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Housing on mend, report says

Hoosier housing continues to rebound from the recession, a report shows.

The Indiana Association of Realtors on Monday said last year marked a nearly 15 percent increase in home sales – 66,516 houses, compared with 57,985 in 2011.

The average sale price in Indiana last year was $140,043, a 3.6 percent increase from a year earlier.

“Housing markets in Indiana have decidedly turned the corner away from the worst of the recession,” Karl Berron, CEO of the Indiana Association of Realtors, said in a statement.

“Statewide, market activity and home prices were better each month of 2012 than the year before, and the year as a whole was better than the last two years. But the biggest story of this report is that homes have not only held their value, but also made price gains to levels not seen since the recession began.”

Fort Wayne gains in MSA rankings

The Fort Wayne metropolitan statistical area ranked 59th of 200 cities nationwide in the 2012 Milken Institute Best-Performing Cities Index, a significant leap from the previous year’s ranking of 127.

Fort Wayne’s MSA includes Allen, Wells and Whitley counties.

The California-based Milken Institute, which describes itself as a nonprofit economic think tank, ranks U.S. metropolitan areas based on job, technology, wage and salary growth.

“In most years, these give a good indication of the underlying structural performance of regional economics,” according to the organization’s website.

The local three-county MSA also ranked 13th of 200 for the percentage of job growth from May 2011 to May 2012.

Southwest fliers pay $40 to board early

Want to board first on a Southwest Airlines flight? Now you can pay $40 for the privilege.

Southwest Airlines will let people pay to be part of their first boarding group, group “A.” The airline does not have assigned seating and lets passengers board in three groups, A, B and C.

Currently, passengers can ensure they board first by buying a special business class ticket or joining a loyalty program. Now, everyone will have that option if spots are available. Passengers will be able to pay at the gate starting 45 minutes before a flight leaves.

Facing higher fuel and other costs, airlines have sought to boost revenue in a variety of ways including charging extra to check a bag or sit next to a loved one.

North Korea eases curbs on cellphones

North Korea is loosening some restrictions on foreign cellphones by allowing visitors to bring their own phones into the country. However, security regulations still prohibit mobile phone calls between foreigners and locals.

For years, North Korea required visitors to relinquish foreign cellphones at the border until their departure, leaving many tourists without an easy way to communicate with the outside world.

The ritual of handing over phones was part of an exhaustive security check that most visitors face at immigration in North Korea.

Many foreigners – including Eric Schmidt, the executive chairman of Google, who traveled to North Korea earlier this month – choose to leave their phones behind in Beijing before flying to Pyongyang.