. The California Assembly, for instance, recently passed SB 1137, which includes a provision giving renters 60 days notice prior to eviction from a foreclosed residence.


There is also a web-based database that renters can use to get advance warning if a property is in default/foreclosure. RentalForeclosure.com is a free service that lets you check the status of a specific address. The site doesn't provide information beyond flagging the property, but at least it alerts you to investigate further. If you are a renter facing foreclosure, the California Bar has some advice and links for you. 



About Data Surfer

It's all about information -- statistics, documents and data of all types that help us understand the world, make informed decisions and monitor government. It's about empowering citizens with tools and sources so they can conduct their own investigative research. This blog is a place to discuss information that's available on the Internet. What's relevant, useful, valid and accurate -- and what's not.

We know the Sacramento region is home to knowledgeable people who use online information in their respective fields. We want to hear from you. Please tell us what you think of the data we use in stories and post on The Bee's website. And share tips about online resources you think are valuable to this blog's readers. Post comments on this blog or contact Pete Basofin directly at pbasofin@sacbee.com.

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