June 14, 2019

Florida program can help with reverse mortgage problems

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – June 13, 2019 – Florida's federal Elderly Mortgage Assistance Program (ELMORE) is accepting applications from homeowners who need help with their reverse mortgage until June 30, according to a news release.

Homeowners who meet specific qualifications may be eligible for a two-year forgivable loan of up to $50,000. The funds will be distributed to the mortgage servicer, on the homeowner's behalf, in a lump sum to repay property-related expenses paid by the servicer (e.g., property taxes, homeowner's insurance, flood insurance and association fees) plus upcoming property-related expenses for up to 12 months.

Call the ELMORE Application and Information Line at (800) 601-3534 to apply and/or receive more information or go to the ELMORE program website at FloridaELMORE.org. There is no cost to apply.

"I highly encourage seniors in Florida who are struggling with their reverse mortgage to apply before the June 30 deadline," said Executive Director Trey Price, Florida Housing Finance Corporation, in a release.

Copyright © 2019 News Leader, Community Newspapers, Inc. All rights reserved.

June 13, 2019

What’s your retirement housing strategy?

NEW YORK – June 12, 2019 – One of the most important aspects of retirement planning is making housing plans. The reality is that you need a place to live in retirement and there are a lot of different options. Furthermore, even if you decide to just keep the status quo and age in place, there are a lot of factors to consider.

The home is often a retiree's largest asset, with the median wealth in homes for a 65-year-old couple at $192,552, according to the U.S. Census data. This represents about two-thirds of the median retiree's assets. Furthermore, the home comes with a cost, which is often the largest expense for retirees at nearly $20,000 a year. So let's look at 10 different retirement housing options, ranging from aging in place all the way through nursing home care at the end of life.

Aging in place
What is it: Roughly 83% of retiree homeowners want to stay in their current home for as long as possible.

Pro: The homeowner gets to keep consistency in their life. They know their house, understand the costs associated with it, have an emotional attachment to it, and know the surrounding area. In many cases this can be the most enjoyable and stress-free way to live in retirement.

Con: Often retirees have outgrown their current homes. Perhaps they raised a few kids and have a lot of extra maintenance, rooms and costs associated with keeping up the house. While it might work early in retirement, it could become a burden as they age. The current home also might not be friendly for aging in place. The home could have too many stairs, not a lot of senior amenities, and be far away from senior services like health care.

Home sharing
What is it: For some homeowners, the desire to age in place is there, but the finances just don't make sense, especially if the person is single. So one option is to take on a roommate. Home sharing is mostly engaged in by women in retirement, with over 4 million senior women sharing a home with at least two other women. There are home-sharing services that help pair up homeowners with potential roommates, both from a financial and compatibility standpoint.

Pro: Home sharing can be a great way for a homeowner to age in place, add companionship to their life, and improve their finances. The homeowner is able to charge rent and likely split utilities, which can add much-needed cash flow. Additionally, it allows the homeowner to have someone else live with them who is in a similar stage of life.

Con: Not everyone wants to share their home with a stranger or another person. Furthermore, the decision to bring someone into your home carries a bunch of risks. For one, you might not get along. Additionally, there can be a lot of headaches from renting a room if the renter is unable to meet their payments. It can be hard to evict a person, especially a senior.

Relocating/downsizing
What is it: When you are working, living close to work is important for many people. However, once you retire, that need is gone. All of a sudden, location desires change. Additionally, the house you were living in might no longer fit your needs, so relocating to a better fit can make sense.

Pro: Relocating can help free up home equity and reduce expenses if the homeowner downsizes. It is also possible to move to an area with a lower cost of living or to a state that has lower taxes. Additionally, a benefit of relocating in retirement can be to move closer to family or to improve one's quality of life by moving to warmer weather or closer to recreational activities.

Con: Relocating means getting used to a new area and home. Moving always has costs associated with it also, whether it is hiring movers, closing costs or just travel costs. Lastly, if the decision to relocate eventually does not work, it is very hard to undo.

Renting
What is it: If you are already renting this would be the status quo. However, for homeowners, one option is to sell the home and rent. In some cases, you can engage in a sale-leaseback agreement and sell your current home and continue to rent it back. In other cases, you can sell and move to a new rental location.

Pro: By selling and renting, you can free up home equity for other needs and possibly reduce your expenses. Renting also provides more flexibility in that you can move more freely than if you owned. Additionally, renting can take some of the home upkeep and maintenance off the table. This can be very valuable to seniors as they age. While it might have been enjoyable to mow the lawn and take care of the property at an earlier age, as one ages it can become difficult and expensive to hire out, so renting can be a way of controlling the costs of living.

Con: One of the biggest downsides of renting is just that most homeowners don't want to do it. A survey of retirement age homeowners found that only 5% wanted to sell their home and rent. For many Americans owning their home is part of the American dream, so renting just doesn't fit their vision of a successful retirement, even if it is the best financial outcome for them.

Village concept
What is it: The Beacon Community near Boston is often credited as being the first official "village model," but communities taking care of seniors together have been around forever. The village model is about allowing seniors to age in place in their homes but with the support they need. In many cases, the village model is set up similar to a homeowners association where dues are paid into the "village" or "community," which in turns provides services like transportation, events and some basic care.

Pro: The village model can help reduce costs as seniors share services and costs with others needing similar assistance. By allowing seniors to age in place for longer, they can avoid having to move into more expensive senior housing like assisted living facilities before they need to.

Con: While there are a few hundred village models in the country, that is not a lot of options. For many seniors there is no village model option in their area. Additionally, services are limited, so the retiree might still need to move as their needs for services grows. Furthermore, there is a cost associated with the village model, so that could impact cash flow.

Age-restricted (active adult) communities
What is it: Generally in the United States, you cannot discriminate based on age, gender or race when it comes to housing options because of the Fair Housing Act of 1968. However, The Housing For Older Persons Act of 1995 allows for communities to restrict housing options to older individuals as long as certain parameters are followed. Essentially, there are two forms of age-restricted housing options. The first requires that at least 80% of the occupied units have at least one person who is 55 or older living in the home. The other type is a bit more restrictive as it requires all residents to be at least age 62, including both spouses.

Pro: One of the biggest benefits is companionship. Seniors decide to live near and around those going through a similar part of their life and retirement. The communities often provide a variety of services, clubhouses and recreational activities.

Con: There can be additional costs associated with living in such communities, so it is not always the cheapest housing option. Furthermore, with a 62-and-over community, adult children cannot move in if they don't meet the age requirement. Additionally, for spouses with large age gaps, they can be prohibitive also.

Continuing care retirement communities
What is it: Continuing Care Retirement Communities (CCRCs) offer a continuum of care throughout retirement, often starting with independent living. Most of these communities require the senior to move in when they are in good health and can live independently. Over time, the senior can stay in the same community but receive different levels of care and senior housing, ranging from assisted living to long-term care to end-of-life care.

Pro: CCRCs allow a senior to age in place in the same community but receive services and long-term care as their needs change. This is also a way to control and, in some cases, prepay your long-term care costs. The communities also often provide food, transportation and recreational activities.

Con: The biggest concern with CCRCs is whether the entity will be able to fulfill its promises over time. CCRCs are typically for-profit businesses that can run out of money and go out of business. Additionally, many require down payments in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. So, if the entity goes bankrupt, seniors could lose these down payments.

Assisted living
What is it: Assisted living offers a combination of housing and care services. Typically when someone moves into an assisted living facility they need help with some activities of daily living and are in the early stages of needing long-term care services. However, the person can still live mostly independently.

Pro: For many, assisted living facilities offer the care required to maintain a standard of living desired by the senior. They could need some help with bathing, dressing, mobility or cooking.

Con: Cost. According to 2018 numbers in Genworth's Cost of Care Study, the average assisted living cost is roughly $48,000 a year. Furthermore, Genworth predicts that this cost will balloon to roughly $86,000 a year by 2038. Additionally, it can be hard to choose the right facility. Plan ahead to determine how you will pay for assisted living and the type of facility and care that you want.

Nursing home
What is it: Nursing homes provide housing and full-time care for individuals needing significant levels of long-term assistance. Nursing home care is less about making a housing decision and more about receiving the level of care you need.

Pro: Care can be significant and help the person live a better lifestyle than they would if they tried to manage alone at home. Additionally, nursing homes can provide skilled care services that might be difficult for family members to provide or expensive to hire out for at home.

Con: Nursing home quality ranges significantly, and so does cost. Furthermore, most people do not look forward to or choose to move into a nursing home, but instead, it is typically driven out of necessity. According to Genworth, a private room in 2018 cost over $100,000 a year on average. Plans for how to fund your care should start well before retirement.

Charity
What is it: Charity housing can mean a few different things. First, there are charities and religious organizations that provide free or reduced-cost housing options for low-income seniors. Another form of charitable housing can come from family members. Many will take in relatives to help them out.

Pro: Charity is going to be in many cases the cheapest form of retiree housing. When it comes to family members taking in a senior, it can also be a great way to spend time with family.

Con: Most people do not want to rely on family members or charities for their housing or other needs. The desire for most people is to live independently. However, living with family and using charitable housing is a viable option for millions.

June 12, 2019

Florida economy poised for long, positive run

ORLANDO, Fla. – June 11, 2019 – A new report from Wells Fargo Securities indicates economic growth in Florida has continued to outpace the nation so far this year and has evolved to enhance long-run competitiveness.

"Its strong performance is particularly noteworthy given the severity of the Great Recession in Florida, and the considerable adversity the state has faced from devastating hurricanes, citrus greening, constant trade uncertainty and slower global economic growth," says Wells Fargo Senior Economist Mark Vitner.

"We expect economic growth to moderate this year, as the national economy slows," he adds. "Florida is poised to remain one of the nation's fastest-growing states, however, and growth remains remarkably broad-based across industries and geographies."

Florida average hourly wages have increased 2.8% over the year, construction has remained steady, and the housing market has returned to form.

"While moving in the right direction, home sales weakened late last year when mortgage rates spiked," Vitner says. "With sales moderating, homes are sitting on the market slightly longer, which is giving buyers a little more bargaining power. As a result, home prices have cooled, rising 4.6% year-over-year in March, which stands in contrast to the 6.2% rate hit this time last year. Price appreciation has moderated in both higher-priced markets, like Naples and Sarasota, and lower-priced areas, like The Villages, Ocala and Cape Coral."

Source: Sarasota Herald-Tribune (06/10/19) Hielscher, John

© Copyright 2019 INFORMATION INC., Bethesda, MD (301) 215-4688

June 11, 2019

Gov. DeSantis signs bills on open permits, online notaries

TALLAHASSEE, Fla., June 7, 2019 – Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis' signed two bills into law last week, HB 447 and HB 409 – a move applauded by Florida Realtors®.

HB 447: Open and expired permits

HB 447 allows local governments to close a permit six years after issuance, as long as no apparent safety hazards exist. It also prevents local governments from penalizing property owners for an open permit applied for by a previous owner.

"Open and expired permits bring uncertainty to real estate transactions and can delay the closing, and in some cases, prevent a home purchase," says 2019 Florida Realtors President Eric Sain, a Realtor and district sales manager with Illustrated Properties in Palm Beach. "That's why we applaud the leadership of Rep. Ben Diamond and Sen. Keith Perry to sponsor this legislation, and Gov. DeSantis' decision to sign it. It will go a long way in helping homebuyers and sellers fulfill the American Dream in Florida."

The signed the open and expired permit remedies become effective on Oct. 1, 2019.

HB 409: Online remote notaries

"Many states throughout the nation allow the use of online remote notaries in real estate transactions, making them easier, faster and more convenient for distant consumers," says Sain. "Thanks to Gov. DeSantis' signature and the leadership of Rep. James Grant and Sen. Jeff Brandes to create and pass this legislation, Florida now joins this crop of modern, forward-thinking states."

In addition to authorizing the use of online remote notaries, HB 409 also contains measures that protect the integrity and security of documents being notarized. The use of online remote notaries becomes effective on Jan. 1, 2020.

© 2019 Florida Realtors

June 10, 2019

A homeowner break? State Farm says it will cut rates

MIAMI – June 7, 2019 – Hurricanes gave South Florida a break last year, and State Farm Florida listened. The company is dropping rates for its 270,000 Florida customers by an average of 14.4%.

It's a rare bit of good news for Florida, where hurricanes frequently bring higher home insurance rates. For any homeowner with a mortgage, storm insurance is required by lenders.

The reason for the rate drop: lower costs for State Farm. "We had few losses compared to previous years, so our savings will benefit our clients because we have additional funds," said Jose Soto, a public relations official with State Farm Florida.

The rate decrease took effect May 15 for clients buying new policies; existing policy holders will see the decrease beginning July 1. Total savings to policy holders will be $95.9 million in premiums over 2018. Individual savings will be determined according to the details of each policy. Because of billing cycles, some policyholders will not see the savings until their escrows are settled at the end of the year.

For some customers, the savings will be significant. Maria Elena Cisneros, a Miami insurance agent with nearly 30 years of experience, said that one of her clients will save $400 per year.

Dan Krause, a senior vice president at State Farm, said the reduced costs were the result of "the stable tendency of non-catastrophic losses, improvements in costs and losses and the financial strength of State Farm."

The rate decrease is possible even though 5,090 policyholders filed claims with State Farm for damage caused in the Florida Panhandle by Hurricane Michael, a Category 5 storm.

State Farm Florida was established after Hurricane Andrew in 1992 as a subsidiary of the national State Farm company. Because the Florida company is a mutual company owned by its insured clients, the decrease in losses is passed on to clients.

Although the company retained some of its old clients, it now only issues new policies for properties built under the state's 1994 building code, which increased standards.

The company is sending letters to its clients announcing the rate cuts. It recommends that anyone with questions contact their insurance agents.

To date, no other Florida property insurance companies have decreased rates, according to the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation. Homeowners can compare rates on the state website's comparison tool.

© 2019 Miami Herald, Sarah Moreno. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

June 7, 2019

Inexpensive ways to stage a home like a pro

WASHINGTON – June 6, 2019 – If you're selling your house, the place has to look its best so buyers can see its potential and imagine themselves living there. That's what home staging is all about.

A professional home stager will cost between $50 and $150 per hour, says Jessica Page, a broker with Innovative Real Estate in the Denver area.

The good news is that you can get it done for a lot less money. Page and real estate veteran Jennifer Radice of Coldwell Banker Residential Real Estate in Boca Raton, Fla., share these expert tips for staging your home at almost no cost:

Stash personal items

Packing away your personal stuff, such as pictures, sports memorabilia, even religious items, is one of the easiest, cheapest things you can do to stage your house.

"The reason you want to depersonalize your home is because you want buyers to view it as their potential home," Page says. Prospective buyers may have a hard time envisioning themselves in the house if they're surrounded by photos of your family.

"Pictures are extremely distracting," says Radice.

Besides, when trying to attract a buyer, "you want the buyer's agent to enjoy showing the home," Radice says, because even if a particular buyer isn't interested, the agent might represent someone who would be a good match.

Clear away clutter

Decluttering is another simple way to get buyers to focus on the bones of the house.

"After years of living in the same home, clutter collects in such a way that may not be evident to the homeowner. However, it does affect the way buyers see the home, even if you do not realize it," Page says.

Radice recommends clearing off kitchen and bathroom countertops.

"If you have kids, get rid of the toys all around the house," Radice says. "For all you know, the buyers could be empty nesters."

She suggests packing that stuff in boxes and neatly stacking them in a corner of the garage. Anything extra should go in a small storage unit. Even better, ask a friend or relative to stash your items at no charge.

Rearrange, paint rooms and give them purpose

Rearrange the rooms in your home and make sure each room has a distinct purpose. Page suggests touring builders' models to see how the rooms are furnished.

"Builders are experts on preparing their product for prospective buyers," she says.

If your home has been painted recently, you're ahead of the game. If not, take a paintbrush to the rooms that need it most. Sellers who paint the interior of their home will see a large return on the investment, Page says.

Scrub and deodorize

No one wants to visit a dirty house, especially prospective buyers. So make sure your house is squeaky clean.

"When buyers see an unkempt home or smell something when they first walk in, they become turned off immediately," Page says. "They can rarely see past it to look at all of the great features in the home."

Radice suggests having the house professionally cleaned so that everything is spotless. She also recommends baking cookies in the oven, bringing cinnamon sticks to a slow boil in a pot of water or using air freshener before each showing. Ridding the home of litter boxes is a must.

Enhance curb appeal

"Curb appeal is just as important as cleaning the inside of the home," Page says. "It's the buyer's first impression of your home."

Mow the lawn, make sure the sidewalk and driveway are free of clutter and debris, and make sure the house number is easy to see. You may need to pressure-clean your driveway and sidewalk.

Another valuable low-cost solution? Mulch. "It makes everything look trim and neat," Radice says.

Copyright © 2019 Capital Gazette Newspapers, Melissa Neiman

June 6, 2019

The essential guide to hurricane preparedness

ORLANDO, Fla. – June 5, 2019 – Until Hurricane Michael hit Florida's Panhandle last year, that area of the state was considered less vulnerable than the eastward parts that jut out into the Atlantic Ocean's preferred path for big storms.

Hurricane season begins on June 1st and lasts six months, with storm threats typically peaking in August and September. But a major storm can target any part of Florida at any time.

Hurricane knowledge

First, know your hurricane facts and understand common terms used during hurricane forecasts. Storm conditions can vary on the intensity, size and even angle.

Tropical depressions are cyclones with winds of 38 mph. Tropical storms vary in wind speeds from 39-73 mph while hurricanes have winds 74 mph and greater.

Storm terms

  • Tropical storm watch: Tropical storm conditions are possible in the area.
  • Hurricane watch: Hurricane conditions are possible in the area. Watches are issued 48 hours in advance of the anticipated onset of tropical storm force winds.
  • Tropical storm warning: Tropical storm conditions are expected in the area.
  • Hurricane warning: Hurricane conditions are expected in the area. Warnings are issued 36 hours in advance of tropical storm force winds.
  • Eye: Clear, sometimes well-defined center of the storm with calmer conditions.
  • Eye wall: Surrounding the eye, contains some of the most severe weather of the storm with the highest wind speed and largest precipitation.
  • Rain bands: Bands coming off the cyclone that produce severe weather conditions such as heavy rain, wind and tornadoes.
  • Storm surge: An often underestimated and deadly result of ocean water swelling as a result of a landfalling storm, and quickly flooding coastal and sometimes areas further inland.

Hurricane forecasts

Predicting a tropical cyclone's path can be challenging – there are many global and local factors that come into play. Forecasters' computers take huge amounts of data and try to predict where the storm will go and usually are 2-3 days out. This is where you hear the terms "computer models" and "spaghetti models" being used. Generally, the forecast track or path is given using the average consensus of these models.

The National Hurricane Center has the most up-to-date information on tropical cyclone developments, forecasts and weather alerts, discussions analyzing the data and more.

Hurricane kits

It's important to create a kit of supplies you could take with you if forced to evacuate. This kit will also be useful if you are able to stay in your home but are affected by the storm, such as through a power loss. One common trend seen when hurricanes are approaching is a wide-spread panic. If you prepare a kit ahead of time, you can alleviate a lot of the potential stress of a very chaotic situation.

Recommended hurricane kit items

  • Non-perishable food (enough to last at least 3 days)
  • Water (enough to last at least 3 days)
  • First-aid kit (include prescription medication)
  • Personal hygiene items and sanitation items
  • Flashlights (have extra batteries)
  • Battery operated radio
  • Waterproof container with cash and important documents
  • Manual can opener
  • Lighter or matches
  • Books, magazines, games for recreation
  • Special needs items: pet supplies and baby supplies, if applicable
  • Cooler and ice packs
  • An evacuation plan

Securing a home

  • Cover all windows with hurricane shutters or wood. Note: While tape can prevent glass from shattering everywhere, it does not prevent the window from breaking
  • If possible, secure straps or clips to securely fasten your roof to the structure of your home.
  • Trim all trees and shrubs, and clear rain gutters.
  • Reinforce garage doors
  • Bring in outdoor furniture, garbage cans, decorations and anything else not tied down
  • If winds become strong, stay away from windows and doors, and close, secure and brace internal doors.

Power outages

In the event a storm leaves you without power, there are a few things to consider:

  • Gas: Make sure your car's tank is full far in advance of an approaching storm. Most people wait until the last minute, rush to get extra gas for cars and generators, and gas stations can run out.
  • Money: ATMs can run out of money if everyone tries to use them quickly, and they can shut down completely if the power goes out.
  • Cell phones: Charge cell phones pre-storm and limit use if the power goes out.
  • A/C: Try to prevent as much light from entering and warming the house by covering up windows on the inside. If you have back-up or battery-operated fans, don't run them unless you're in the room.
  • Water: Fill bathtubs and large containers with water for washing and flushing only.
  • Food: Turn your fridge temperature down and/or freeze any food or drinking water that can be frozen if you expect a power outage.

© 2019 Florida Realtors

 

June 4, 2019

The American dream makes a comeback

CELEBRATION, Fla. – June 3, 2019 – After Teresa and Mark Taunton short sold their $535,000 four-bedroom dream home in Celebration, Florida, at the end of the real estate meltdown in 2011, buying another house was the last thing on their minds.

"It makes you feel you could somehow end up in the same position," says Teresa, 57, describing the anxiety the couple experienced after selling their house for less than what they owed the bank. "We were just so leery of everything."

But in late February, five years after they were officially allowed to make another home purchase, they closed on a modest ranch house for less than half the price of their former Orlando-area unit and just minutes away.

"We were really tired of renting," Teresa says. Of their new house, she adds, "It's comfortable. It's home."

With rent, "You're looking at (shelling out) $20,000 to $30,000 a year, and you have nothing in return," Mark adds.

There are signs that a growing number of Americans who lost homes to foreclosure or a short sale during the housing crisis are emerging from their post-crisis bunkers and buying again or planning to do so in the near future.

The trend could allow millions of so-called boomerang buyers to build wealth again through homeownership. It also could provide support to a housing market that has sputtered lately. Existing home sales are down 6.6% so far this year compared with the year-ago period, according to the National Association of Realtors® (NAR).

"I think the next phase of the housing recovery will be partly driven by people in the prime age group" of 35 to 64 that have been hesitant to buy again after losing homes in the crisis, says Kwame Donaldson, an economist with Moody's Analytics.

Young people largely have fueled the housing recovery so far. In March, first-time home buyers made up 33% of all existing home sales, up from 30% a year earlier, according to NAR. But from the fourth quarter of 2017 to the fourth quarter of 2018, the homeownership rate jumped from 58.9% to 61.1% for 35 to 44-year-olds, the largest increase on record for any age group, and from 69.5% to 70.1% for 45 to 54-year-olds, Census Bureau figures show.

Donaldson says he believes the leap for 35- to 44-year-olds was largely spurred by boomerang buyers who were 27 to 36 during the depths of the crisis.

Housing crisis hit less qualified

The housing bust was caused by lenders who doled out subprime mortgages to Americans who couldn't qualify for conventional loans. Many of the mortgages required low interest-only payments initially that ballooned after a few years. The model worked as long as home prices kept soaring, allowing homeowners to refinance. It unraveled when prices plunged and the Great Recession caused millions of people to lose their jobs and fall behind on their mortgage payments.

From 2006 to 2014, there were 7.3 million housing foreclosures and 1.9 million short sales, according to CoreLogic, a housing research firm. After a foreclosure, a prospective buyer must typically wait seven years to qualify for a mortgage guaranteed by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac. The wait can be three years in certain circumstances, or for a Federal Housing Administration loan, but people who wait seven years generally benefit from higher credit scores and lower interest rates.

A short seller generally must wait three years to buy again.

Of 2.8 million former homeowners whose foreclosures, short sales or bankruptcies dropped off their credit reports from January 2016 to November 2018, 11.5% have obtained a new mortgage, according to a study by credit rating agency Experian for USA Today.

Fifty-three percent of the remaining 2.5 million had prime or super-prime credit scores in November, notes Experian Vice President Michelle Raneri. "That's 1.3 million people who have really good credit," she says. "Maybe they don't realize they would qualify now."

Some economists say many of those affected who wanted to become homeowners again already have done so. "I'm less convinced this is going to move the market," says Ralph McLaughlin, deputy chief economist of CoreLogic.

Michael Fratantoni, chief economist of the Mortgage Bankers Association, says young people will be a far greater force in the housing market than prime-age boomerang buyers the next few years. There are about 31.7 million 24- to 38-year-old renters in the U.S., according to CoreLogic.

But Moodys' Donaldson notes that the typical pay of middle-aged Americans is 14% higher than the U.S. average, making them particularly good candidates to buy homes. Those who lost houses were financially and psychologically scarred, he says, and many could take longer than three- or seven-year waiting periods before feeling comfortable enough to make a purchase.

In the Denver area, some boomerang buyers tour homes but then get cold feet and pull back before reentering the market months later and finally buying, says Jessica Reinhardt, a broker at RE/MAX Alliance.

A NerdWallet survey, conducted for USA TODAY in January, found that 6% of Americans who lost a home due to a financial event the past decade plan to buy one this year. But a whopping 39% intend to buy over the next three years and 58% say they'll purchase within five years. Nearly one-third said they're afraid to own a home again.

Losing the 'American dream'

The Tauntons, of Celebration, could have bought another house in 2014 when the three-year waiting period after their short sale ended. But, "the memory was still sore," Mark says. "You're still in the middle of what you lost."

They lost the house they bought in 2005 in which they raised the five children of their blended family and that symbolized their attainment of "the American dream," as Mark puts it. They had their own pool and the Disney-owned community sported a movie theater and spa, among other amenities.

They kept current on their mortgage even after Mark lost his job as manager of an exclusive men's designer clothing store in the depths of the recession in 2008. But when their monthly payment jumped from $2,300 to $3,500 in 2010, they were on the verge of falling behind. Their lender advised them to stop making payments so they could get a loan modification, but it never came.

"We did everything right," Mark says, noting they had never missed a payment. "It was traumatic."

While they rented four apartments and homes, they squirreled money away and started thinking about buying again last November. Besides wanting to amass a retirement nest egg, they grew weary of renting because "you didn't get to know your neighbors," Teresa says.

This time, they resolved to spend no more than $250,000, rejecting several of the more lavish houses they visited. "You never want to go through that again," says Mark, who is now a high school teacher.

Teresa, an accountant, asked lots of questions and took meticulous notes, and the couple provided extensive documentation. Last time, "The mortgage company made it so easy," she says.

The couple, who used most of their savings to buy their previous house, "qualified for much more than the home" they purchased this time, says their Redfin agent, Mike Moore.

They made a down payment of 5% on the $247,000 house, giving them a monthly payment of $1,640. While they worry about getting hurt by another crash, "I feel a whole lot better about a $240,000 house than a $535,000 house," Mark says. "I feel like I can still control it."

Economy, wage growth aid buyers

There are concerns for boomerang buyers. Nationally, home prices have climbed 53% since their 2012 bottom and are now 11% above their 2006 peak, according to the S&P CoreLogic Case-Shiller index. That raises worries about another potential bubble and could keep already-wary former homeowners from making a purchase. But credit standards are much tighter now, "so there are fewer risky loans out there," says Skylar Olsen, director of economic research for real estate site Zillow. "The national market is not headed towards a bubble popping," she says.

In fact, home price increases have moderated since last year and mortgage rates have fallen even as wage growth has accelerated, creating a positive backdrop for boomerang and other buyers, Fratantoni says.

The economy's steady recovery the past nine years has been a godsend for Art Fernandez, of Davie, Florida. In 2007, he and his wife Leanette leveraged an interest-only mortgage to buy a 10,000-square-foot house around the corner from their more modest home, seeking both their dream house and a sure-fire investment in the go-go years. They bought even before selling their existing house.

But the housing market seemed to crash the week they closed, Fernandez says, leaving them owing more on both homes than they were worth. Soon, Leanette had to leave her job as a mortgage broker and Art, a retail theft prevention manager, was laid off. They lost the first house through foreclosure and the second in a short sale. "It was very, very difficult," Fernandez, 42, says.

But while they rented for three years, he got another theft-prevention job, as well as a part-time gig as a real estate broker. Leanette became a travel and lifestyle blogger.

When they decided to buy a 2,200-square-foot house in 2017 for $355,000, "It was like we had three full-time jobs," Fernandez says. "We were confident and ready to find our 'forever home.'"

In some areas hit hardest by the housing crisis, boomerang purchases are picking up, brokers say. In Las Vegas, Thomas Blanchard, managing broker of Orange Realty Group, estimates that 15% to 20% of sales handled by his firm are to boomerang buyers, up from 1% to 2% a few years ago.

In the Miami area, boomerang buyers make up four in 10 purchases, estimates Sonia "Gaby" Martinez, broker and owner of Xtreme International Realty. Sharply rising rents in Las Vegas and Miami are prodding more ex-homeowners to buy again, the brokers say.

Some want to do so before climbing prices make it impossible.

Kimberly Velasquez, 43, of Parker, Colorado, lost her four-bedroom, $320,000 house to foreclosure in 2011. After renting and going through a divorce, she decided to buy a $380,000 townhouse last August as soon as the foreclosure came off her credit report. Denver-area home prices have more than doubled since 2011.

"I decided I needed to do it now," she says, "or it would be to the point where I'd be priced out of ever being able to buy a home."

© 2019 South Bergenite, North Jersey Media Group, Inc. All rights reserved.

June 3, 2019

Bloomberg: Florida the winner as the wealthy move south

NEW YORK – May 31, 2019 – According to a Bloomberg analysis of state-to-state moves based on data from the IRS and the U.S. Census Bureau, Florida saw a net influx of nearly 3% of the state's adjusted gross income in 2016.

South Carolina, Idaho and Oregon also posted large gains, while the biggest declines were recorded by Connecticut, New York, and New Jersey.

The U.S. Census Bureau reports that about 10% of the population – about 35 million people ­– moves annually, usually within the same county, though about 5 million Americans move from one state to another.

"Florida's powerhouse economy continues to churn out new jobs, retiree migration to Florida is on the rise, and millennials are coming into their prime home-buying years," says Florida Realtors Chief Economist Brad O'Connor.

Migration also brings more money into Florida than it moves out. The average gross income of people moving to Florida from 10 states and Washington, D.C., exceeded $100,000, outstripping those of Florida natives who migrated to the reciprocal states.

The Sunshine State also benefits from a provision of the federal tax law that imposes a lower cap on state and local tax deductions – one of seven states that collect no income tax.

Source: Bloomberg (05/24/19) Miller, Lee J.; Lu, Wei

May 31, 2019

Mortgage rates fall below 4% – first time in 1.5 years

WASHINGTON (AP) – May 30, 2019 – U.S. long-term mortgage rates fell for the fifth consecutive week, tipping the key 30-year loan average below 4% for the first time in nearly a year and a half.

The declining rates have been a boon to potential purchasers.

Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac said Thursday that the average rate on the 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage fell to 3.99% from 4.06% last week. It was the first time it ran below 4% since January 2018. By contrast, a year ago the benchmark rate stood at 4.56%.

The average rate for 15-year, fixed-rate home loans declined this week to 3.46% from 3.51%.