NEW YORK (MainStreet) -- The air is getting cooler, the days are getting shorter and views of those soon-to-be turning leaves are getting a whole lot cheaper.
Average existing home prices fell another 4.4%, to $174,000, in July on the way down from $198,100 in 2008. Meanwhile a 4.15% 30-year fixed mortgage rate -- the lowest it's been since hitting 4.17% last November -- is making homes affordable and mortgages attractive to buyers with the means and the credit.
"Affordability conditions this year have been the most favorable on record dating back to 1970, but many buyers are being held back because banks are offering financing to only the most highly qualified borrowers, ignoring a large share of otherwise creditworthy buyers," NAR chief economist Lawrence Yun says. "Those potential buyers represent the difference between an uneven recovery and a much more robust housing market that could stimulate additional economic activity and create jobs."
Those credit restrictions helped drop existing home sales 3.5% from June to July, but those same sales are still a 21% improvement from the same time last year. That recent downturn coupled with continued price drops could be helpful for not only aspiring leaf peepers, but buyers who want to cash in on the carloads of onlookers.
The National Association of Realtors found that 17% of homebuyers prize nearby parks, forests and other nearby green space, like 20% of married couples and families, while according to the University of Vermont's state tourism data center, the 3.6 million tourists who trekked up to the Green Mountain State for a glimpse at the foliage in 2009 -- the last year data were collected -- spent $331.9 million during their stays. That's down from the $374.6 million spent during the pre-recession fall of 2007, but still a sizable chunk of the state's tourism revenue that stands to rise this year.
Expedia (EXPE) travel site TripAdvisor released a survey Tuesday saying 86% of travelers are planning trips this fall, compared with 74% during the same season last year. Of that 86%, 56% are planning weekend trips and 35% have one-week trips planned. That translates to a windblown windfall for the 48% of vacation-homeowners who are able to cover 75% of the mortgage by renting to travelers, according to vacation rental site HomeAway's (AWAY) most recent Vacation Rental Marketplace Report. That fortunate nearly 50% has seen its numbers increase from just 38% last year.
(EXPE) (AWAY) With a bit of help from the experts at real estate site Zillow (Z) , we found seven locations where a view of the fall colors can be found for a price that won't wither your bank account: