A Billion Here, a Billion There; Home Prices Still on Upward Trajectory

Forbes published its annual billionaire list this week, detailing the wealth of all the known billionaires in the world. Home prices increased by 12 percent in January 2014 compared to December 2013.

Forbes published its annual billionaire list this week, detailing the wealth of all the known billionaires in the world, whose aggregate lucre totals $6.4 trillion. The top ten included most of the usual-suspect multibillionaires, though their positions have shifted a little, as they do every year. Bill Gates is back at no. 1, with holdings of $76 billion, edging out Carlos Slim and family by a few billion (in some years Slim has been no. 1). Other familiar names in the top ten are Warren Buffett, the Koch brothers, Larry Ellison and a couple of Waltons.

The richest person whose wealth springs mainly from real estate is Lee Shau Kee of Hong Kong, no. 35 in the world. He heads Henderson Land Development and is a major landlord in both Hong Kong and mainland China. The American with the highest net worth attributable to real estate is Donald Bren, no. 69, whose Irvine Co. owns about 50,000 apartments, 40 million square feet of office space, 8 million square feet of retail space, and more.

Other billionaire American real estate moguls include Richard LeFrak and family of New York (no. 227), Related Cos. chairman Stephen Ross (no. 263), Silicon Valley real estate specialists John Sobrato and family (no. 328), and the ever-salty Sam Zell of Chicago, coming in at no. 345. Real estate businessman, television presence, and hairstyle exemplar Donald Trump is listed as no. 388 wealthiest person in the world.

Home Price Still on Upward Trajectory 

CoreLogic reported on Tuesday that U.S. home prices, including distressed sales, increased by 12 percent in January 2014 compared to December 2013. January marks the 23nd consecutive month of year-over-year home price gains, according to the company, which always reports its findings a week after the Case-Shiller numbers, though they cover a more recent month (the latest Case-Shiller covered home prices as of December).

Excluding distressed sales, home prices increased by 9.8 percent year over year in January, and 0.7 percent month over month. Distressed sales include both short sales and REOs, and aren’t nearly the factor in home prices that they were only a few years ago.

Despite gains in December, and during 2013, home prices nationwide remain 17.3 percent below their peak, which was set in April 2006, according to CoreLogic. “Polar vortices and a string of snowstorms did not manage to weaken house price appreciation in January,” Mark Fleming, chief economist for CoreLogic, said in a statement. “The last time January month-over-month and year-over-year price appreciation was this strong was at the height of the housing bubble in 2006.”

Wall Street got some of its mojo back on Tuesday, with investors seemingly shrugging off worries about the Ukraine. The Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 227.85 points, or 1.41 percent, while the S&P 500 was up 1.53 percent and the Nasdaq advanced 1.75 percent.