June 18, 2018

Post-hurricane priorities: AC or cellphone charger?

MIAMI – June 15, 2018 – In the hot and dirty days after a hurricane sweeps through Florida, which conveniences would be most important to you?

According to a new hurricane preparedness survey commissioned by the FAIR Foundation, internet access would be one of the most-missed amenities.

Asked to choose which of two conveniences they would prefer in the four days after a hurricane, 83 percent of respondents chose web access to cable TV access, which was preferred by 17 percent. Sorry, CNN and Fox News. Apparently, most respondents would rather surf the web while using rabbit ears to watch local TV.

The strength of preference for internet access was tops among millennials (92 percent), but also strong among people ages 35 to 54 (88 percent) and 55 and older (74 percent).

"I think it's an access to information issue," said Karen Cyphers, research director for Sachs Media Group, which conducted the survey for the FAIR Foundation and the Get Ready, Florida! hurricane preparedness campaign. "People feel they'll get the best access to information online than from cable TV."

Survey results were compiled from 1,000 responses to questions mailed to a random sample of registered Florida voters between June 1-4 with a margin of error of +/- 3 percent at the 95 percent confidence level, according to the surveyors. Results are representative of Florida voters in terms of age, race, gender and political party.

Meanwhile, about one in four respondents said they would choose a fully charged cellphone over saving their perishable food in a working refrigerator or the comfort and safety of air conditioning. "I don't think we would have seen that 20 years ago," Cyphers said.

Air conditioning was more important than cellphones to males than females. Eighty percent of males chose AC compared with 76 percent of females.

Meanwhile, the survey found 76 percent of Floridians are "very" or "somewhat" concerned about potential hurricanes this season compared with 5 percent who were "not at all" concerned.

Broken down by ethnicity, 42 percent of black respondents and 44 percent of Hispanic respondents said they were "very concerned" compared with 22 percent of white respondents.

Among homeowners, 70 percent have either reviewed or updated their homeowner's insurance policy since last hurricane season. That's not good enough, said Guy McClurkan, executive director of the FAIR Foundation, a spinoff organization of the Fort Lauderdale-based insurance watchdog group, Florida Association for Insurance Reform.

"The 2018 hurricane season is already off to a fast start," McClurkan was quoted as saying in a news release announcing the survey results, "so it's crucial that everyone review their family's safety and evacuation plans, check their insurance coverage and consider purchasing separate flood insurance, since floods aren't covered by a typical homeowners policy."

© 2018 the Sun Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.), Ron Hurtibise. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

June 11, 2018

CoreLogic: Total U.S. home equity passes $100 trillion

WASHINGTON (AP) – June 8, 2018 – Increased home prices boosted U.S. household net worth 1 percent in the January-March quarter to crack $100 trillion for the first time.

The Federal Reserve said Thursday that home values rose $500 billion, offsetting a decline in stock portfolios of $400 billion. Overall household wealth rose to $100.8 trillion from $99.7 trillion in the October-December quarter.

The figure reflects the value of assets like homes, bank accounts and stocks minus debts like mortgages and credit cards. The figures aren't adjusted for inflation or population growth.

Increased wealth could boost consumer spending in coming months. Still, wealth increases aren't widely shared: Roughly 80 percent of the U.S. stock market is owned by 10 percent of the population. And a smaller share of Americans now own homes compared with a decade ago.

About 64 percent of Americans own their homes, down from a peak of about 69 percent in 2005. Home sales have leveled off this year as price increases and a dwindling supply of available properties have thwarted many would-be buyers.

Mortgage rates are also moving up, partly because the Federal Reserve is lifting the short-term rate it controls. That trend could also weigh on sales in the coming months.

Home prices rose 6.8 percent in March from a year earlier, according to the S&P CoreLogic Case-Shiller home price index. Some markets, like Seattle, San Francisco and Las Vegas, are experiencing double-digit annual price gains. Those increases are making it especially hard for younger Americans, already burdened by student loans, to buy a house.

Greater household wealth can support faster economic growth, although that effect might be fading. Research has found that in the past, people spent roughly 3 to 5 cents of every dollar in additional wealth they accumulated.

Since the recession, though, Americans have become more cautious with their wealth. Economists now estimate that roughly only 1 penny for every dollar is spent.

May 31, 2018

NAR study: Active military and veteran homeownership

WASHINGTON (May 25, 2018) – Differences in household composition and financing options incentivize home buying demand for veteran and active military, according to the 2018 Veterans & Active Military Home Buyers Profile, which evaluated the differences of recent active-service and veteran home buyers and sellers to those who have never served.

The results revealed quite a few contrasts between active-service military buyers and buyers who have never served.

At a median age of 34 years old, the typical active-service buyer was a lot younger than non-military buyers (42 years old) and was more likely to be married and have multiple children living in their household. Active-service members typically bought a larger home that cost more than those purchased by both non-military buyers and veterans.

Despite lower median incomes ($84,000), more stable job security and no down-payment financing options give aspiring military homeowners an advantage over their civilian peers. Fifty-six percent of active duty and 41 percent of veterans put no money down when buying a home, compared to 7 percent of non-military.

Additional data from the report:

  • Reason to move in future: 82 percent of active duty will move for their job, 33 percent to flip their home and 11 percent for a better neighborhood
  • Household composition: 77 percent of active duty and 78 percent of veterans are married, compared to 63 percent of non-military

© 2018 Florida Realtors®

May 25, 2018

Florida housing market: Sales, median prices, new listings up in April 2018

ORLANDO, Fla. – May 24, 2018 – In April, Florida's housing sector reported more closed sales, higher median prices and more new listings from owners ready to enter the market, according to the latest housing data released by Florida Realtors®.

"Not enough for-sale inventory, especially in the range for first-time homebuyers, is an ongoing challenge for many local housing markets," said 2018 Florida Realtors President Christine Hansen, broker-owner with Century 21 Hansen Realty in Fort Lauderdale. "Pent-up demand continues to put upward pressure on prices. In April, sellers continued to get more of their original asking price at the closing table. Sellers of existing single-family homes last month received 96.6 percent (median percentage) of their original listing price, while those selling townhouse-condo properties received 95 percent (median percentage).

"But there is some positive news for buyers: New listings for single-family homes in April rose 9.8 percent year-over-year, while new townhouse-condo listings increased 8.3 percent. This trend will hopefully continue, which would help ease the too-tight inventory in many areas."

Sales of single-family homes statewide totaled 24,804 last month, up 4.1 percent compared to April 2017. Meanwhile, the statewide median sales price for single-family existing homes was $253,895, up 8.1 percent from the previous year, according to data from Florida Realtors Research Department in partnership with local Realtor boards/associations. Thestatewide median price for townhouse-condo properties in April was $190,000, up 10.5 percent over the year-ago figure.

April was the 76th month in a row that the statewide median sales prices for both single-family homes and townhouse-condo properties rose year-over-year, according to data from Florida Realtors Research Department in partnership with local Realtor boards/associations. 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 March 2018 was $252,100, up 5.9 percent from the previous year; the national median existing condo price was $236,100. In California, the statewide median sales price for single-family existing homes in March was $564,830; in Massachusetts, it was $369,000; in Maryland, it was $283,405; and in New York, it was $260,000.

Looking at Florida's townhouse-condo market, statewide closed sales totaled 11,236 last month, up 9.2 percent compared to a year ago. Closed sales data reflected dwindling short sales and foreclosures in April: Short sales for townhouse-condo properties dropped 27.5 percent and foreclosures fell 41.8 percent year-to-year; while short sales for single-family homes declined 48.8 percent and foreclosures fell 50.7 percent year-to-year. Closed sales may occur from 30- to 90-plus days after sales contracts are written.

"More often than not, the pace for Florida's busy spring and summer homebuying season seems to be set in March and April," said Florida Realtors Chief Economist Dr. Brad O'Connor. "On the heels of a somewhat slow month of March this year, it's good to see that state existing home sales rebounded quite nicely in April. With last month's sales factored in, we're ahead of last year's pace of single-family home sales by about a half of a percent.

"Demand for single family homes remains strong across the state and this abundance of buyers continues to deplete active inventories and drive up prices."

For-sale inventory in April remained tight, at a 3.8-months' supply for single-family homes and 5.8-months' supply for townhouse-condo properties, according to Florida Realtors.

According to Freddie Mac, the interest rate for a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged 4.47 percent in March 2018, significantly up from the 4.05 percent averaged during the same month a year earlier.

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®

May 22, 2018

No bubble yet – but a dearth of construction could hurt

WASHINGTON – May 21, 2018 – An increase in housing supply is crucial to the health and sustainability of the real estate market and the economy, according to speakers at a session organized by the Realtor® University Richard J. Rosenthal Center for Real Estate Studies during the 2018 Realtors Legislative Meetings & Trade Expo. The session, "Outlook for Home Prices and Residential Construction," focused on rapidly rising home prices, tight home inventories and whether or not the country is in the middle of a bubble.

All three of the panelists agreed that more new home construction is necessary to meet rising demand from increasing household formation and to curtail the affordability crisis.

"Young adults of today are forming households at a much lower rate than previous generations, and high housing costs contribute to that," said Len Kiefer, deputy chief economist for Freddie Mac. According to Kiefer, one third to three quarters of U.S. markets have an elevated home price-to-income ratio, and many major markets, such as Austin, Miami and Portland, are getting close to surpassing their 2008 ratio.

"Are we in a bubble? No, not currently," said Kiefer. He defended that opinion by outlining ways the current market is different from the one leading to the recession, such as no signs of over leveraging and the very low ratios of household income to debt. In addition, the aggregate risk of mortgages in the U.S. is also comparatively low.

"Those risky loans that contributed to the last bubble have largely gone away in the current market," Kiefer said.

However, the panelists quickly pointed out that just because there's no current bubble doesn't mean the U.S. won't eventually have one. If supply and demand continue to become more and more out of balance, it could trigger a fast price growth, said NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun.

"A best-case scenario is largely dependent on new home construction," said Yun. "An increase in inventory will provide some much-needed release."

Ken Simonson, chief economist for Associated General Contractors of America, discussed how low employment in construction is also contributing to the lag in new home construction, despite high demand.

"Construction saw a 30 percent drop in employment in the previous decade, the largest drop of any industry. They also began laying people off a year before the recession began and did not start hiring again until much later than other industries," said Simonson. This led to difficulty in bringing skilled laborers back to the industry.

"Construction companies are having to hire people with no experience and spend more time and money on training," Simonson said.

Material costs have also contributed to the low rate of construction. The price of diesel fuel, which is used in earth moving vehicles and in transporting materials, has risen 42 percent since 2017. The cost of lumber and plywood has also increased 11 percent, copper and brass mill shapes have risen 10 percent and ready-mix concrete has risen 7 percent.

© 2018 Florida Realtors®

May 21, 2018

How to tell if criminals ‘stole’ your home

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – May 18, 2018 – In light of recent arrests in what the Broward County, Fla., Sheriff's Office is calling a fraudulent real estate ring, I want to take this opportunity to provide you with tips on how to protect yourself. With this type of fraud, authorities say homes are illegally taken without owners' consent.

The rise of technology has made it very easy to create fraudulent documents that can be easily recorded in public records, and these documents can make it appear that your property was sold or belongs to someone else. As with most dangers, awareness and diligence are the best ways to protect yourself.

Since the property appraiser keeps records online, the most straightforward way to make sure you are not a victim of this sort of fraud is to check regularly. However, with the press of modern life, it can be difficult to remember to do this.

This leads to what I consider the most important method: being aware of changes.

For example, if you start getting mail addressed to a different name at your address or stop getting mail that you normally might, it can be a sign that there is an issue. Any new deed recorded in the public records triggers a slew of mail advertisements, so they are a great warning sign that something is up.

Another example can be sudden unsolicited interest from prospective real estate agents, water softener or similar home service-related companies, or even prospective tenants showing up at your home. If anything sets off your "gut-check alarm," go online and check the property appraiser for changes – and then check it again a few weeks later to confirm.

If you own a vacation home or any other property that you manage from a distance or keep vacant, you will need to be extra-vigilant, since these sorts of properties are especially vulnerable to fraud. Find a neighbor or hire a reputable property manager to regularly check and report on your property. Also, make sure to have mail related to that property forwarded to you, and be concerned if the flow stops unexpectedly.

The overarching lesson is to investigate anything that seems strange. Most times there will be nothing amiss. But once in a while there is, and it is much, much easier to avoid a problem than to spend a lot of time and money fixing one.

About the writer: Gary M. Singer is a Florida attorney and board-certified as an expert in real estate law by the Florida Bar. He practices real estate, business litigation and contract law from his office in Sunrise, Fla. He is the chairman of the Real Estate Section of the Broward County Bar Association and is a co-host of the weekly radio show Legal News and Review. He frequently consults on general real estate matters and trends in Florida with various companies across the nation.

Copyright © 2018 Sun Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.), Gary M. Singer. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

May 14, 2018

Q&A: I’m getting divorced but want to buy a house. Help?

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – May 11, 2018 – Question: I am in the process of getting a divorce. I want to buy a new house but am worried about my soon-to-be-ex-wife having an interest in it. Is there something I can do to protect myself? – Alex

Answer: There are steps you can take that differ depending on the state of your relationship with your soon-to-be-ex-spouse.

If you are still getting along, you can sign an agreement regarding the property with her that is similar to a prenuptial agreement (called a postnuptial agreement) or make the arrangement part of your marital settlement agreement in the divorce case. Any concern would be regarding where the money you are using to buy the home came from. If it is from marital assets, it may be more difficult to draft an enforceable agreement. For this type of arrangement, it is essential to each have your own attorney approve the agreement.

If your ex is not willing to cooperate, and you are looking to purchase the property using non-marital funds, such as money you inherited or from investments you had long before the marriage, there are still some steps you can take to protect yourself. First, make sure you can document the source of all funds you are using to purchase the property. Then make sure the title company titles the home as your "sole and separate" property. Finally, make sure to thoroughly disclose this asset as part of any financial disclosure during your divorce proceedings.

This can be a thorny issue with lots of potential hazards, so make sure to coordinate with your real estate and divorce attorneys to avoid any pitfalls.

About the writer: Gary M. Singer is a Florida attorney and board-certified as an expert in real estate law by the Florida Bar. He practices real estate, business litigation and contract law from his office in Sunrise, Fla. He is the chairman of the Real Estate Section of the Broward County Bar Association and is a co-host of the weekly radio show Legal News and Review. He frequently consults on general real estate matters and trends in Florida with various companies across the nation. Send him questions online at www.sunsentinel.com/askpro or follow him on Twitter @GarySingerLaw.

© 2018 Sun Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.), Gary M. Singer. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

April 27, 2018

How to triumph in a bidding war

  • NEW YORK – April 20, 2018 – With a record low number of listings this spring, more buyers may find themselves in a bidding war for the home they want. CNBC recently highlighted a few tips on winning a bidding war, including:
  • Set the maximum price from the start. Home shoppers should factor in the monthly mortgage payment, property taxes, homeowners insurance and any homeowner association or condo fees, along with a general estimate of maintenance for the home, such as lawn care and repairs. If the bidding gets too high, buyers need to be prepared to walk away.
  • Pay with cash. An all-cash offer is an advantage in a bidding war. Buyers who come with cash double their chances of winning, according to the real estate brokerage Redfin. Some buyers will even pay all cash to win the home and then take out a mortgage after the deal closes.
  • Waive the financing contingency. Buyers who waive a contingency on their loan being approved by a lender may better their chances. But this can be a gamble. Homebuyers need to be careful they don’t end up having to pay in cash if the loan doesn’t go through. Buyers who plan to do this should get a fully underwritten loan preapproved from a lender prior to submitting an offer – they’ll improve their chances of winning the bid by 58 percent with a preapproval, according to Redfin’s analysis.
  • Write a personal letter to the seller. Buyers can try to appeal to sellers’ emotions and let them know that they intend to take good care of their home. Young families may write about how they intend to raise their children in the home and the life they envision there. Even a video may help, but it’s not usually helpful to write about plans to remodel the home or do a complete makeover.

 Source: “House Hunting? Here’s How to Win a Bidding War,” CNBC (April 10, 2018)

April 10, 2018

Millennials who keep renting will pay $92K by age 30

NEW YORK – April 9, 2018 – By the time millennials turn 30, they'll have paid $92,600 in rent, according to a new study by RentCafe, a nationwide listing service for rentals – more than previous generations paid when they were between the ages of 22 and 30.

RentCafe researchers studied how much millennials, Generation X members and baby boomers spent on rent during that eight-year time period of their life by using U.S. Census Bureau statistics dating back to 1974.

Millennials have been hit the hardest by rising rents, and Generation Z – the generation following millennials – may have it worse, according to the analysis. Researchers estimate that by the time Generation Z reaches age 30, its members will have paid more than $102,000 in rent.

Millennials earn more compared with previous generations ($206,600 in the eight-year period), but they also spent 45 percent of their income on rent between the ages of 22 and 30 – more than the 30 percent that most financial advisers recommend.

The two previous generations weren't able to keep their rental costs under 30 percent of their income either, but they did fare better than millennials: Baby boomers spent 36 percent of their income on rent between the ages of 22 and 30 and Generation X spent 41 percent.

April 9, 2018

4 demographic shifts worth watching

IRVINE, Calif. – April 6, 2018 – The aging of America, more immigrants and a population that's heading south are a few big trends to watch that will likely have a great impact on the housing market over the next decade, writes John Burns, CEO of John Burns Real Estate Consulting, in a column for ATTOM Data Solutions.

Burns' team spent more than 9,000 hours researching demographic shifts that will occur over the next decade. In his column, Burns highlighted some of his findings from a book that he and Chris Porter published, Big Shifts Ahead: Demographic Clarity for Businesses.

Here are some of the demographic trends Burns says to watch over the next 10 years:

  1. More people over the age of 65: 38 percent of the population will be over the age of 65 within the next decade – and the number will hit 66 million people by 2025. Burns says this will spark even greater demand for high-density, low-maintenance living and what he calls "surban" (urban living in suburban environments). Burns also predicts that more of these baby boomers will help their children with downpayments on a home in order to keep their children living nearby.
  2. More affluent immigrants: Burns estimates there will be 8 million increasingly affluent immigrants over the next decade. "Today's immigrant tends to arrive on an airplane from China, Brazil and other countries where the economies have been booming," Burns writes. "While most expect some slowing in those economies, the pent-up demand to move to the U.S. remains large."
  3. More people heading south: 62 percent of the population growth over the next decade will likely be in the South where 42 percent of the nation already lives, Burns says. "Plenty of jobs, affordable housing and warm weather will make Texas, Arizona, Nevada, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, and surrounding states the growth engine."
  4. More people passing away and leaving a household behind: Burns estimates there will be 25.8 million newly formed households in the next 10 years, and 13.3 million of those will move to a household abandoned by someone who passes away or moves into an assisted living facility. "The record number of people passing away has been one big reason that net household formation has been slow," Burns writes. "Nonetheless, these 25.8 million want to live differently than prior generations, and will fill their homes up with all sorts of technology."
Posted in National News