Explaining Southern California's economy

Not enough houses! Lack of supply is driving up prices in the West

New Home Sales Hit A Record High

David McNew/Getty Images

The West needs more houses. A lack of supply is driving up prices — and pricing out first-time homebuyers.

The National Association of Realtors (NAR) has released data for existing home sales in July, and overall, the news is pretty good. Median prices in the U.S. extended a five-month streak of year-over-year increases. Home sales also rose across the nation.

However, in the West region, sales were flat from June-July, but up about 6 percent from July of last year. More important, the median price of an existing home in the West made a big jump from 2011: a whopping 25 percent, far more than any other U.S. region.

This is due to good old-fashioned supply-and-demand. There aren't enough existing homes for sale in the West to meet demand. NAR took particular note of this, not just in the West but nationally. The lack of "inventory," as the organization defines it, is affecting lower-priced homes, where first-time borrowers bearing mortgages collide with investors carrying suitcases of cash.

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Meet the new iPad: It's faster and costs a lot

Apple Unveils Updated iPad In San Francisco

Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - MARCH 07: Apple CEO Tim Cook speaks during an Apple product launch event at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts on March 7, 2012 in San Francisco, California. In the first product release following the death of Steve Jobs, Apple Inc. introduced the third version of the iPad and an updated Apple TV. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

The much-anticipated Apple iPad event today continues a worrisome trend for the company. The iPhone 4S launched last year, and it's main new feature was the Siri voice-interface. Now the updated iPad arrives — it's unclear whether we can call it the iPad 3, but we will anyway — and the big news is that the 4G version will cost $829, and that the older base iPad 2 will go on sale for $399.

So there's new. But where's the new new? It will have to wait for the true iPad 3. And the iPhone 5. Perhaps.

This is from Reuters:

The newest iPad will be capable of operating on a high-speed 4G "LTE" or Long-Term Evolution network. At speeds roughly 10 times faster than current 3G technology, that may help banish the sometimes shaky video quality of older devices.

Apple is betting a 4G-equipped iPad will tempt more U.S. consumers to pay extra for higher-quality video on the go. That, in turn, should give Verizon Wireless and AT&T Inc a revenue boost, analysts say.

Until now, buyers have been reluctant to shell out extra cash even for iPads with slower 3G connections. The cheaper Wi-Fi-only model - with much more limited Web access - is by far Apple's top-selling one today.

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Dunkin' Donuts: The return to California, by the numbers

dunkin' donuts to california

Photo by Qfamily via Flickr Creative Commons

Is this a match for Starbucks in California?

There haven't been any actual Dunkin' Donuts stores in California since the 1990s, but that's all about to change. This isn't you father's Dunkin' Donuts. This is a whole new, amped-up, recently IPO'd and private-equity enabled Dunkin' Donuts. Not a cheerful place to stop in for a delicious coffee and and sticky ring of fried dough, but Starbucks worst nightmare.

Dunkin' Donuts, which has become something of a hipster alternative to 'Bucks, has almost no presence west of the Mississippi. However, following its $400 million initial public offering last year, it's putting itself under pressure to grow. Understandably, given that it's stock price has bumped along in a narrow trading range since its successful debut (it came out at $19 and has lived reliably above that ever since). But it's trading at 100 times earnings (not unusual for a newly IPO'd company), which means that investors are expecting this sucker to go someplace.

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Want to beat Apple's MacBook Air? Build a MUCH cheaper version!

Mercer 13958

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Apple CEO Steve Jobs (right) looks at a display of the new MacBook Air during an Apple special event at the company's headquarters on Oct. 20, 2010 in Cupertino, Calif.

Here's the LA Times' Tech blog on how utterly awesome the MacBook Air is:

[JP Morgan analyst Mark] Moskowitz said that ultrabooks continue to be highly discretionary devices and that pricing for rival offerings must fall below $800 before posing a real threat to the MacBook Air. And beyond price, he said, other devices simply don't look as good or offer as much.

"In our view, Apple's first mover advantage and optimized feature set and form factor command a higher price that early adopters, productivity users, and Apple enthusiasts are willing to absorb," he said. "In contrast, we think that the first round of ultrabook offerings lacks the right blend of features and attractive price points to grab market share from Apple."

The MacBook Air costs $999 to $1,599. 

I've been using a MacBook Air for several months now and it's indeed a superb piece of technology. I'm not sure how anyone could beat it going toe-to-toe. That "below $800" projection for the future competition is notable. It would have to be well under $800! 

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