Interesting Housing News Links (March 27, 2009)

* Drop in mortgage rates trigger race to buy, refinance (Stephanie Armour, USA Today)

Tumbling interest rates are setting off a mortgage-refinancing scramble among homeowners and pulling undecided buyers into the market.

* States Move to Cut, Cap Property Taxes (Martin A. Vaughan, Wall Street Journal)

Soaring property values in recent years swelled the coffers of counties and municipalities, raising calls for property-tax cuts. Now, even as foreclosures and dwindling home sales shrink local tax bases, a number of state governments are slashing or capping property-tax rates.

* Curse of the Zombie Banks Haunts Fed (Mark Gongloff, Barron’s)

The Federal Reserve’s lending programs have saved the financial system’s life. They also could be making its life miserable.

* Bill to require meth disclosure (Cathy Mckitrick, Salt Lake Tribune)

Rich County Commissioner Bill Cox, a leader of the state’s two-year methamphetamine task force, noted an incident in which daily meth use by a renter and his girlfriend landed their home on the Health Department’s bad-sites list.

* You can’t request more than 20 challenges without solving them. Your previous challenges were flushed. (Erin Durkin, Columbia Daily Spectator)

The City Council voted overwhelmingly on Wednesday to approve a sweeping rezoning plan that will reshape the face of 125th Street.

* Are thirsty azaleas politically incorrect for Dallas? (Mariana Greene Garden, Dallas Morning News)

Is planting azaleas in Dallas now politically incorrect? The favorite flowering shrub of Turtle Creek and Highland Park vistas will not tolerate our native clay soil. They need water to get them through a Dallas summer, even when the region is not suffering a drought.

* Foreclosed homes draw crowd, but more investors than homeowners (Clay Barbour, Hickory Daily Record)

The deals came fast Saturday as more than 500 homes across the Carolinas went on sale for bargain prices that, in some cases, amounted to less than half their previous asking prices.

* Biotech Goes to the Garden (Bart Ziegler, Wall Street Journal)

Petunias that survive frost. Impatiens that shrug off drought. Disease-free geraniums. They sound like dream plants for gardeners.

* DON’T PAY FOR WHAT YOU CAN DO FOR FREE (Michael L. Diamond, Asbury Park Press)

The phone call from a mortgage-modification company last fall couldn’t have come at a better time for Roy and Ilene Smith. The Hazlet couple was in debt and needed relief.

* 3 common deceptions to watch out for (Connie Thompson, KVAL)

All of us have seen the commercials promoting a free credit report. The problem is you get hit with charges if you use the service.

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