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Positive signs for the homebuilding industry (access required)

Solid gains in both single-family and multifamily housing production is reported by the National Association of Home Builders. Nationwide, housing starts rose 12.1 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 954,000 units in December, according to newly released data from the U.S. Commerce Department. This is the highest level of new home production since June of 2008.

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‘Benefit base’ is key in annuity payouts (access required)

Your answer last month to CC in Vancouver, Wash., about taking $9,000 from his annuity for income confuses me. His adviser said that if he took more than 6 percent of his initial $112,000 investment, or $6,720, his annuity value would be reduced by the difference between the $9,000 he would take and the $6,720 he was allowed to take, or $2,820.

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Inspecting the inspector (access required)

We recently purchased a house that was built in the 1950s. Since moving in we found out that the house has had settling issues and had work done to shore up the foundation a few years back. There are numerous cracks in the interior plaster walls (ceiling, above doors and windows, closets), some of which have been filled in and painted over, others that are open.

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Broker’s no joker: Sell RAX shares (access required)

In the summer of 2009, I had $5,000 to invest in my individual retirement account, and my broker recommended I buy 500 shares of Rackspace US Inc. at $9, and I'm glad I did. The company is in San Antonio, and my husband and I have a friend working there who tells us how enthusiastic he is about this company.

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For the housing market, signs of recovery (access required)

The housing market is getting healthier. The number of foreclosed and real estate-owned properties on the market is diminishing, thus pushing home prices up to more realistic levels. The foreclosure inventory has been falling as requirements from the national mortgage settlement "influence the pace of first-time foreclosure starts," Lender Processing Services stated in a recent report.

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Mom’s health complicates home sale (access required)

I live in a home that my mother and I financed jointly. I have been on the note and deed for about 10 years and have always made the payments and lived there. Our verbal agreement was that after two or three years she would give me the house because she wanted to go into a facility with people her age. She often forgets that the house is in both of our names. The last two years she was living in the home we agreed to sell it a number of times, but she would refuse to sign the final documents. I also tried to buy her out with the same result.

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Congress backs the drug industry, so invest (access required)

HSBC Holdings PLC was fined $1.92 billion recently for helping terrorist nations launder trillions of dollars, and its stock actually appreciated after the announcement. The increase in stock price certainly impressed me. So do you think 200 shares of HSBC would be a good long-term investment?

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