Feb. 19, 2018

U.S. home construction jumps 9.7% in January

WASHINGTON (AP) – Feb. 16, 2018 – Groundbreakings on new homes jumped 9.7 percent last month to the highest level since October 2016, welcome news for a housing market struggling with a shortage of homes for sale.

The Commerce Department said Friday that housing starts came in at an annual pace of 1.33 million in January, up from 1.21 million in December and 1.24 million in January 2017. Construction of single-family homes rose 3.7 percent. Construction of apartments and condominiums shot up 19.7 percent, the most since December 2016.

Home construction soared 45.5 percent in the Northeast, rose 10.7 percent in the West and grew 9.3 percent in the South. But homebuilding dropped 10.2 percent in the Midwest.

Building permits, an indicator of future construction, rose 7.4 percent in January.

A strengthening economy has given more Americans the confidence to shop for homes. But despite last month's uptick, builders haven't been putting up homes fast enough to meet demand.

A shortage of houses on the market has driven up prices and blunted sales. Standard & Poor's reported last month that U.S. home prices rose 6.2 percent in November from a year earlier, according to its CoreLogic Case-Shiller national home price index. And sales of existing homes fell 3.6 percent in December, though sales rose slightly for the full year 2017 from 2016, according to the National Association of Realtors.

Meanwhile, mortgage rates are creeping up. The rate on the benchmark, 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage rose to 4.38 percent this week, the highest level since April 2014.

Still, builders are optimistic about the outlook for housing. The National Association of Home Builders/Wells Fargo builder sentiment index released Thursday read 72 for the second straight month in February, just shy of the 18-year high for optimism recorded in December.

Readings above 50 indicate more builders see sales conditions as good rather than poor. The index has been above 60 since September 2016.

Feb. 14, 2018

2017 ends with more Florida home sales, price gains

ORLANDO, Fla. – Feb. 13, 2018 – Florida's housing market wrapped up 2017 with more sales, higher median sale prices and fewer sales of distressed properties compared to the year before, according to the latest housing data released by Florida Realtors®.

"This past year, the still-tight inventory of homes for sale in Florida couldn't meet growing buyer demand," says2018 Florida Realtors President Christine Hansen, broker-owner with Century 21 Hansen Realty in Fort Lauderdale. "If supply could have kept pace, home sales likely would have been even stronger in 2017 – and of course, the state also felt the impact of Hurricane Irma that made landfall in the Keys on Sept. 10, 2017.

"Florida's economy is growing, the jobs outlook remains strong and more people are moving to the Sunshine State. And while mortgage interest rates are rising, they are still at favorably low levels. All of these factors are positive signs for the state's housing market in 2018."

Year-end 2017

Statewide closed sales of existing single-family homes totaled 271,868 in 2017, up 1.2 percent compared to the 2016 figure, according to data from Florida Realtors research department in partnership with local Realtor boards/associations.

The statewide median sales price for single-family existing homes in 2017 was $237,500, up 8 percent from the previous year. New pending sales for existing single-family homes rose 0.1 percent in 2017 compared to 2016.

Looking at Florida's year-to-year comparison for sales of townhouse-condos, a total of 111,088 units sold statewide in 2017, up 2.9 percent from 2016. The closed sales data reflected fewer short sales and foreclosures statewide in 2017 compared to the previous year: Short sales for condo-townhouse properties declined 37.6 percent and foreclosures dropped 49.2 percent; short sales for single-family homes dropped 36.9 percent while foreclosures declined 46.5 percent.

The statewide median price for townhouse-condo properties in 2017 was $172,500, up 7.8 percent over the previous year. New pending sales for townhouse-condos for the year increased 2.3 percent compared to a year ago.

At the end of 2017 and also for 4Q 2017, inventory for single-family homes stood at a 3.6-months' supply, while inventory for townhouse-condo properties was at a 5.6-months' supply, according to Florida Realtors.

"Overall, 2017 was a strong year for single-family home resales in Florida," says Florida Realtors Chief Economist Dr. Brad O'Connor. "New listings of existing homes priced between $200,000 and $600,000 were up in a significant way compared to 2016, but these properties were quickly absorbed thanks to strong buyer demand driven by Florida's booming economy. As a result, mid-range inventory remained somewhat flat on a year-over-year basis, while the number of listings priced below $200,000 continued to decline dramatically.

"Annual sales growth in Florida's resale market for single-family luxury homes nearly ground to a halt in 2016, but this segment experienced a decent uptick in sales in 2017. Fewer new listings and more realistic pricing expectations by sellers were likely contributors to this renewed growth. The housing shortage impacting Florida and the rest of the nation continues to be contained to the lower price tiers, whereas the opposite issue – an overabundance of listings – is having the opposite impact on many local luxury markets."

The interest rate for a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged 3.99 percent for 2017, up significantly from the previous year's average of 3.65 percent, according to Freddie Mac.

4Q 2017

Statewide closed sales of existing single-family homes totaled 63,436 in the fourth quarter of 2017, up 2 percent compared to the year-ago figure, according to data from Florida Realtors research department in partnership with local Realtor boards/associations. Closed sales typically occur 30 to 90 days after sales contracts are written.

"The fourth quarter figures show that the vast majority of Florida's local housing markets recovered quite quickly from Hurricane Irma," O'Connor notes. "Closed sales were up year-over-year, and prices continued to climb as if nothing happened at all. Inventory continued to fall in the fourth quarter as well, so the longer-term trends in the housing market as of the beginning of 2017 appear to have remained in place at year's end."

The statewide median sales price for existing single-family homes for the quarter was $240,000, up 7.2 percent from 4Q 2016. New pending sales for existing single-family homes for the quarter rose 5.4 percent compared to a year ago, while new listings increased 4 percent.

Looking at Florida's year-to-year comparison for sales of townhouse-condos, a total of 25,544 units sold statewide in 4Q 2017, up 4.7 percent compared to the same period a year earlier. The closed sales data reflected fewer short sales and foreclosures statewide in the fourth quarter compared to the same time a year ago: Short sales for condo-townhouse properties declined 24.9 percent and foreclosures dropped 41.8 percent; short sales for single-family homes dropped 34.4 percent and foreclosures declined 44.3 percent.

The statewide median price for townhouse-condo properties in 4Q 2017 was $175,000, up 6.6 percent over the previous year. New pending sales for townhouse-condos for the quarter increased 8.7 percent compared to a year ago, while new listings rose 6.8 percent.

To see the full statewide housing activity reports, go to Florida Realtors Research & Statistics section on floridarealtors.org. Realtors also have access to local market stats (password protected) on Florida Realtors' website.

© 2018 Florida Realtors®

Feb. 12, 2018

Foreign buyers spent $7.1 billion in South Florida last year

MIAMI – Feb. 9, 2018 – Foreign homebuyers spent $900 million more on South Florida homes and purchased more local residential properties in 2017 than they did in 2016, according to the new 2017 MIAMI International Homebuyers Report conducted by the Miami Association of Realtors® (MIAMI) and the National Association of Realtors® (NAR). The sixth-annual survey includes data from Miami-Dade, Broward, Palm Beach and Martin counties. It ranks transactions by countries of origin and highlights key characteristics of foreign buyers.

Survey results for South Florida

  • Foreign buyers purchased $7.1 billion of South Florida residential properties last year, up from $6.2 billion in 2016.
  • Foreign buyers accounted for 29 percent of Florida’s $24.2 billion of international dollar sales volume.
  • International buyers purchased 15,400 properties – a 41.3 percent increase from one year ago (10,900).
  • Foreign buyers accounted for 35 percent of MIAMI’s closed sales and 24 percent of Florida international sales.

“International buyers continue investing in South Florida and Miami because they see the economic potential of America’s youngest major city,” said Miami broker George C. Jalil, the 2018 MIAMI chairman of the board.

Florida is the top U.S. destination for foreign buyers (22 percent of all sales), according to NAR’s 2017 Profile of International Activity in U.S. Residential Real Estate. More than half of all international home sales in Florida (53 percent) occur in Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach, according to the Florida Realtors 2017 Profile of International Residential Real Estate Activity in Florida.

Nationwide, South Florida secures about 11 percent of all U.S. international home sales. Of that 11 percent:

  • 51 percent take place in Miami-Dade County
  • 32 percent in Broward (up from 27 percent in 2016)
  • 9 percent in Palm Beach (up from 4 percent in 2016)

Top countries investing in South Florida

  • Argentina (15 percent of South Florida foreign purchases)
  • Venezuela (11 percent)
  • Canada (11 percent)
  • Colombia (9 percent)
  • Brazil (8 percent)
  • France (4 percent)
  • Ecuador (4 percent)
  • Mexico (4 percent)
  • United Kingdom (3 percent)
  • Italy (3 percent)
  • Chile (3 percent)
  • China (3 percent)
  • Dominican Republic (3 percent)
  • Germany (2 percent)
  • Russia (2 percent)

To investor countries by county

  • Venezuela (12 percent)
  • Argentina and Brazil (9 percent)
  • Colombia (5 percent)
  • France (4 percent)
  • Ecuador
  • Italy (3 percent each)

Broward County

  • Canada (12 percent)
  • Argentina (8 percent)
  • Brazil (6 percent)
  • Colombia (6 percent)
  • Venezuela (6 percent)

Palm Beach County

  • Canada (31 percent)
  • Brazil (15 percent)

Additional survey highlights

  • South Florida international homebuyers spent a median price of $339,300 for residential properties in 2017. In comparison, foreign buyers of Florida Realtors members had a median price of $259,400, while foreign buyers in the United States spend $302,300.
  • About 66 percent of all 2017 international residential transactions in South Florida were made in all-cash, down from 72 percent in 2016.
  • South Florida international home buyers prefer condominiums (55 percent) in the central/urban areas (57 percent), which they intend to use mainly as residential rental, vacation home or both (70 percent).
  • About 37 percent of buyers say real estate prices are less expensive than their home country.
  • About 5 percent of South Florida foreign buyers purchased local homes without even visiting Florida. About 18 percent purchased with just one visit to Florida; 31 percent purchased with two visits; 17 percent bought after visiting Florida three times.
  • About 57 percent of MIAMI members work with international buyers, almost double the national figure of 30 percent.

© 2018 Florida Realtors®

Feb. 2, 2018

Fed will likely raise interest rates in March

WASHINGTON – Feb. 1, 2018 – The Federal Reserve has left its benchmark interest rate unchanged but signaled that it expects to resume raising rates gradually to reflect a healthy job market and economy.

At Janet Yellen's final meeting as chair Wednesday, the Fed kept its key short-term rate in a still-low range of 1.25 percent to 1.5 percent. It said in a statement that it expects inflation to finally pick up this year and to stabilize around the Fed's target level of 2 percent. In its previous statement, the Fed had predicted that inflation would remain below its target rate.

The Fed also indicated that it thinks the job market and the overall economy are continuing to improve.

"Gains in employment, household spending and business fixed investment have been solid," its statement said.

The central bank said it expects the steadily strengthening economy to warrant further gradual increases in its benchmark rate. Those additional rate hikes would likely lead, in time, to higher rates on some consumer and business loans.

Yellen has led a cautious approach to rate increases in her four years as chair, and Jerome Powell, who will succeed her next week, has indicated he favors a similar approach.

"The Yellen era ends with a yawn," said Gus Faucher, chief economist at PNC. "Yellen's tenure has been largely successful, with the unemployment rate falling to a 17-year low."

The Fed modestly raised its key rate three times in 2017, and most economists expect the Powell-led Fed to do so at least three additional times this year beginning in March. Powell has been a Yellen ally and among the Fed's consensus-builders in 5½ years on the central bank's board.

The unemployment rate is just 4.1 percent, and the economy expanded at a solid 2.6 percent annual rate in the October-December quarter, helping lift growth for all of 2017 to a decent 2.3 percent.

Synchronized growth in major regions across the world has helped energize the U.S. economy. And the sweeping tax overhaul that Trump pushed through Congress last month is expected to further support U.S. growth.

The Fed's next scheduled policy meeting in March, when most economists foresee the next rate hike, will be the first time that Powell is scheduled to hold one of the Fed leader's quarterly news conferences.

In its statement Wednesday, the Fed said Powell would be sworn in on Monday. Last week, the Senate confirmed President Donald Trump's nomination of Powell to be Fed chairman.

Economists are roughly divided on whether they think Fed's policymakers will raise rates three times this year, as in 2017, or four times. The pivotal factor will likely be how inflation performs. For the past six years, inflation has been a no-show, running below even the Fed's target level of 2 percent.

A tight job market, with pressure building for pay increases, and potentially higher consumer and business spending resulting from the Republican tax cuts, could accelerate inflation this year. The prospect of faster inflation could, in turn, lead the Fed to step up its rate hikes.

The Fed has modestly raised its benchmark rate five times since December 2015, when it began tightening for the first time since the height of the financial crisis in 2008. When the crisis erupted, the Fed cut its rate to a record low near zero to help rescue the financial system and the economy and then held it there for seven years.

This year, the lineup of Fed regional bank presidents who vote on the central bank's rate policy – a list that rotates annually – is expected to be somewhat more "hawkish" this year. Fed hawks are those who are less likely to favor low rates to maximize employment and more likely to back rate hikes to prevent future high inflation.

Powell, a lawyer and investment manager by training, will be the first Fed leader in 30 years not to hold a Ph.D. in economics.

With Yellen's departure, the seven-member Fed board will have four vacancies. Marvin Goodfriend, a conservative economist, has been nominated by Trump for one of the vacant board seats.

Copyright © 2018, Winston-Salem Journal, Winston-Salem, NC; Martin Crutsinger  

Posted in National News
Jan. 30, 2018

Buying a home as an unmarried couple? Do these 3 things

NEW YORK – Jan. 29, 2018 – Love and marriage don't always go together, no matter what Sinatra says. If you're in a committed relationship but nuptials are on the back burner, just know your dream of buying a home doesn't have to be.

Sixteen percent of first-time homebuyers in 2017 were unmarried couples, an annual National Association of Realtors report found, the highest share the organization has recorded since 1981, says Jessica Lautz, managing director of survey research and communication for NAR.

But many couples don't realize how risky buying a home with an unmarried partner can be. Here's how to deal with these risks using some planning, a good lawyer and a slightly awkward conversation or two.

Buying a home as an unmarried couple

1. Sign a prenup for the house
No couple wants to talk about breaking up, but if you're going to be co-homeowners, it's a must, says Renee Bergmann, a real estate attorney and owner of Bergmann Law LLC in Westmont, New Jersey. She recommends unmarried couples create a co-ownership contract with the help of a legal professional before closing day.

The agreement should answer basic questions like: What happens to the property if you split? What if one of you becomes disabled or dies? Who pays utility bills or for major repairs?

Don't just "wait and see what happens," Bergmann says, because without a written agreement "things could get messy very quickly."

2. Choose the right type of title
Turns out there's more than one way to own a house, and taking title the right way is especially important for unmarried couples. Options vary from state to state but generally include:

• Sole ownership: Only one name is recorded on the deed and that person has all the rights and responsibilities of ownership.

Pros: Sole ownership may yield tax savings if your incomes are drastically different. And, if your partner has bad credit, applying for a home loan in your name only may help with approval. However, remember ownership rights are determined by names on the deed, not the mortgage, Anna Fabian, vice president of product at lender SoFi, said via email.

Con: If the relationship ends and you're not on the title, you'll risk walking away with nothing even if you contributed money to the purchase or mortgage payments.

• Joint tenancy: Each person owns 50 percent of the property. If a tenant dies, that person's share automatically transfers to the other joint tenant.

Pro: Joint tenants enjoy right of survivorship, so you won't have to worry about fighting the estate or relatives for the house in the event of your partner's death.

Con: An unfriendly breakup could spell trouble, especially if one partner can't or won't buy the other out.

• Tenants in common: Allows unequal ownership, so you could own a 75 percent stake while your partner owns 25 percent, for instance.

Pro: Ownership shares can be tailored to match financial contributions; if you paid more toward the down payment, for example, you can own a larger percentage.

Con: If one tenant dies, the other has no automatic right to that person's share of the property unless named in a will or living trust.

No matter which approach you choose, if you tie the knot after buying, consider revising the deed to reflect your new legal status with something called a "quitclaim deed," Bergmann says.

3. Leave your parents at home
Buying a home is a stressful decision, so younger unmarried couples often involve their parents, but sometimes this only makes things more confusing, says Danielle Moy, an agent with Coldwell Banker residential brokerage in Orland Park, Illinois.

"I can tell if the parents are unsure of the situation, and it causes a bit of an emotional roller coaster when they're looking at homes," Moy says.

Ultimately it's your house and your decision, Moy says, so make sure you and your partner agree about what you want – no matter what Mom and Dad think.

Jan. 29, 2018

Expect growth in Florida employment, population and visitors

ORLANDO, Fla. – Jan. 26, 2018 – Florida's economy grew in 2017, and that positive momentum should continue in 2018, according to economists and business data experts who spoke to a crowd of about 500 Realtors®at the 2018 Florida Real Estate Trends event Thursday during Florida Realtors Mid-Winter Business Meetings.

"For 2018, from a business point of view, Florida's economy benefits from a growing population, strong and growing employment, and a rising number of visitors," said Dr. Tony Villamil, founder and principal advisor of The Washington Economics Group and a former U.S. Undersecretary of Commerce for Economic Affairs under President George H.W. Bush.

"In fact, Florida is growing faster in terms of employment growth than the rest of the U.S., which is good for Florida real estate."

He noted the three major drivers of the state's economy are 1) Florida's business climate, including real estate sales; 2) the U.S. economy and financial market trends; and 3) the global economy.

"Overall, Florida is a positive, pro-business climate state and I don't see that changing significantly," Villamil said. "For U.S. economic activity, I see a lot of enthusiasm on tax reform and deregulation – the U.S. economy is poised for a strong performance this year. We'll likely see about 3 percent growth in the GDP (Gross Domestic Product) for the U.S." He added that Florida's GDP growth in 2018 is likely to also be about 3 to 3.5 percent.

Global economy activity is rebounding from its sluggish performance and growing, especially in major markets like Brazil and Canada, he noted. "Here in Florida, one of the sleepers is going to be India – it deserves a closer look," Villamil said.

Another positive: Household net worth is at record levels, leaving consumers ready to spend – so real estate is in demand, he added.

However, "One downer here, is D.C. dysfunction," Villamil cautioned. "In Washington, there's a lot of animosity between the political parties. The key (for action) is going to be how we move toward less polarization between the parties.

"Florida's economy depends on open markets. Looking at the global economy, in this area, I'm concerned about the administration's policies. "

Other speakers who discussed trends for 2018 and beyond were Kevin Foreman, general manager of GeoAnalytics for INRIX Inc.; and Dr. Brad O'Connor, Florida Realtors chief economist.

Foreman discussed how self-driving cars will impact real estate in the future, noting that there are currently about 7,000 on the roads, with that figure expected to reach 4.5 million by 2035. There are four trends in self-driving cars: autonomous (Tesla, Uber, Google and others are working on versions of autonomous cars); also shared; electric; and connected. And there are five levels of autonomy, including hands-on at level 1, hands-off at 2, eyes-off at 3, mind-off at 4, and no-wheel at 5.

At his Seattle office, INRIX offers, on a rotating basis, the chance to get to work using a Tesla autonomous vehicle, Foreman said.

"It's really nice to go to work and be able to shave, to eat (with both hands) and check email – oh, yes, you're all Realtors – you already do that," he said, earning laughs from the crowd.

Foreman added, "We as humans are starting to measure distance differently. It used to be in miles or kilometers. Now, it's minutes – how long will it take me to get to the airport?Take a picture of traffic signals and milepost signs; they'll be gone in 30 years. "Now, many people want to search for homes in drive time, to see how long their commute would be to work, to school, and so on."

According to Foreman, with self-driving cars, the new landscape for real estate will include:

  • No more speeding tickets
  • No more drunk driving
  • No more drivers' licenses – the blind, elderly and kids can "drive"
  • No distracted driving – more texting, sleeping
  • Two-handed eating
  • Longer "drive" times – people can eat, sleep, work during commutes
  • Less office infrastructure
  • ″More agent productivity

Wrapping up the event, Florida Realtors Chief Economist Brad O'Connor took a look at what happened in Florida real estate in 2017 after Hurricane Irma, which made landfall on Cudjoe Key on Sept. 10 as a Category 4 with winds of more than 130 mph. Prior to Irma, Florida had not been hit by a major (Category 3 or above) hurricane in about 10 years.

To analyze what Hurricane Irma's long-term impact might be on the market, Florida Realtors Research Department reviewed residential real estate sales data from Florida Realtors from 2004 and 2005 (during the span of time when Hurricanes Charley, Frances, Jeanne, Ivan, Dennis and Wilma struck Florida) as well hurricane claims data from the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation.

"Long-term market impacts from landfalling hurricanes are rare and highly localized," O'Connor said. "Long-term sales declines were observed only in coastal areas where a significant percentage of structures were severely damaged by Category 4-plus winds."

Short-term market impacts from a hurricane are more common and widespread, he added.

"Sales in areas where most homes did not experience severe structural damage rebounded within a month or two of landfall," he said. "These temporary slowdowns were due to business activity halting ahead of the storm and power outages, regulations and additional required inspections afterwards.

"Sale prices don't seem to care much about hurricanes. Plenty of buyers are happy to line up to buy the real estate as long as it's not completely annihilated."

Summarizing 2017 housing market activity, O'Connor said single-family existing home sales in Florida were up 1.2 percent over 2016's sales level – and would have been up by about 3 percent if there had been no Hurricane Irma. 2017 sales of existing condos and townhouses were up about 3 percent year-over-year; and would likely have been about 6 percent higher than 2016 without Irma. The statewide median price in both sectors was up about 8 percent compared to a year ago.

"Dollar volume is up, time on market is down and inventory is down," he said. "It's really inventory constraints that's bringing sales down. Not only aren't enough homes being built, but people who own their homes aren't moving. They used to stay in a home on average about seven years, and that median has moved up to 11 years now."

The Miami Association of Realtors®was the title sponsor for the 2018 Florida Real Estate Trends event; co-sponsors included the Realtors®of the Palm Beaches and Greater Fort Lauderdale; the Northeast Florida Association of Realtors®; Orlando Regional Realtor®Association; My Florida Regional MLS; and the Royal Palm Coast Realtor®Association.

Jan. 25, 2018

Florida housing market: Sales, median prices rise in Dec. 2017

ORLANDO, Fla. – Jan. 24, 2018 – Florida's housing market reported more closed sales and higher median prices in December, according to the latest housing data released by Florida Realtors®. Sales of single-family homes statewide totaled 22,903 last month, up 2.6 percent compared to December 2016.

"Florida's housing market continued to experience tight inventory of for-sale homes in December, and that's definitely impacting the market," said 2018 Florida Realtors President Christine Hansen, broker-owner with Century 21 Hansen Realty in Fort Lauderdale"Last month, statewide median sales prices for both single-family homes and townhouse-condo properties rose year-over-year for 72 months in row. For sellers, that's good news; however, rising prices and tight inventory are putting pressure on first-time homebuyers and those who may be looking for their next 'move-up' home.

"Any consumer looking to buy or sell a home in Florida should consult a local Realtor, who can who can help them understand local market conditions and be prepared to act when the time is right."

In fact, sellers continued to get more of their original asking price at the closing table. Sellers of existing single-family homes in December received 96.3 percent (median percentage) of their original listing price, while those selling townhouse-condo properties received 95.1 percent (median percentage).

The statewide median sales price for single-family existing homes last month was $244,185, up 8 percent from the previous year, according to data from Florida Realtors Research Department in partnership with local Realtor boards/associations. Thestatewide median price for condo-townhouse properties in December was $180,000, up 7.8 percent over the year-ago figure. The median is the midpoint; half the homes sold for more, half for less.

According to the National Association of Realtors®(NAR), the national median sales price for existing single-family homes in November 2017 was $, up percent from the previous year; the national median existing condo price was $546,820; in Massachusetts, it was $384,000; in Maryland, it was $280,570; and in New York, it was ®Chief Economist Dr. Brad O'Connor.<span< p="" style="margin: 0px; padding: 0px; border: none; border-spacing: 0px; border-collapse: collapse;"></span<>

December's for-sale inventory remained tight with a 3.6-months' supply for single-family homes and a 5.6-months' supply for condo-townhouse properties, according to Florida Realtors.

According to Freddie Mac, the interest rate for a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged 3.95 percent in December 2017, down from the 4.20 percent averaged during the same month a year earlier.

For the full statewide housing activity reports, go to the Florida Realtors Research & Statistics section on floridarealtors.org. Realtors also have access to local market stats (password protected) on Florida Realtors' website.

Jan. 24, 2018

Average Florida foreclosure timeline soars

ORLANDO, Fla. – Jan. 23, 2018 – While foreclosures have dropped to pre-recession levels, a huge backlog is building due to longer processing times. The average time to foreclose jumped to more than 1,000 days nationwide in the fourth quarter of 2017 – a 14 percent increase from the previous quarter and a 28 percent increase from a year ago. It's the longest number of days to process a foreclosure since ATTOM Data Solutions, a real estate data firm, began tracking foreclosure timelines in the first quarter of 2007.

In Florida, it takes even longer for the foreclosure process to complete – an average of 1,493 days, or about 4.1 years. Florida's Orange County also makes the top-five list for county foreclosure times. In the area surrounding Orlando, a foreclosure averages 2,109 days to complete, or about 5.75 years.

States with the longest average times to foreclose in fourth quarter 2017

  • Indiana: 2,370 days
  • Nevada: 1,933 days
  • Florida: 1,493 days
  • New Jersey: 1,298 days
  • Georgia: 1,263 days

U.S. counties with the longest average times to foreclose in fourth quarter 2017

  • Queens County, N.Y.: 2,810 days
  • Marion County, Ind. (Indianapolis): 2,810 days
  • Orange County, Fla. (Orlando): 2,109 days
  • Henry County, Ga. (Atlanta): 2,075 days
  • Cherokee County, Ga. (Atlanta): 1,988 days

Source: ATTOM Data Solutions

Jan. 23, 2018

Foreclosed homes dip to 12-year low

WASHINGTON – Jan. 22, 2018 – Foreclosures hit a 12-year low in 2017, and the distressed properties remain increasingly difficult to find in many markets. Foreclosure filings in 2017 – which include default notices, scheduled auctions and bank repossessions – dropped to the lowest level since 2005.

In total, foreclosure filings were reported on 676,535 U.S. properties in 2017. That represents just 0.51 percent of all housing units in the country. Filings were down 76 percent from a peak of nearly 2.9 million in 2010, ATTOM Data Solutions, a real estate data firm, reports in its newly released 2017 U.S. Foreclosure Market Report.

For 2017, ATTOM reports Florida had:

  • 24,215 scheduled foreclosure auctions scheduled for a 45 percent drop compared to 2016
  • 29,258 foreclosure starts for a 28 percent decline compared to 2016
  • 26,544 bank repossessions for a 44 percent decline compared to 2016

"Thanks to a housing boom driven primarily by a scarcity of supply, which has helped to limit home purchases to the most highly qualified – and low-risk – borrowers, the U.S. housing market has the luxury of playing a version of foreclosure limbo in which it searches for how low foreclosures can go," says Daren Blomquist, senior vice president at ATTOM Data Solutions.

Blomquist says a few U.S. markets are exceptions to the dropping foreclosure rule, however.

"There are a few notable local market exceptions playing a different version of foreclosure limbo, in which a backlog of legacy foreclosure activity left over from the last housing crisis is still winding its way through a labyrinthine foreclosure process," he says.

Foreclosure starts are at a new record low nationwide. Lenders started the foreclosure process on 383,701 properties in 2017, down 82 percent from a peak of more than 2 million in 2009. That marks a new all-time low for foreclosure start data since ATTOM Data Solutions began collecting such data in 2006.

But a few markets are countering that trend. For example, the District of Columbia and five states posted year-over-year increases in foreclosure starts in 2017, which include Washington, D.C. (up 54 percent); West Virginia (up 32 percent); Vermont (up 27 percent); Oklahoma (up 23 percent); Illinois (up 2 percent); and Louisiana (up 2 percent).

Jan. 22, 2018

Closings threatened as federal flood insurance expires

WASHINGTON – Jan. 22, 2018 – As Congress continues to work on a major renewal of the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), it has voted for short-term extensions of the existing program, and it intended to do the same when the last reauthorization expired on Friday, Jan. 19.

Rather than a stand-alone bill, however, NFIP reauthorization this time was an amendment to the larger bill that would have kept the government operating. Failure of that larger bill took all amendments with it, including the one reauthorizing NFIP.

As a result, NFIP can't issue new or renewal policies until Congress reauthorizes or extends the program. This should not affect existing policies, renewal policies if they're still within a 30-day grace period, or policies purchased prior to the program's lapse.

However, it does impact buyers of flood-zone properties relying on a mortgage to close the deal. Without flood insurance, lenders probably won't release funds, effectively postponing closing on these properties until Congress reauthorizes or extends the flood insurance program. In the absence of federal flood insurance, buyers do have a few options to keep their transaction on track, however.

• Wait out the government shutdown
Congress and the president could come to an agreement to extend NFIP within hours – but it could also take a week or more. In 1995, the longest government shutdown on record lasted 21 days, but most observers generally expect some kind of agreement this week.

However, it also depends on whether the NFIP extension remains an amendment to the larger government funding bill. If that doesn't happen for some reason, the NFIP hiatus could last longer than the government shutdown. In December, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) offered guidance to insurersshould NFIP lapse.

• Policy assignment. If a home seller has an existing flood policy, FEMA allows the seller to assign it to the buyer. A transfer includes subsidized rates currently enjoyed by the seller, according to FEMA, but both buyer and seller should check with the insurance company and understand all the details before moving forward.

• Private flood insurance. In some areas of Florida, buyers can secure private flood insurance, which is not impacted by the NFIP expiration. If choosing private flood insurance, buyers should make sure their lender accepts that specific policy; and after NFIP is renewed, they should compare coverage and costs between both options.

Homeowners with an existing flood insurance policy are generally not affected by NFIP's hiatus, depending on how long it takes to renew the program. In the past, Congress has made program renewals retroactive to the time when the flood insurance program expired.

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