More and younger first-timers than expected are now buying homes


Click to enlarge [har]This is what 1265 sq.ft. can get you, for example

❝ For years, the U.S. housing market looked bleak for young couples hoping to buy their first homes but struggling with high student debt, low pay and meager down-payment savings.

But a new survey by the real estate firm Zillow suggests that first-time buyers may be entering the market in greater numbers than industry watchers had assumed.

❝ Over the past year…nearly half of home sales have gone to first-timers. That’s a much higher proportion than some other industry estimates had indicated. And it comes as a surprise in part because ownership rates for adults under 34 are at their lowest levels since the government began tracking the figure in 1994.

Zillow’s survey results suggest that the trend is shifting, and that some of this year’s growth in home sales has come from a wave of college-educated couples in their 30s, who are the most common first-time buyers…

❝ If the pattern in Zillow’s survey holds, it could raise hopes that today’s vast generation of 18-to-34-year-old millennials will help support the housing market as more of them move into their 30s.

The 168-page report…also found that home ownership is increasingly the domain of the college-educated. And it reported that older Americans who are looking to downsize are paying premiums for smaller houses…

Gradually, oh so gradually, Americans are beginning to comprehend the sense of smaller homes. Letting size in and of itself describe your lifestyle is as silly as voting for Trump. The reality TV portion of American culture still seems to believe every 1950’s advertisement left in the hopper. But, smaller homes are cheaper to heat and cool. They take less effort to keep clean and healthy.

Yes, we’re still a country that buys the biggest car or truck on the lot when gasoline prices drop below $3/gallon. So, while I wish folks well – those first home-buyers of new or not-so-new homes – I hope they continue to learn about energy efficiency, environmental sanity. Maybe even a lifestyle comfortable enough for our species in tandem with the rest of Earth’s species.

Chinese factories now compete for workers


Filling out applications at a sidewalk recruiting station

If Wang Jinyan, an unemployed factory worker with a middle school education, had a résumé, it might start out like this: “Objective: seeking well-paid, slow-paced assembly-line work in air-conditioned plant with Sundays off, free wireless Internet and washing machines in dormitory. Friendly boss a plus.”

As she eased her way along a gantlet of recruiters in this manufacturing megalopolis one recent afternoon, Ms. Wang, 25, was in no particular rush to find a job. An underwear company was offering subsidized meals and factory worker fashion shows. The maker of electric heaters promised seven-and-a-half-hour days. “If you’re good, you can work in quality control and won’t have to stand all day,” bragged a woman hawking jobs for a shoe manufacturer.

Ms. Wang flashed an unmistakable look of ennui and popped open an umbrella to shield her fair complexion from the South China sun. “They always make these jobs sound better than they really are,” she said, turning away. “Besides, I don’t do shoes. Can’t stand the smell of glue.”

Assertive, self-possessed workers like Ms. Wang have become a challenge for the industrial titans of the Pearl River Delta that once filled their mammoth workshops with an endless stream of pliant labor from China’s rural belly.

In recent months, as the country’s export-driven juggernaut has been revived and many migrants have found jobs closer to home, the balance of power in places like Zhongshan has shifted, forcing employers to compete for new workers — and to prevent seasoned ones from defecting to sweeter prospects.

The shortage has emboldened workers and inspired a spate of strikes in and around Zhongshan that paralyzed Honda’s Chinese operations last month. The unrest then spread to the northern city of Tianjin, where strikers briefly paralyzed production at a Toyota car plant and a Japanese-owned electronics factory.

Although the walkouts were quelled with higher salaries, factory owners and labor experts said that the strikes have driven home a looming reality that had been predicted by demographers: the supply of workers 16 to 24 years old has peaked and will drop by a third in the next 12 years, thanks to stringent family-planning policies that have sharply reduced China’s population growth…

The other new reality, perhaps harder to quantify, is this: young Chinese factory workers, raised in a country with rapidly rising expectations, are less willing to toil for long hours for appallingly low wages like dutiful automatons.

RTFA. Nothing surprising to someone who’s read any labor history. The distinct difference in China is that – no one is skipping any stages; but, time is compressed, the rate of change in every part of the socio-economic structure seems to happen overnight.

In the daily world of TV America, the funniest commentaries come from market analysts who worry over declining real estate prices and trends reversing the balance between production for export vs. production for domestic consumption in China. Which are primary goals of the government over the next five years.

It’s like the dweebs – usually on CNBC – who whine about Americans finally starting to save some of their family income instead of being dedicated consumers.