Monthly Archives: September 2020

Floridians’ Consumer Sentiment Index Surges Higher in Sept.

The index score rose to 85.1 from Aug.’s 78.8 – the biggest increase since the pandemic hit. While the sentiment index isn’t back to pre-pandemic levels yet, the component measuring whether it’s time to buy a big-ticket item surged 8.4 points higher.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Consumer sentiment among Floridians surged 6.3 points to 85.1 in September from the previous month’s revised figure of 78.8.

“September’s reading shows the largest increase in consumer sentiment since it bottomed out in April. Nonetheless, the index has only recovered to about half of the levels observed before the economic downturn due to the pandemic,” says Hector H. Sandoval, director of the Economic Analysis Program at the University of Florida’s (UF) Bureau of Economic and Business Research.

Five components that make up the index. Of those five, four increased and one decreased.

Current conditions: Floridians’ perceptions about current economic conditions were mixed, with their outlook about personal current conditions compared to a year ago dropping less than one point, from 68.3 to 68.1. According to UF, men and women look at current economic conditions differently, with men holding less favorable views.

On the other hand, opinions as to whether it’s a good time to buy a major household item, such as furniture or a car, showed a sizable increase in this month’s readings, rising from last month’s 71.8 to 80.2 – an 8.4 point increase. While all Floridians surveyed seemed to agree, UF says the feeling is particularly stronger among women, people age 60 and older, and those with an annual income above $50,000.

Future expectations: Floridians were more optimistic about the future across all sociodemographic groups in September. Expectations for their personal financial situations a year from now increased 5.2 points from 90.5 to 95.7.

Floridians don’t just expect their personal situations to improve, they see it happening across the nation. Outlooks for U.S. economic conditions over the next year showed the biggest increase in this month’s reading from 77.5 to 88.9, increasing 11.4 points. Similarly, expectations of U.S. economic conditions over the next five years increased 6.8 points from 85.9 to 92.7.

“The gain in September’s confidence came mostly from consumers’ future expectations about the national economy. Overall, Floridians are more optimistic and are anticipating greater economic prospects in the medium- and long-run,” Sandoval says.

Florida’s labor market continues to recover. The state unemployment rate went down by 4% and moved back to single digits in August, reaching 7.4%. Similarly, weekly claims of unemployment benefits maintained a downward trend.

“With most of the tourism industry still far from pre-pandemic levels, economic activity in Florida is expected to increase in the short-term as the state moves into Phase 3 of reopening, lifting all restrictions on restaurants and businesses,” Sandoval says. “Although it is not uncommon to see an impact on consumer sentiment from the presidential election, looking ahead we expect consumer confidence to continue increasing as restrictions on businesses are lifted.”

© 2020 Florida Realtors®

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Want to Maximize Profit? Track Your ‘Billable Time’

How much time do you spend on activities that make money? How much on support work? Tracking “billable time” makes it easier to set priorities.

NEW YORK – Every 30 minutes, note what you’re doing for at least a few days. At the end of each day, make a note next to each time slot or activity in your log, and mark it as “income-producing” (IP), “income-servicing” (IS) or “stuff” (S).

Income-producing refers to activities with a clear monetary outcome, such as prospecting, lead follow-up, presentations to buyers and sellers, negotiating and closing deals.

Income servicing must be done, but it does not produce profit directly, such as inspections, following up on deals and issues in the pipeline, such as marketing and prepping for appointments.

“Stuff” refers to the miscellaneous things you do during the day that have no productive value, some of which can most likely be eliminated.

The goal of identifying types of activities should be to spend at least 50% of your time spent on income-producing activities. Simply logging time can help many agents become more aware of how well they’re managing time during their day.

Source: RISMedia (09/16/20) De Grote, Debbie

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It’s Not Just Floridians – U.S. Confidence Is Also Up

The Sept. Consumer Confidence Index rose above 100 (101.8) from last month’s 86.3, but the component measuring future expectations rose the most – from 86.6 to 104.0.

BOSTON – After a drop in August, September’s Consumer Confidence Index soared higher in September, rising 15.5 points – from August’s 86.3 to 101.8 this month.

One component of the full index, the Present Situation Index – consumers’ assessment of current business and labor market conditions – increased from 85.8 to 98.5. The Expectations Index – consumers’ short-term outlook for income, business and labor market conditions – increased from 86.6 in August to 104.0.

“Consumer confidence increased sharply in September, after back-to-back monthly declines, but remains below pre-pandemic levels,” says Lynn Franco, senior director of economic indicators at The Conference Board. “A more favorable view of current business and labor market conditions, coupled with renewed optimism about the short-term outlook, helped spur this month’s rebound in confidence.

“Consumers also expressed greater optimism about their short-term financial prospects, which may help keep spending from slowing further in the months ahead.”

The percentage of consumers claiming business conditions are “good” increased from 16.0% to 18.3% this month, while those claiming business conditions are “bad” decreased from 43.3% to 37.4%.

Consumers’ assessment of the labor market also improved. The percentage saying jobs are “plentiful” increased from 21.4% to 22.9%, while those claiming jobs are “hard to get” decreased from 23.6% to 20.0%.

Consumers were also more optimistic about the nation’s six-month outlook. The percentage expecting business conditions to improve over the next six months increased from 29.8% to 37.1%, while those expecting business conditions to worsen decreased from 20.7% to 15.8%.

Consumers were also more upbeat about the labor market. The proportion expecting more jobs in the months ahead increased from 29.9% to 33.1%, while those anticipating fewer jobs decreased from 21.2% to 15.6%. Regarding their short-term income, the percentage of consumers expecting an increase improved from 13.0% to 17.5%, while the proportion expecting a decrease declined from 16.0% to 12.6%.

The monthly Consumer Confidence Survey is conducted for The Conference Board by Nielsen. The cutoff date for the preliminary results was Sept. 18.

© 2020 Florida Realtors®

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NAR: The Fight to Save Like-Kind Exchanges Continues

Over four years, both Republicans and Democrats proposed measures to weaken or end 1031 like-kind exchanges. NAR says it’s now gearing up for another campaign.

WASHINGTON – Four years ago, as Congress began debating what was to become of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, the commercial real estate industry came together as never before to defend Section 1031, the like-kind exchange provision of the federal tax code, from legislative oblivion.

Unlike the perennial listing of like-kind exchanges on the “unwarranted loopholes” list by certain extremist think tanks, the threat to Section 1031 posed by House Republicans in the last tax reform bill was a clear and present danger because their plan included the concept of immediate expensing of real estate. Policymakers driving that particular tax reform train, known as the Blueprint, saw no need to retain a deferred tax exchange mechanism in a world where the cost of any kind of real property investment could simply be written off in the year of purchase.

Sensing an immediate threat to one of real estate’s growth engines, trade groups and commercial practitioners joined forces and formed coalitions in the common quest to educate members of Congress and their staff about the economic growth and job creation benefits of Section 1031 (like-kind exchanges, in which the profits from one commercial sale can be “rolled over” into a purchase).

Over a multi-month coordinated operation, a veritable brigade of determined coalition members met with a high percentage of members of Congress from both sides of the political aisle. Armed with studies, surveys and statistics, the coalition aimed to convince policymakers that retaining Section 1031 for real estate was essential in a bill designed to create jobs and invest in communities.

The efforts paid off and the repeal bullet was dodged for real property exchanges.

Fast forward to September 2020, and a new and perhaps even greater threat has emerged. This time, the Democratic Party, looking to offset the cost of various spending programs, has targeted 1031s and other so-called “unproductive and unequal tax breaks for real estate investors” for extinction, at least in certain cases.

Too many policymakers do not understand the strong boost that real property exchanges can provide to efforts to reclaim our economy from its doldrums. It’s quicker and easier to simply believe a tagline about unscrupulous investors ravaging society through the tax code.

To meet this new threat, those who understand the growth benefits of the like-kind exchange must again answer the call to action, organize and prepare to educate their members of Congress and those running for those offices. This process has already begun. A monumental study of the impact of real property exchanges on the economy has been updated to capture the latest data and trends. (Like-Kind Exchange Transactions of Realtors® in 2016-2019)

This paper, written by two outstanding university professors, was instrumental last time in convincing skeptics and friends alike of the need to retain 1031. The new research found that like-kind exchanges have increased significantly from 2016 to 2020 and that they are still used mostly by small investors and business owners.

Armed with the updated data, commercial professionals can hopefully persuade fair-minded policymakers that now is the worst time imaginable to further harm a commercial real estate sector that is being damaged by the pandemic and to take away a critical tool for rebuilding our economy.

Commercial Realtors can play a key role in this education process. Who better knows the communities and economies of the states and districts of Senate and House members? Who can better pull together key commercial leaders to meet with policymakers and convince them that success in rebuilding and hiring has, and can again, come from carefully planned real estate development, based in many cases on the bedrock of the like-kind exchange?

Source: National Association of Realtors®, Evan Liddiard, NAR senior policy representative, federal taxation

© 2020 Florida Realtors®

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The Cannabis Biz Is Resilient. Will More Investors Give It a Try?

NEW YORK – The cannabis industry is weathering the COVID-19 pandemic much better than expected and even is thriving in some states like California that declared cannabis sellers an “essential” business, reports Marijuana Business Daily.

Tim McGraw, a cannabis real estate developer/owner who founded and serves as CEO of Canna-Hub, a firm that specializes in cannabis-zoned real estate development, says that site visits to his firm’s 1.2-million-sq.-ft. cannabis business park in Williams, Calif. slowed during the lockdown, but now, cannabis real estate may be second only to the industrial sector for capital investment.

“While the world is on fire, people are smoking more cannabis,” says McGraw, noting that the pandemic and lockdown elevated people’s stress levels to an all-time high, and cannabis “helps with that.”

An American Marijuana survey of 990 pot consumers verified McGraw’s contention, finding that 48% of participants stocked up on marijuana products amid the pandemic and 55% said they did it to help with stress.

BDS Analytics data also confirmed the premise, finding that cannabis dispensaries are seeing double-digit increases in sales, even after the $600 expanded federal unemployment benefit expired this summer. This is a trend that’s likely to continue after COVID-19 is long gone, according to Marijuana Business Daily.

However, there has been a lot of confusion among investors, especially at the start of the pandemic, because some states classified cannabis an “essential” business, but others did not, notes Eric Altstadter, the lead partner with the accounting firm EisnerAmper’s cannabis practice. This was compounded by some states declaring medical cannabis “essential,” while recreational cannabis was not, he adds.

With pot now legal for recreational use in 11 and medical use in 33 states, cannabis is currently a $8.3 billion industry, according to Medical Marijuana Inc., which predicts that sales could grow to an estimated $25 billion by 2025.

Going forward, the economic impact of cannabis sales on state and local governments may accelerate legalization of cannabis in more states, according to Altstadter.

“Speculators and entrepreneurs are starting to prepare for possible legalization of medicinal or recreational cannabis, or both, in six states expected to vote on this issue in the coming months, including Arizona, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, New Jersey and South Dakota,” he notes. McGraw adds Missouri, Vermont and Florida to the list, and says that Massachusetts is expected to open up more medical licenses and legalize it for recreational use.

“Cannabis has remained remarkably resilience through the pandemic, with better than expected sales growth in most markets,” agrees Matthew Karnes, CPA and founder of Greenwave Advisors, a New York-based cannabis research and advisory firm. But he warns, “As the economy continues to worsen, we remain cautious that these trends are sustainable.”

Heightened levels of anxiety and health concerns, in addition to the financial assault brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, have arguably enhanced the cannabis legalization debate, Karnes notes. And to minimize budget shortfalls, it stands to reason that many states that are not already generating tax revenues from cannabis sales will now seek to address the prospect of legalization.

Practically speaking, it takes two years or more for a state to establish a cannabis market, but due to the need to increase revenue, states may accelerate this timeline if medical marijuana is already legal there, he notes. Karnes cites, for example, New Jersey, which recently expanded and positioned its medical marijuana program so at the “flick of the switch” it could realize added tax revenue from recreational use sales if the measure passes in November as expected.

But the positive sentiment toward cannabis legalization isn’t translating into real estate investment activity, notes Jim Fitzpatrick, principal at Costa Mesa, Calif.-based Solutioneers, a consulting firm that helps real estate investors identify cannabis-compliant properties and obtain financing, who notes that economic uncertainty and other factors unique to the cannabis industry are negatively impacting real estate investment. As a result of the COVID-19 induced recession, Fitzpatrick notes that the U.S. capital market is highly constricted, but the high cost of occupancy (taxes plus rent) for cannabis tenants is also stifling investment activity.

Noting that Canada is still seeing cannabis real estate investment, while comparable U.S. figures remain flat, he contends that high taxes on cannabis recreational products are having a major impact on both the viability of legal cannabis production and real estate investment in cannabis-related assets. McGraw says he located his cannabis business park in an Opportunity Zone in Williams, Calif., which has no local or revenue tax, for this very reason.

“This is a substantial competitive business advantage for our tenants as it lowers their overhead and increases margins for investors,” he says, noting that the average local or county tax in California is 7.6%, but can be as high as 25.0%.

“Cities are trying to fix their revenue shortfalls on the backs of cannabis businesses,” Fitzpatrick notes, explaining that high taxes, along with rent premiums in “green zones,” are driving the cost of recreational cannabis products to levels unacceptable to consumers. As a result, cannabis recreational users are returning to the illicit market or obtaining medical marijuana cards, because medical cannabis products aren’t taxed or are taxed at a much lower level.

On the other hand, Karnes suggests that a worsening economy may cause tax revenue to fall short of projections.

Meanwhile, the COVID-19 pandemic will weed out cash-strapped, underperformers from successful, well-funded cannabis companies, according to Altstradter. He notes that since marijuana is still a Schedule 1 drug under federal law, cannabis businesses are not eligible for the federal Paycheck Protection Program loans. Companies without cash reserves, therefore, are unable to meet their expenses and will be forced to seek an exit strategy.

In addition, Fitzpatrick warns that premium rents that landlords charged cannabis businesses pre-pandemic are no longer viable in the current market. Even without COVID-19’s influence, he notes that operators were beginning to renegotiate leases because they realized that what they signed up for three or four years ago is no longer sustainable under the current tax burden.

Post-COVID-19, Altstradter forecasts there will be a thinning of the industry, as companies with good management and good fundamentals survive and thrive and buy real estate, while others will be acquired through M&A transactions or just cease to exist.

“The complexities of the U.S. cannabis industry have been exacerbated by the consequences of states operating within the confines of closed economies defined by their own interpretations of legitimacy under the shadow of existing federal laws,” adds Karnes. “Variations in standards from one state to another carry inherent uncertainties for businesses and investors with respect to how the industry will operate subsequent to the inevitable delisting or reclassification of cannabis.”

Karnes suggests that the post-COVID-19 economic environment will make cannabis real estate investors cautious, even if business remains stable. “I think REITs will continue to attract investors post-COVID, because capital is likely to be scarce for some time, even after the pandemic is no longer a concern,” he says.

Additionally, he expects that institutional investors that had shunned cannabis real estate in the past because it is illegal under federal law will get onboard. “As we get to the end of prohibition, investors that would not ordinarily invest in this space may start to take interest,” he notes. COVID-19 may also change how consumers buy marijuana, as similar to online grocery sales, it has accelerated shopper movement to online cannabis sales.

Cannabis companies began offering e-commerce solutions primarily as a result of certain states loosening their regulations with respect to cannabis delivery, says Altstradter. McGraw suggests that this was in response to lockdown rules that require retailers to limit the number of customers inside dispensaries at any one time, which created long shopper queues. He expects some shoppers to return to bricks-and-mortar dispensaries when the pandemic is over.

Richard Acosta, CEO and managing partner of Beverly Hills, Calif.-based Inception Real Estate Investment Trust or I-REIT, suggested in an ICSC interview recently that similar to online grocery sales, cannabis e-commerce will have an enduring impact on the businesses, which are quickly building out delivery and pick-up services to accommodate customer preferences and convenience.

Additionally, cannabis’ stellar performance during the current economic crisis may cause mainstream commercial real estate landlords that have avoided cannabis tenants in the past to welcome them. Acosta told ICSC that landlords are likely to view the cannabis industry more favorably as it continues to show recession-proof qualities and stability as a tenant base, and there will be wide adoption by retail landlords looking for a way to generate foot traffic and fill vacant spaces.

I-REIT reported an 183% year-over-year jump in its revenue for the second quarter of 2020 to $24.3 million. iREIT, which is focused on acquiring and managing warehouses occupied by medical marijuana tenants, is the only U.S. REIT on the New York Stock Exchange. The company also invested about $191.5 million in the second quarter to acquire eight properties in California, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey and Pennsylvania, with a total of 775,000 sq. ft. of rentable space, between April and August. These acquisitions brought the firm’s year-to-date investment total to $1.1 billion across its portfolio.

McGraw says that landlords absolutely will be accepting of cannabis tenants post-COVID-19: “They can pay their rent and are willing to pay a rent premium for the right location.”

© 2020 Penton Media, National Real Estate Investor

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S&P CoreLogic Case-Shiller: July Home Prices Rise 3.9%

In June, home prices rose 3.5% year-to-year; in July, they rose 3.9%. The rate of home price increases is accelerating due to low interest rates and strong buyer demand.

WASHINGTON (AP) – U.S. home prices rose at a faster pace in July as the housing market continued to show strength in the midst of the coronavirus outbreak.

The S&P CoreLogic Case-Shiller 20-city home price index, released Tuesday, rose 3.9% in July from a year earlier, up from a 3.5% annual gain in June. The July gain was slightly higher than economists had expected.

The 20-city index excluded prices from the Detroit metropolitan area index because of delays related to the pandemic at the recording office in Wayne County, which includes Detroit.

Phoenix (up 9.2%), Seattle (7%) and Charlotte, North Carolina (6%), reported the biggest year-over-year gains. Sixteen of the 19 cities saw prices rise at a faster pace than they did in June. The smallest gains came in Chicago (up 0.8%) and New York (1.3%).

Helped by rock-bottom mortgage rates, the U.S. housing market has largely withstood the economic fallout from the COVID-19 outbreak. The Commerce Department reported last week that sales of new homes rose a solid 4.8% in August after surging 13.9% in July.

Home prices are being pushed higher by a shortage of available properties.

“Home prices continued to push pandemic-related uncertainties aside and reach new heights into the summer months, as demand for housing outpaced supply,” said economist Matthew Speakman of the real estate firm Zillow. “An unprecedented lack of for-sale homes combined with persistently low mortgage rates have stoked a competition for housing in recent months that will not relent.’’

Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

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Zoom Offers Accessibility Options for Disabled Users

Among other changes, a sign-language interpreter’s window can be placed beside the speaker, and the hearing impaired can “pin” speakers they wish to hear.

NEW YORK – Zoom, which has become one of the most popular video meeting services, added new features Wednesday aimed at improving accessibility for those who are differently abled.

A highlight for the hearing impaired is the ability to drag and drop the video windows around in Zoom’s Gallery View, and to “pin” the ones you want to be spotlighted.

Before the update, the Zoom chat windows were fixed, and you couldn’t change the layout. Instead, every time a different speaker spoke, they would get prominent position, and the windows would shift automatically.

With the update, sign language interpreters’ windows can be directly next to the speaker. (To keep the windows there, click the three-line drop-down on the right side of the chat window, and select “Pin.”) For pinning windows, the host needs to grant permission for you to select them.

Zoom’s announcement coincides with the International Day of Sign Language. The videoconferencing services are free to anyone, with a 40-minute limit on meeting length. Premium accounts, which let meetings run longer, start at $149 a year.

The accessibility features are part of a social media campaign Zoom is launching to “raise awareness” about the features, says Damien Hooper-Campbell, Zoom’s Chief Diversity Officer. “Not just for the people who benefit from it directly,” but also the entire Zoom community, no matter their abilities, he adds.

For visually impaired users, Zoom beefed up its keyboard shortcuts and streamlined its screen reader interface) to enable an easier log in experience, without need of a mouse. The shortcuts can be found in the preferences section of the Zoom app.

For those who need closed captioning support to understand the meeting, Zoom has new tools to adjust the size of the text, in the accessibility section of the app. The platform touts its interplay with professional captioning services which displays live transcripts.

You can adjust the size of closed captioning and specify your screen reader alerts in Zoom’s preferences.

Zoom has its features and shortcuts, at zoom.us/accessibility.

Copyright 2020, USATODAY.com, USA TODAY

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Fla. Group Proposes Liability Protections for Businesses

How do you protect businesses from COVID-19-related lawsuits without banning consumers’ legitimate right to sue? A business coalition made some recommendations.

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Forty lobbyists and association representatives met over the summer to discuss ways to protect businesses from what some fear will be a flood of lawsuits related to COVID-19. The group’s co-chairs were Marc Salm, vice president of risk management at Publix Super Markets, and William Large, president of the Florida Justice Reform Institute, the group.

Called the RESET Task Force, the group finalized a proposal that would exempt “essential businesses” from any COVID-19 related litigation and change litigation rules for “non-essential businesses” that could be sued.

The task force doesn’t propose that changes can be applied retroactively to cover businesses. Essentially, it does propose that scores of businesses identified as “essential” in executive orders issued by Gov. Ron DeSantis be given immunity from COVID-19 related suits. Those employers include hospitals, doctors’ officers, dentists’ offices, urgent care centers, clinics, rehabilitation facilities, nursing homes, assisted living facilities, child care facilities, grocery stores, farmers’ markets, farm and produce stands, food banks, convenience stores, gas stations, auto-supply stores and banks.

For businesses that could still face lawsuits, the task force recommends that the Florida Legislature raise the bar for culpability in COVID-19 claims from simple negligence to gross negligence.

The task force also wants lawmakers to change evidentiary standards for COVID-19 claims by upping it from the current “greater weight of the evidence” standard to “clear and convincing evidence.”

Another recommendation is that the Legislature put into law a rebuttable presumption that people who interacted with the businesses were not infected with COVID-19. But the recommendation would allow that presumption to be overcome by clear and convincing evidence that the businesses had knowledge otherwise.

Breaking his silence on liability limitations amid the pandemic, DeSantis said last Tuesday that the Legislature could consider a bill to give liability protections to “run-of-the-mill businesses” during a special session that also could involve his controversial plan to crack down on disorderly protesters. DeSantis unveiled the plan about protesters a day earlier and suggested Tuesday that lawmakers could hold a special session on Nov. 17 when they return to Tallahassee for a Nov. 17 post-election organization session.

“There is a lot of concern about liability,” DeSantis said. “I believe it holds the economy back.”

Members of the RESET Task Force include representatives of groups and companies such as Florida Realtors, the Florida Home Builders Association, the Florida Council of 100, Travelers Insurance, the Florida Trucking Association, the Florida Health Care Association, the Florida Bankers Association, the Florida Retail Federation, Associated Industries of Florida and Walgreens.

Source: News Service of Florida

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NAR Opposes HUD Rule Targeting Homeless Transgender People

A NAR letter to HUD Sec. Ben Carson says barring transgender people from homeless shelters would force more onto the streets, leaving them “vulnerable to violence.”

WASHINGTON – The National Association of Realtors® (NAR) issued a letter to U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson on Tuesday opposing a new rule that could restrict access to homeless shelters for transgender people. NAR’s full letter is posted online.

“At a time when millions of Americans are at risk of losing their homes, the new rule would almost certainly force more people onto the streets and leave transgender people experiencing homelessness unsheltered or vulnerable to violence,” Vince Malta, NAR’s president, writes in the letter to HUD. “It would weaken our communities.”

Homelessness among transgender individuals has climbed by 88% since 2016, and 63% of the transgendered homeless population is unsheltered, which means they do not reside in a shelter or in transitional housing, according to the National Alliance to End Homelessness. Further, reports are growing of harassment, violence and discrimination targeting transgendered people who have sought access to homeless services and programs.

HUD’s proposed rule would attempt to roll back the 2016 Equal Access Rule by allowing sex-segregated homeless shelters to make placement determinations based on biological sex and not gender identity. LGBTQ advocates say they worry that transgender people will avoid shelters as a result.

HUD says its new rule isn’t discriminatory because a shelter that refuses to provide services to someone whose sex the shelter does not accommodate would be given a referral to an alternative shelter. HUD asserts that the “denial of accommodation solely because of a person’s gender identity that differs from biological sex is not permitted.”

However, NAR argues that, in practice, the rule would allow just that.

“If the only accommodation offered to a shelter-seeker is one not matching her gender identity, where she faces heightened risk of violence or sexual assault, she is not being offered accommodation at all,” Malta writes in the letter to HUD.

NAR urges HUD to let stand the 2016 Equal Access Rule, which ensures all programs assisted or insured by HUD are open to all eligible individuals and families regardless of gender identity, sexual orientation or marital status.

Source: NAR and Center for American Progress

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Remote Workers May Seek Retirement Housing Early

Fla. is a draw for retirees, but the pandemic and ability to work from home has led more people to shop for a second home before they’ve officially retired.

NEW YORK – As more work is done remotely, some Americans are deciding to make an early move to their retirement locale. Many employers are offering employees the option to work from home for the rest of the year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and some have adopted remote work as a permanent option. Freed from the bounds of a commute, many older Americans are deciding to move now.

“The pandemic was unexpected, working from home was unexpected, but nonetheless many companies realized that workers can be just as productive working from home,” says Lawrence Yun, chief economist of the National Association of Realtors®, in an interview with CNBC. “We may begin to see a boost in people buying retirement homes before their retirement.”

Demand is rising in vacation resort areas, Yun says, and retirees are increasingly targeting states with warmer weather, such as Florida, Arizona, Nevada and Texas.

A Transamerica retirement survey released in September found that 38% of people who entered retirement chose to move to a new home. When asked why, retirees cited proximity to family and friends, an affordable cost of living, and access to excellent health care and hospitals.

Housing affordability may be a chief motivator in deciding to move sooner, Yun says. Residents in pricey areas along the coasts may find larger homes at more affordable prices elsewhere.

Some workers may also be worried that home prices will continue to rise. NAR reported that existing-home prices surged 11.4% in August compared to a year ago and are now at a nationwide median of $310,600.

“It seems like demand will remain solid for the upcoming years because the Fed has clearly made its intentions known that we will have a low-interest-rate environment,” Yun told CNBC. Last week, the average 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage averaged 2.90%, according to Freddie Mac.

Source: “With Remote Work Flexibility, Some People Opt to Relocate Ahead of Their Retirement,” CNBC (Sept. 21, 2020)

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Condo Q&A: Amending Documents, Bylaws and Boards

Is it acceptable for a condo association to “self-insure” and cancel their current insurance? Also: Can a board avoid naming a director to an empty position?

STUART, Fla. – Question: My cooperative dock association board of directors is exploring the ability to “self-insure” by cancelling the wind coverage on the docks and increasing the reserves. The present windstorm insurance is almost half of the annual budget and is effectively useless due to the deductible. The board thinks they can do this by amending the governing documents to remove the insurance requirement. Can this be done?

Answer: Probably not. While the governing documents can be changed by an amendment, the documents cannot be changed to circumvent the requirement of the Cooperative Act. Specifically, F.S. 719.304(3) which requires a cooperative association to insure all association property. In a cooperative, the association “owns” the docks and leases them to the members. So, the statutory requirement that the association insure “association property” includes the “docks” even though Statute 719.104(3) does not literally use the word docks.

The Cooperative Act also allows an association to “self-insure” as an alternative to traditional insurance. However, “self-insurance” is not simply maintaining reserves. It is controlled by Florida Statute 624. To boil it down, it requires the association to essentially create its own insurance company and fund it. It is extremely complex and cost prohibitive in the sense of the actual savings.

Question: We have a five-member board, one of the members resigned. The remaining four refuse to appoint a fifth member. When questioned at a recent meeting why they did not appoint a fifth member, the response was that the attorney informed them that all that is needed is a quorum to perform board business, which was never questioned. Our Bylaws were and are as follows: “The affairs of XYZ POA shall be managed by a Board consisting of five (5) Directors”

In your opinion aren’t five directors required at all times? This has nothing to do with a quorum.

Answer: Yes, I think your board is required to appoint a fifth director. The section you cite from your bylaws provides that the board “shall” consist of five directors. The use of the word “shall” means it is mandatory. As you correctly point out, the quorum is not the issue. A board can conduct lawful business as long as a quorum of the board is present at the meeting, which in your case means three, however this does not mean the board can ignore the requirement that the board is supposed to have five directors.

Question: A person in my condominium submitted their name to be a candidate for the board. However, the person was delinquent in the payment assessments. Before the candidate deadline passed, the manager contacted the person and told them they were delinquent and needed pay up before the candidate deadline. The person paid and their name was listed as a candidate. Is it proper for the manager to have done this?

Answer: Chapters 718 (condominiums) and 720 (HOA/POA) both require that a candidate for the board must be 100% current on all monetary amounts owed to the association at the time they submit their name to be candidate. If they are not, then their name cannot be listed on the ballot. The candidate is the person primarily responsible for making sure he or she is eligible to be a candidate. However, it is not illegal or necessarily improper for the manager to have notified the candidate about the problem in time for the candidate to correct it. However, if the manager was going to do this then it should be done for all candidates as well.

Richard D. DeBoest II, Esq., is co-founder and shareholder of the Law firm Goede, Adamczyk, DeBoest & Cross, PLLC. The information provided herein is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. The publication of this article does not create an attorney-client relationship between the reader and Goede, Adamczyk, DeBoest & Cross, PLLC or any of our attorneys. Readers should not act or refrain from acting based upon the information contained in this article without first contacting an attorney, if you have questions about any of the issues raised herein. The hiring of an attorney is a decision that should not be based solely on advertisements or this column.

© 2020 Journal Media Group

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Suburban Home Prices Move Higher as Buyers Get Out of Town

Nationally, home prices in the suburbs have moved 3.2% higher since March compared to an overall 2.3% within cities, according to a realtor.com analysis. In South Fla., however, prices in urban areas declined 2.2% since March, while suburban prices are up 0.3%.

SANTA CLARA, Calif. – A pandemic-era push from cities to suburbs indicates a higher rate of price increases in areas outside U.S. cities. While housing markets in both suburban and urban areas recovered rapidly post-COVID shut down, suburban markets had more interest from home shoppers, stronger improvement of price growth, and quicker home sales than urban areas this summer, according to an analysis by realtor.com.

“In one of the most seismic shifts to the U.S. workforce since the introduction of the internet, many U.S. workers now have the flexibility to work remotely and choose where they want to live,” says realtor.com’s Chief Economist Danielle Hale. “Data shows in our post-COVID world there’s a strong preference towards a suburban lifestyle with its bigger houses, backyards and quiet streets. But American cities are not becoming ghost towns anytime soon; in fact, they are also seeing an uptick of homebuyers, it’s just not as strong as the surge we’re seeing in the suburbs.”

Price growth

  • Historically, home prices have grown faster in urban areas than suburbs, but suburban prices have accelerated 3.2% since the first week of March – the general start of the pandemic – compared to an acceleration of only 2.3% for urban areas.
  • Within the nation’s top 10 largest metros, the median listing price of suburban properties is now up 5.2% over year-to-year; in urban areas, it’s up by only 2.4%.

Time on market

  • At the peak of the pandemic in April, the time a typical property spent on the market spiked in both suburban and urban areas. Following the real estate freeze, the time it took to sell a suburban home recovered faster. Suburban homes spent only 28.5% more time on the market in early May compared to last year, whereas urban homes spent 34.1% more time on the market.
  • As the housing market accelerated in the summer months, properties began to sell at an unprecedented fast-pace in both suburban (11.4% faster year-to-year) and urban areas (8.0% faster).
  • This difference between urban and suburban homes was even more pronounced within the nation’s top 10 largest metros. Suburban homes spent 16.2% less time on the market compared to last year, while urban homes spent 10.4% less time.

“Based on the rising popularity of the burbs, some buyers might think they can catch a break by searching in the city, but unfortunately that’s not the case,” says Hale. “Rising home prices and fast home sales are everywhere. If you’re a buyer in today’s market, finding and closing on your dream home is not going to be easy.”

Number of listings

  • Currently, the number of suburban homes for sale is down 41.3% compared to last year, while urban homes for sale are down 34.3%. This divergence in available homes began in early April, during the peak of the COVID-19 shutdowns, and has continued to accelerate since.
  • Within the nation’s 10 largest metros, the divide in the number of suburban and urban listings is even greater; the number of suburban homes for sale are currently down 40.2% compared to last year, whereas suburban homes are down 13.4%. See chart below for metro specific data.

Only one Florida metro area made the top 10 list of cities analyzed by realtor.com. In South Florida (Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach), listing price growth in urban areas was down 2.2%, while it was up 0.3% in the suburbs. Listing inventory was down 3.9% year-to-year downtown, but it was down 20.6% in the suburbs. In addition, the time a home spent on the market was up 4.5% in urban areas but down 5.9% in the suburbs.

© 2020 Florida Realtors®

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The Great Appliance Shortage: Life Without a Dishwasher?

COVID-19 created yet another problem: A U.S. shortage of dishwashers, refrigerators, washers and dryers. Freezers disappeared first when consumers started hoarding food.

WASHINGTON – Dishwashers, refrigerators, washers, dryers and other household appliances are low in stock nationwide, and some consumers now wait months for orders to be fulfilled. The backup is yet another problem blamed on the COVID-19 pandemic.

In the early pandemic days, consumers started hoarding food, putting a squeeze on freezer supplies. “We sold more freezers in two days than we did all last year,” Steve Sheinkopf of Boston-area Yale Appliance told NPR. “People were storing stuff because we thought this was the end of times. We needed food.”

But problems also appeared on the supply end. Factories scaled back production during the initial pandemic stages for employee safety and a belief that rising unemployment would lead to lower consumer demand. But instead, demand for appliances surged even as shipments of major appliances fell 7% year-to-year in June.

Another factor also came into play: People sheltering at home started using their current appliances more, and some broke down. In other cases, homeowners decided it was time for an upgrade.

Finally, a booming housing market means more new homeowners – and a higher demand for new appliances.

Appliance manufacturers warn of backlogs on several brands and models through the end of the year – and possibly even into 2021.

“I have never experienced a year where there were shortages like we’ve seen this year,” Sandy Tau, owner of Long Island, N.Y.-based AHC Appliances, told NPR. “We have freezers that are on back order since the end of March that have still not come in.”

Source: “Why It’s So Hard to Buy a New Refrigerator These Days,” NPR (Sept. 22, 2020)

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‘AOB’ Fight Goes to Fla. Supreme Court

Anchor Property and Casualty claimed an assignment-of-benefit claim was constitutionally illegal. So far, a lower court agreed but Anchor lost in a court of appeal.

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – A constitutional dispute about the use of the insurance practice known as “assignment of benefits” (AOB) has gone to the Florida Supreme Court.

Anchor Property and Casualty Insurance Co. wants the state Supreme Court to overturn a ruling by a panel of the 5th District Court of Appeal in a case stemming from a home damaged by Hurricane Irma in 2017, according to documents posted this week on the Supreme Court website.

Homeowner Wayne Parker filed a damage claim with Anchor, his insurer, and then entered into an assignment of benefits agreement with Speed Dry Inc. Under the agreement, Speed Dry would do repair work, handle claim negotiations and receive direct payment from the insurer, according to last month’s appeals-court ruling.

But Anchor refused to pay Speed Dry, leading to a lawsuit. Anchor pointed to what are known as “alienation restrictions” in the Florida Constitution about homestead property, “contending that any insurance proceeds resulting from a loss to homestead property are constitutionally protected to the same extent as the homestead property itself and cannot be assigned pursuant to an AOB (assignment of benefits),” the appeals court said.

A Seminole Court circuit judge agreed with the insurer, but the appeals court overturned that decision.

“Alienation is a term of art used in real property law that refers to the transfer of title to real property,” the appeals-court ruling said. “An assignment of post-loss insurance benefits does not transfer title of real property. Rather, it is an assignment of contract rights that places a third party in the shoes of the homeowner and in privity with the insurance company. As such, that assignment gives the third party, here, Speed Dry, the right to collect benefits under the insurance contract. The AOB conveys no interest in the homestead property.”

Property insurers in recent years have repeatedly blamed assignment of benefits for increasing costs, and the Legislature last year passed new restrictions on the practice. Those changes are not part of the Anchor case.

Source: News Service of Florida

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Re-Purpose and Develop City Garages if Fewer People Drive?

Garages eat up valuable urban space, and pandemic-led work changes and a greater use of car driving services like Uber and Lyft could permanently ease demand.

NEW YORK – Investors and developers are rethinking conventional parking garages in city centers, and are a bit excited about developing these large swaths of space. The pandemic has left many of parking garages mostly empty for now as more people work remotely – but ride-hailing services like Uber and Lyft and the rise of urban bicycling infrastructure had already started to lower demand for car ownership within cities.

Now, developers are targeting urban parking garages as prime sites for redevelopment.

“By 2018, 2019, 2020, I would say every time I would take a garage to market, 50 percent of the queries start with, ‘Hey do you have the zoning analysis, what else can I do here?” David Schechtman, a senior managing director at Meridian Capital Group, told Commercial Observer. “Any time a garage comes to market there’s tremendous interest in it.”

And those interested parties aren’t thinking about parking.

The developer of one of the tallest buildings in the U.S. is overhauling what was once the largest municipally owned parking garage in Boston. The developer, Millennial Partners, is building a 691-foot, 1.6 million-square-foot condo and hotel tower in its place.

The number of parking garages and lots in the U.S. has increased over the years – from 14,200 in 2000 to more than 19,000 by 2020, according to IBISWorld research. Annual revenue has increased too.

But since the COVID-19 outbreak, time spent commuting has plunged and fewer people need a place to park. Owning or investing in parking garages hasn’t proven very lucrative, a trend that could continue if the current work-from-home trend still has an impact after the pandemic subsides.

“People started saying, ‘Maybe it should be storage, or an education facility, or rehab or medical,” Schechtman said. “People started looking at landlocked garages and saying ‘OK, I can’t build a condominium here, there may even be a condominium upstairs, but what else can I do?”

Some garage owners have already converted unused spots during the pandemic into storage units or even last-mile delivery spaces for e-commerce providers such as Amazon.

Source: “Space Race: Investors and Developers Rethink Parking Garages Amid COVID,” Commercial Observer (Sept. 15, 2020)

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Businesses Want Protection from COVID-19 Lawsuits

Fla. has the nation’s 5th worst legal ranking, the Fla. Chamber of Commerce CEO said this month. “That costs local businesses. It raises prices. It raises insurance rates.”

OKEECHOBEE, Fla. – “What can we do in the short term to limit the impact this (pandemic) is having on our lives?” Sen. Marco Rubio asked in a Sept. 1 webinar about Florida’s economic relaunch with the Florida Chamber of Commerce.

Rapid testing would be a game changer, he said. A saliva-based test that costs just $5 a test has been approved, Rubio explained. The federal government has purchased 150 million of those tests. He said he has asked the federal government to give Florida at least 10 million. While the test is not as sensitive as other tests, it could be useful in targeted areas.

He said there is also progress being made in therapies to help treat the illness. A vaccine would be the biggest game changer, he continued – a vaccine could be given to those most a risk at first, and eventually available to all is the goal, he said.

Potential lawsuits

A poll taken by the Florida Chamber showed 68% of Democrats opined Florida has not been restrictive enough in implementing precautions against the spread of COVID-19, while 68% of Republicans thought the state’s response was “about right,” said Mark Wilson of the Florida Chamber of Commerce. “We don’t have two Floridas. We have two perspectives,” he said.

Wilson said the pandemic also brings business concerns about lawsuits.

“Every couple years there is a ranking of all 50 states, and Florida right now has the fifth worst legal ranking in the country,” he said. “That costs local businesses. It raises prices. It raises insurance rates.”

He said the chamber is beginning to see commercials from personal injury trial lawyers encouraging people to sue businesses over COVID-19 related issues. He said the chamber has asked the Florida Legislature to pass legislation to protect businesses that follow the CDC guidelines related to COVID-19.

Rubio said without legal protection for businesses, there will be a cottage industry of trial lawyers who go around suing businesses claiming employees or customers were harmed by exposure to COVID-19. These attorneys will be looking for insurance companies with deep pockets who would be willing to settle cases. Businesses that survive COVID-19 might not survive such lawsuits, he said. “We want some federal protection on that,” he said.

“We’re not looking to excuse somebody who does things that are reckless and negligent and knowingly put people in danger and at risk,” he explained. “But there has to be some things that if you do them, that allows you some safe harbor.

“The concern is these insurance companies will settle cases because it costs more to fight it than to settle. That creates a cottage industry that starts going after everybody,” Rubio said.

Copyright © 2020 Lake Okeechobee News; all rights reserved.

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Fla. Lags in Census Count Putting Funding at Risk

The Census ends soon, and Fla. lags most states with only 92.5% counted. An undercount can impact political representation and fed funding for the next 10 years.

WASHINGTON – Barring a change, the 2020 U.S. census stops counting on Sept. 30, and Florida has 92.5% of  its citizens counted so far. Only eight other U.S. states have a lower percentage – Alabama, Arizona, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, Montana, New Mexico and North Carolina.

The federal government uses the once-per-decade count in many of its decisions, including the number of representatives a state has in the U.S. House of Representatives, and the portion of federal money it receives from a wide range of federal programs.

Realtors are U.S. Census partners in 2020 and encouraged to push Floridians to respond. While Census Bureau employees are now reaching out directly to uncounted households, Floridians can still respond online using the Bureau’s self-respond online form.

The Census Bureau is in the final stages of data collection, sending employees door-to-door in some areas where the count is short.

“We have 5,000 traveling enumerators moving from the most successful states” to lesser-performing states,” Albert Fontenot, Census Bureau associate director, said last Thursday.

While the census officially ends on Sept. 30, that might change depending on a federal court. A California judge is hearing a lawsuit filed by the National Urban League, Navajo Nation, California, Illinois, Texas and Washington asking that the Census Bureau be given more time.

“Because the decennial census is at issue here, an inaccurate count would not be remedied for another decade, which would affect the distribution of federal and state funding,” Judge Lucy Koh wrote in an earlier ruling.

© 2020 Florida Realtors®

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NAR: Existing-Home Sales Hit Highest Level Since Dec. 2006

WASHINGTON – Existing-home sales continued to climb in August, marking three consecutive months of positive sales gains, according to the National Association of Realtors® (NAR). Each of the four major U.S. regions saw both month-over-month and year-over-year growth, with the Northeast seeing the greatest improvement from the prior month.

Total existing-home sales – completed transactions that include single-family homes, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops – rose 2.4% from July to a seasonally-adjusted annual rate of 6.00 million in August. Sales as a whole rose year-over-year, up 10.5% from a year ago (5.43 million in August 2019).

“Home sales continue to amaze, and there are plenty of buyers in the pipeline ready to enter the market,” says Lawrence Yun, NAR’s chief economist. “Further gains in sales are likely for the remainder of the year, with mortgage rates hovering around 3% and continued job recovery.”

The median existing-home price for all housing types in August was $310,600, up 11.4% from August 2019 ($278,800). August’s national price increase marks 102 straight months of year-over-year gains.

Total housing inventory at the end of August totaled 1.49 million units, a 0.7% drop from July and down 18.6% from one year ago (1.83 million). Unsold inventory sits at a 3.0-months’ supply at the current sales pace, down from 3.1 months in July and down from the 4.0 months one year ago.

Scarce inventory has been problematic for the past few years, an issue Yun says has worsened in the past month due to the dramatic surge in lumber prices and the dearth of lumber resulting from California wildfires.

“Over recent months, we have seen lumber prices surge dramatically,” Yun says. “This has already led to an increase in the cost of multifamily housing and an even higher increase for single-family homes.”

Yun says the nation’s need for housing will grow even more, especially in areas that are attractive to people who can work from home. A study released by NAR in August, the 2020 Work From Home Counties report, found remote work opportunities to likely become a growing part of the nation’s workforce culture. Yun believes this will continue even after a coronavirus vaccine is available.

“Housing demand is robust but supply is not, and this imbalance will inevitably harm affordability and hinder ownership opportunities,” Yun says. “To assure broad gains in homeownership, more new homes need to be constructed.”

August home sale details

Properties typically remained on the market for 22 days in August, seasonally equal to the number of days in July and down from 31 days in August 2019. Two out of three homes (69%) sold in August were on the market for less than a month.

One in three August sales went to first-time buyers (33%), down from 34% in July 2020 but up from 31% in August 2019.

Individual investors or second-home buyers, who account for many cash sales, purchased 14% of the homes in August, up slightly from July’s 15% and unchanged year-to-year. All-cash sales accounted for 18% of transactions in August, up from 16% in July 2020 and down from 19% in August 2019.

While the recession has caused some concern about a future uptick in foreclosures, distressed sales – foreclosures and short sales – represented less than 1% of sales in August, unchanged from July but down from 2% in August 2019.

According to Freddie Mac, the average commitment rate for a 30-year, conventional, fixed-rate mortgage decreased to 2.94% in August, down from 3.02% in July. The average commitment rate across all of 2019 was 3.94%.

Single-family and condo/co-op sales: Single-family home sales sat at a seasonally-adjusted annual rate of 5.37 million in August, up 1.7% from 5.28 million in July, and up 11.0% from one year ago. The median existing single-family home price was $315,000 in August, up 11.7% from August 2019.

Existing condominium and co-op sales were recorded at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 630,000 units in August, up 8.6% from July and up 6.8% from one year ago. The median existing condo price was $273,300 in August, an increase of 7.8% from a year ago.

Regional breakdown: For three straight months, home sales have climbed in every region month-to-month. Median home prices grew at double-digit rates in each of the four major regions year-to-year.

August 2020 saw sales in the Northeast jump 13.8% at an annual rate of 740,000, a 5.7% increase from a year ago. The median price in the Northeast was $349,500, up 10.4% from August 2019.

Existing-home sales increased 1.4% in the Midwest to an annual rate of 1,410,000 in August, up 9.3% from a year ago. The median price in the Midwest was $246,300, a 10.7% increase year-to-year.

Existing-home sales in the South rose 0.8% to an annual rate of 2.60 million in August, up 13.0% from the same time one year ago. The median price in the South was $269,200, a 12.3% year-to-year increase.

Existing-home sales in the West inched up 0.8% to an annual rate of 1,250,000 in August, a 9.6% increase from a year ago. The median price in the West was $456,100, up 11.8% from August 2019.

© 2020 Florida Realtors®

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Fla.’s Housing Market: Sales and Median Prices Rose in August

Florida Realtors’ data: More sales, higher median prices, more new pending sales and more new listings year-over-year. Single-family sales up 8.8%; condo sales up 10.3% – and sales in the upper price tiers paved the way for the surge, says Chief Economist Dr. Brad O’Connor.

ORLANDO, Fla. – Florida’s housing market reported more closed sales, more new pending sales, higher median prices and more new listings in August compared to a year ago despite the ongoing pandemic, according to Florida Realtors® latest housing data. Single-family existing homes sales rose 8.8% compared to August 2019.

“Florida’s housing market continues to gain momentum and provide support for the state’s economy, even as we all remain vigilant in protecting our health, safeguarding our communities and trying to keep businesses going during the ongoing pandemic,” says 2020 Florida Realtors President Barry Grooms, a Realtor and co-owner of Florida Suncoast Real Estate Inc. in Bradenton. “Our homes have become more important than ever over the past few months as we’ve dealt with stay-at-home orders, working from home, helping children with remote education and more.

Realtors are available in every community to help guide buyers and sellers through today’s challenging market conditions.”

Last month’s closed sales of single-family homes statewide rose 8.8% year-over-year, totaling 29,495, while existing condo-townhouse sales increased 10.3% over August 2019 and totaled 11,100. Closed sales may occur from 30- to 90-plus days after sales contracts are written.

In August, the statewide median sales prices for both single-family homes and condo-townhouse properties rose year-over-year for 104 months in a row. The statewide median sales price for single-family existing homes was $300,000, up 13.2% from the previous year, according to data from Florida Realtors Research Department in partnership with local Realtor boards/associations.

Last month’s statewide median price for condo-townhouse units was $217,500, up 14.5% over the year-ago figure. The median is the midpoint; half the homes sold for more, half for less.

According to Florida Realtors Chief Economist Dr. Brad O’Connor, sales in the upper price tiers for both existing single-family homes and existing condo-townhouse properties paved the way for the surge in closed transactions.

“Sales of single-family homes of $1,000,000 or more were up nearly 82% year-over-year, while sales in the $600,000 to $1,000,000-range were up almost 72%,” he says. “And, as was the case in the single-family category, condo and townhouse sales of $1,000,000 and above increased by 63.5% from last August, and sales in the $600,000 to $1,000,000-range rose by more than 71%.”

O’Connor adds, “The fact that upper-tier properties are leading the resurgence of the housing market at this early stage shouldn’t really be a surprise to any student of economic history. In most recessions, the stock market is one of the first things to recover, and that’s certainly been the trend this time around, just as it was during the Great Recession. Of course, there’s no guarantee that the stock market will continue to trend in its current direction, as there remains a great deal of uncertainty out there. However, stockholders have recovered a substantial amount of asset wealth that they lost during the drop earlier this year; they’re now financially in a good position to reallocate their assets – including into and out of real estate as they see fit. And since stocks are disproportionately held by the wealthier individuals among us, that translates into a lot more real estate sales activity among the upper tier of properties.”

New listings rose year-over-year in both property type categories in August, up by 2% for single-family existing homes and 15.1% for condo and townhouse units.

“Still, this hasn’t been enough to push our inventory growth into positive territory.” O’Connor says. “This is simply an issue that isn’t going to go away overnight.”

On the supply side of the market, inventory (active listings) remains restricted, particularly in the single-family existing home category, which was at a limited 2.3-months’ supply in August. Condo-townhouse inventory was at a 5.3-months’ supply.

According to Freddie Mac, the interest rate for a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged 2.94% in August 2020, down from the 3.62% averaged during the same month a year earlier.

To see the full statewide housing activity reports, go to Florida Realtors Tools and Research section. Realtors also have access to local market data (password protected) through Florida Realtors’ SunStats resource.

© 2020 Florida Realtors®

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Blackstone to Boost Mobile-Home Bet With $550 Million Deal

Mobile-home parks have held strong during the pandemic, and Blackstone appears to be buying a number of Fla. parks owned by Summit Communities for about $550M.

NEW YORK – Blackstone Group Inc. is pouring more cash into mobile-home parks, a corner of the commercial real estate market that is holding up in the pandemic.

The alternative asset manager is in exclusive talks to acquire roughly 40 parks from Summit Communities for about $550 million, according to people with knowledge of the matter. The majority of the properties are located in Florida, said some of the people, who requested anonymity because the transaction isn’t public.

Real estate investment trust Sun Communities Inc. was among the bidders for the Summit portfolio, some of the people said.

Blackstone is set to make the investment through a vehicle known as Blackstone Real Estate Income Trust, or BREIT, and plans to spend money upgrading the properties, including shared facilities such as swimming pools, one of the people said.

“Though our investments in this asset class are very limited, we are proud to partner with a best in class operator and plan to invest significant capital into these communities – which are largely occupied by seasonal residents and retirees – to create high quality housing in places where people want to live,” a representative for Blackstone said in a statement.

The deal, which isn’t final and may still fall through, comes after Blackstone invested in mobile-home parks earlier this year. The New York firm paid around $200 million for seven parks, mostly in Florida and Arizona, owned by Legacy Communities, according to people familiar with that deal.

Representatives for Summit, Sun and Legacy didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.

Strong corner

During the pandemic, transactions involving mobile-home parks have outpaced other corners of the commercial real estate market as investors steer clear of harder-hit sectors such as retail and hotels. More than $800 million worth of the properties changed hands in the second quarter, up 23% from a year earlier, according to a report from JLL.

Blackstone operates the properties – also known as manufactured-housing communities – through a platform known as Treehouse Communities that was co-founded by Dallas Tanner, the chief executive officer of Invitation Homes Inc., a former Blackstone holding.

The average price of a new manufactured home in the U.S. was $86,900, according to U.S. Census Bureau data that was last updated in April.

Blackstone made its first manufactured-housing bet in 2018, snapping up 14 communities sold by Tricon Capital Group Inc., Bloomberg reported at the time.

The firm owns less than 1% of the manufactured housing market.

© 2020 Bloomberg L.P., National Real Estate Investor, © 2020 Penton Media

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1M Delinquent Homeowners Haven’t Asked for Forbearance

Of those, 680K have loans backed by Fannie or Freddie and could easily defer payments for up to a year. Surveys suggest they’re likely confused about their options.

NEW YORK – Homeowners who have failed to take advantage of pandemic-related mortgage assistance may be at risk of losing their properties. A little more than a million owners nationwide are at least 30 days past due on their monthly payments and haven’t entered a forbearance program or engaged their lender about some other financial solution, according to an analysis from Black Knight, a mortgage data firm.

About 680,000 of those homeowners have federally guaranteed mortgages and are eligible for a forbearance program to put their monthly payments on hold for up to a year without penalty; they aren’t required to prove hardship under federal rules. (They would have to pay back the funds at a later date.) Many lenders also offer similar help to borrowers without a federally guaranteed mortgage.

But in both cases, however, borrowers must initiate outreach for the help.

Homeowners may not be contacting lenders because they’re confused, surveys show. More than half of borrowers surveyed by the National Housing Resource Center in July say they weren’t aware of forbearance programs or didn’t know how it works. Of consumers confused about their options, nearly 70% said they fear being required to make a large lump-sum payment at the end of their forbearance period – which isn’t true.

“Some borrowers are falling through the cracks that we’re not picking up,” Lisa Rice, president and CEO of the National Fair Housing Alliance, told The Wall Street Journal. “It’s just a really sad series of events.”

Housing groups warn that the number of homeowners with past-due mortgage payments could swell even more as people currently in forbearance reach the end of their program terms in October. Those homeowners must request an extension from their lender if they need more time.

“Borrowers who are eligible to be in forbearance will preserve their options to avoid foreclosure, versus those who became delinquent and have accumulated penalties and interest in a march toward foreclosure,” says Faith Schwartz, president of advisory firm Housing Finance Strategies.

Source: “A Million Mortgage Borrowers Fall Through Virus Safety Net,” The Wall Street Journal (Sept. 18, 2020) [Log-in required.]

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Fla. Home to 2 Out of the 5 Top Home-Flip-Increase Cities

ATTOM: At No. 2, home flips in Fort Myers grew 20.2% in 2Q, while in No. 3 Tallahassee, they rose 16.8%. Salisbury, Md., saw the biggest increase at 45.8%.

NEW YORK – Fewer investors are flipping homes, but they’re earning higher profits. Typical investment returns rose to the highest level since late 2018 for housing flips, according to ATTOM Data Solutions’ latest 2020 U.S. Home Flipping Report.

The gross profit on the typical home flip nationwide – the difference between the median sales price and the median paid by investors – rose to $67,902 in the second quarter, up from $61,900 a year prior.

The increase prompted profit margins to rise, too. The typical gross flipping profit of $67,902 translated to a 41.3% return on investment compared to the original acquisition price, ATTOM reports – the first year-over-year gain since the fourth quarter of 2017.

But while profits are up, flipping rates have fallen since the COVID-19 outbreak in the U.S.

“Home flipping was a study in contrasts in the second quarter of 2020, as the flipping rate went one way and profits went the other,” says Todd Teta, chief product officer at ATTOM Data Solutions. “Far fewer house hunters were out in the market looking for homes, which probably cut into the pool of potential buyers that investors could tap. But at the same time, home flippers who were able to close deals did better than they had done in a year and a half. That likely flowed in large part from extremely low interest rates that enticed buyers who remained employed and were willing to house hunt within social distancing requirements.”

About 6.7% of all home sales in the second quarter were single-family homes or condos that were flipped, down from 7.5% in the prior quarter.

Countering the trend, the largest increases in the home flipping rate during the second quarter occurred in:

  • Salisbury, Md. (up 45.8%)
  • Fort Myers, Fla. (20.2%)
  • Tallahassee, Fla. (16.8%)
  • Corpus Christi, Texas (14.1%)
  • Kennewick, Wash. (12.6%)

Overall, homes flipped in the second quarter were sold for a median price of $232,402, ATTOM Data reports. The largest gains in profit margins were in:

  • Fort Collins, Colo. (ROI up 167%)
  • Johnson City, TN (115%)
  • Cedar Rapids, Iowa (100%)
  • Youngstown, Ohio (92%)
  • Chattanooga, Tenn. (91%)

Source: ATTOM Data Solutions

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HUD: More than Half of Renters Spend 30%-Plus for Housing

The American Housing Survey found that 51.4% of renters spend 30% or more of their family income on housing; 13% of households with someone 55 years of age or older live in an age-restricted community; and 11.3% of all households had cockroaches within the past year.

WASHINGTON – According to the new 2019 American Housing Survey (AHS) released by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the U.S. Census Bureau, the percentage of American renter households spending 30% or more of their income on housing costs held steady at 51% between 2017 and 2019.

The 2019 AHS offers a comprehensive picture of the nation’s housing inventory before the pandemic hit. Going forward, it will create a baseline for comparison after newer studies look at the pandemic’s impact on the nation’s households.

The survey also included questions on food security, marking the second time in four years this type of data was collected and making it possible to track changes in food security. In 2019, about 85% of households had high food security, meaning they weren’t worried about having enough to eat. In 2015, it was 82% of households.

“The new American Housing Survey data show clear improvements in food security between 2015 and 2019. Our hope is that the new 2019 American Housing Survey food security estimates can serve as a baseline for which to assess how American households are currently coping with the economic impacts of COVID-related job losses, which interrupted a historic period of economic growth and opportunity,” says Seth Appleton, HUD’s Assistant Secretary for Policy Development and Research.

The survey also provides detailed information on the accessibility of housing for persons with disabilities. Of the 126 million households in America, nearly 16 million include at least one person who uses a wheelchair, walker or other mobility devices. For the nearly 16 million households with at least one member using a mobility device, nearly 56% report their current home layout meets their accessibility needs “very well,” while more than 4% reported their home did not meet their accessibility needs. More than 4.2 million households said they had at least one member who found it difficult to enter their home or apartment building, and 3.2 million households had at least one member who had difficulty using the kitchen. Almost 3.5 million homeowners plan to improve the accessibility of their homes.

“As the population grows older, it is important to address their needs, including home modifications to improve accessibility. This new American Housing Survey data reveal that millions of households may benefit from accessibility improvements,” says Appleton, who says some home modifications are frequently undertaken by local governments using HUD grant funds.

The American Housing Survey is funded by HUD with data collected every other year by the Census Bureau.

Home accessibility

  • Nearly 16 million households (12.9% of all) had at least one person who used a mobility device.
  • For households with at least one person using a mobility device, 55.9% said their current home’s layout met their accessibility needs “very well,” while 4.4% said it did not.
  • Of the more than 60 million households with at least two floors, 45.8% had a bedroom on the entry level and 57.3% had a full bathroom on the entry level.
  • About 3.5 million owner-occupied households planned to make home improvements to improve accessibility for people with physical limitations.

Food security

  • During the summer and fall of 2019, 85% of households had high level of food security, an increase of 3% since 2015.
  • During the summer and fall of 2019, about 13.1% of households reported their food security as “marginal” or worse.
  • During the summer and fall of 2019, about 10.4% of households said it was sometimes or often true that they were worried food would run out before getting money to buy more.

Housing costs

  • More than half (51.4%) of renter households spend 30% or more of their income on housing costs, a slight decrease from 2017 (51.8%).
  • The median rent was $909 per month while the median mortgage cost was $975.
  • The median total cost of utilities was $210. The median cost for electricity was $109 per month, and the median cost of water was $50 per month.

Household and home size

  • The median square feet per person was 700 in 2019. For Black-alone householders, the median square feet per person was 622 in 2019, an increase from 601 in 2017. For homes with Hispanic householders, the median square feet per person was 452 in 2019, an increase from 450 in 2017.
  • Almost one in four households (28 million households or 23.8%) live in homes with more people than bedrooms.

Housing quality

  • Nearly 14 million households (11.3%) saw signs of cockroaches in their home in the last 12 months, including a larger share of renters (15.9%) than owners (8.7%).
  • About 3.6 million households (3.0%) reported signs of mold in the last 12 months. Renters (4.4%) are more than twice as likely as owners (2.1%) to report signs.

Neighborhoods

  • Of 29.8 million households with a person 55 or over, 3.9 million live in age-restricted communities.
  • 80.6% of households believe their neighborhood has good schools.
  • 89.2% report no trash, litter or junk on their street or nearby properties.

Home improvement

  • Homeowners performed over 114 million home improvement projects between summer 2017 and summer 2019, costing a total of about $521.8 billion. Of these, about 42.7 million were do-it-yourself projects.
  • Over half of homeowners are estimated to have made an improvement to their home between summer 2017 and summer 2019.
  • Between 2017 and 2019, an estimated 273,000 homeowners spent about $3.7 billion on bathroom additions or renovating existing rooms to become bathrooms. The median cost per addition or renovation was $10,000. Bathroom remodels were about 20 times more common and about a third the cost, with an estimated 5.6 million homeowners spending $37.3 billion at a median cost per remodel of $3,300.

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$300 Unemployment Payments End After Fourth Week

The additional $300 per week backed by a transfer of FEMA funds has run out. Payments were applied to the four weeks starting July 27 and ending on Aug. 22.

WASHINGTON – Eligible Floridians soon will see their fourth and final payment from a supplemental unemployment benefits program that helps those thrown out of work due to COVID-19.

The four payments were for the weeks that ended Aug. 1, 8, 15 and 22 under the federal Lost Wages Assistance program. The money for participants should land in bank accounts “sometime this week,” Florida’s Department of Economic Opportunity said Wednesday.

Since mid-March, the DEO has sent more than $16 billion in federal and state unemployment benefits to 1.975 million people. More than $11.5 billion has come from Washington, including money from the program authorized by President Donald Trump.

Meanwhile, the state remained silent on why it cut off the $300-per-week jobless supplement at four weeks even though the Federal Emergency Management Agency in Washington said it would provide six weeks of benefits in a program authorized by President Donald Trump.

© 2020 the Sun Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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Is Your Housing Market a ‘Zoom Town’?

The “Zoom Town” nickname applies to hot growth areas – generally just outside existing suburbs – being considered by buyers who no longer have to commute.

NEW YORK – “Zoom town” is the new nickname for housing markets that are suddenly booming as remote work takes off. NPR’s Planet Money coined the term as more Americans, no longer bound by a commute during the pandemic, consider semi-country locations that may have once posed a commuting problem.

It’s not just housing prices and commute times, however. They’re also fleeing crowded urban areas for more space to spread out, and some are even eyeing traditional vacation communities to for their permanent residences.

The trend might even help mitigate rising home prices in the areas they’re leaving behind.

“Remote workers are craving more space, privacy and tranquility as well as convenient opportunities to spend time outdoors and get closer to nature,” Irene S. Levine writes in a recent Forbes.com article. “Although interest in zoom towns has been primarily fueled by millennials, the desire to move is also being felt acutely by families living in close quarters whose children are now learning remotely at home.”

Areas like Lake Tahoe, Nev., the Hamptons on Long Island, N.Y., and Bend, Ore., are pointed to as examples of “zoom towns,” which home prices are now escalating as new residents compete for a limited supply of homes for sale. In the Hamptons, home prices increased by 25% year-to-year, while Lake Tahoe prices rose 50% from their low point this spring.

Bloomberg reports that beach and mountain towns often draw many tourists, in part because jobs were limited – but more people can now relocate to these areas and telecommute. The trend potentially reshape some of these smaller towns.

“If virtual work holds the promise of a new wave of migration the way air conditioning allowed the Sun Belt to boom, a significant constraint is going to be how much these communities are willing and able to grow,” Bloomberg reports.

However, topography and community resistance could stymie growth, and some housing analysts say the homebuying spree in zoom towns could be temporary. Today’s bargain home prices could climb over the next 12 to 24 months, for example, as pandemic buyers bid for limited housing supply, and those higher prices could eventually stifle demand. And the reopening of offices in traditional job hubs could make these moves temporary.

“These trends probably will become clearer in the next year or two,” writes Conor Sen for Bloomberg. “We have already seen cities such as Portland, Ore., Denver, Austin, Texas and Nashville, Tenn., benefit from knowledge jobs being pushed out of costly coastal hubs. It now seems likely that there will be a new group of winners such as Truckee [in California] and Missoula [in Montana] amid the shift to virtual work, transforming their housing markets and local economies forever.”

Source: “Zoom Towns: Why Your Last Vacation Getaway May Be Your Next Home,” Forbes.com (Sept. 15, 2020) and “Booming ‘Zoom Towns’ Should Ease City Housing Costs,” Bloomberg (Aug. 5, 2020)

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New Multifamily Properties Offering Generous Concessions

Some new multifamily properties have been in the pipeline for years, and pandemic trends have eased overall demand. As a result, some now offer free parking and free rent.

NEW YORK – A robust pipeline of new apartments planned prior to the COVID-19 pandemic has continued to deliver projects throughout 2020. To attract tenants to properties at a time when many Americans are facing economic uncertainty and others are considering whether to leave cities and move to the suburbs, owners are now offering generous concessions, including months of free rent.

“In the urban core, some of the concessions are scary,” says Ryan Davis, chief operating officer for Witten Advisors, an apartment research firm based in Dallas. “Not just three months of free rent, but free parking too.”

Concessions are broadly available through the apartment market. The share of listings on real estate Zillow offering concessions rose to 30.4% in July up from 16.2% in February.

According to the site, of the six types of concessions it tracks, periods of free rent are the most common concession (90.8%), with periods spanning from two weeks to up to two months. Other concessions include reduced or waved deposits (9.1%) and gift cards (6.6%).

For new buildings, the offers are particularly generous. Related Companies, for example, is offering two months free rent, one year of free internet, $1,500 towards moving expenses and the equivalent of one month’s rent towards any broker fees on some units in New York City.

New apartment properties in today’s market are also opening with a much higher percentage of their apartments still vacant than is typical. Usually property managers can find renters willing to sign leases for about a third of the new apartments at a property by the end of the first quarter after the building has officially opened. But the apartment properties that opened in the second quarter of 2020 were still 71% vacant at the end of June, according to data from CoStar. That’s up from 64% the year before, for apartments that had opened in the second quarter of 2019.

Despite the supply from new apartments, the overall vacancy rate for the sector has not moved much. Just 4.1% of existing apartments were vacant in the second quarter of 2020. That’s only a fraction of a percentage point higher than 3.9% the year before, according to Moody’s Analytics REIS. In contrast, new apartments were 35.8% vacant in the second quarter of 2020, up from 33.4% the year before, according to the firm.

“Vacancy rates increased more in new properties than in existing properties,” says Barbara Byrne Denham, senior economist at Moody’s Analytics REIS.

The crisis has been especially difficult in the downtown areas in the top six apartments markets including New York City and San Francisco. These are some of the places where developers had been most eager to build new luxury apartments. The ones performing better include units with outdoor space, but that’s not something that’s usually available on all units.

“The pandemic is pushing people out of the urban cores of the five or six top urban centers,” says John Sebree, senior vice president and national director of Marcus & Millichap’s Multi Housing Division, working in the firm’s Chicago office.

In response, property managers are offering months of free rent to potential residents. “If you are leasing up a property you are going to offer the very nice concessions,” says Jeanette Rice, Americas head of multifamily research for CBRE.

These concessions are deepest in top downtowns. For example, new apartment projects in Manhattan might offer as much as two or three months of free rent to attract renters, according to Davis. In contrast, a new property in Westchester County, outside of New York City, might offer just one month. These renters shopping in the suburbs seem to be interested in renting larger apartments at lower prices than they were able to find in the most expensive downtown areas.

“There is a preference for space right now,” says Davis. “Uncertain about their income, renters would like a lower price.”

New developments are not suffering as badly in every downtown. In many smaller, less expensive cities, new apartment buildings downtown are renting almost as well as new apartments in the suburbs. “In downtown Columbus, for example, they are doing well,” says Davis. “But I don’t think they are doing as well as suburban areas.”

Overall, demand for apartments in urban areas overall is roughly 60% as strong as it was before the COVID-19 pandemic. Demand for apartments in suburban areas has been much less damaged by the pandemic. It’s between 70% and as 90% of what it was before the crisis, according to Davis.

“Product in the suburbs is leasing up at around the same rate as product in cities, but this is a change in that the suburbs normally lease up slower than urban product,” says Andrew Rybczynski, senior consultant at CoStar Portfolio Strategy.

“Merchant builders who have opened properties in secondary markets and suburban locations are meeting their pro forma objectives,” says Sebree.

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Majority of Young Adults Are Now Living with Their Parents

Pew Research Center: Due to COVID-19, 52% of 18-to-29-year-olds – about 26.2M – now live with their parents, surpassing the previous peak during the Great Depression.

WASHINGTON – Empty nest no more? The COVID-19 pandemic has prompted millions of young adults to move back in with their parents since the spring. The majority of 18-to-29-year-olds now live with their parents, surpassing the previous peak during the Great Depression, the Pew Research Center reports.

In July, 52% of 18-to-29-year-olds lived with one or both of their parents, up from 47% in February, according to the analysis. That places the number of young adults living with their parents at 26.6 million.

The number of young adults moving back home is evident across genders, racial and ethnic groups, and both metro and rural areas, researchers found. However, increases were most pronounced among the youngest adults (18 to 24 years old) and for young white adults.

Prior to 2020, the highest number of young adults living at home was recorded in 1940, at the end of the Great Depression, when 48% of young adults lived with their parents. There is no data prior to that reflecting the worst of the Great Depression in the 1930s.

“Young adults have been particularly hard-hit by this year’s pandemic and economic downturn and have been more likely to move than other age groups,” the Pew Research Center notes, citing other surveys. Nine percent of young adults say they relocated temporarily or permanently due to the coronavirus outbreak. About 23% said they moved back home due to college campuses being closed, and 18% said they moved back due to job loss or other financial reasons.

The number of young adults moving back home was a trend even prior to the pandemic, which has been having an influence on the housing market. Because of it, the growth in new households has trailed population growth.

Between February and July, the number of households headed by an individual between 18 and 29 years old fell by 1.9 million or 12% – dropping from 15.8 million to 13.9 million.

A separate survey conducted by MagnifyMoney over this summer found that the metros where young adults are most likely to live with their parents are Riverside, Calif.; Miami; Los Angeles; San Antonio, Texas; New York; and Memphis, Tenn.

Source: “A Majority of Young Adults in the U.S. Live with Their Parents for the First Time Since the Great Depression,” Pew Research Center (Sept. 4, 2020)

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This Trending Design Style Will Make Home Stagers Cringe

Meet “cluttercore”– the new home trend sweeping social media that’s the opposite of decluttering. Cluttering a home to the max gives a cozier vibe, supporters say.

BROOKLYN, N.Y. – Home stagers strongly advise sellers to declutter when prepping their homes for sale. But a new home design trend sweeping social media likely will have stagers aghast. Meet “cluttercore”– the antithesis of decluttering.

Just as the name suggests, it’s about cluttering to the max: crowding a home with knickknacks, filling up every shelf or wall space, and showing off a lived-in space. Cluttercore is quickly gaining traction on sites like TikTok, Instagram, and Twitter. “There’s something about rooms that have pictures and paintings on the walls, books stacked, knickknacks on the surfaces,” one TikTok user wrote about cluttercore. “It just gives a space a sense of security and coziness.”

Critics of the style say it’s akin to hoarding and messiness.

But cluttercore may be offering some homeowners a greater sense of comfort than other recent design styles. “Sleek, modern homes are filled with whitewashed walls inside and out, creating a cold unwelcoming environment,” the TikTok user notes.

“In all honesty, a minimalist room makes me feel a bit uncomfortable,” another user writes. “It gives me the sense of being alone and isolated. I would often find it difficult to sleep in hotel rooms or when I first moved into my house. The pictures and belongings that surround me in my room make me feel less alone.”

Stagers may compromise by offering a cozier vibe when dressing up home interiors. The “cozy” trend has been catching on since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic as more homeowners shelter in place. Home stagers say they’re using more throw blankets draped on sofas and pillows, more plants, color pops, and softer, warmer textures.

Source: “Cluttercore Is the New, Maximalist Aesthetic Taking Over TikTok,” i-d.vice.com (Aug. 18, 2020)

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2020 Good Neighbor Finalists Beat Tough Odds

Supporting suicide prevention, housing for the sick and disabled, special needs kids and other causes, these 10 Good Neighbor Award finalists embody the Realtor spirit.

CHICAGO – The National Association of Realtors® (NAR) has selected 10 Realtors® as finalists for its 2020 Good Neighbor Awards, which honor NAR members who make an extraordinary difference in their communities through volunteer work.

Supporting suicide prevention, housing for the sick and disabled, and improving medical treatment for children of active-duty military parents, among other causes, these Good Neighbor finalists embody the Realtor spirit.

“Despite the challenges presented by COVID-19, these Realtors have continued to help their neighbors in impactful and inspiring ways,” says NAR President Vince Malta. “I am so proud to honor this year’s Good Neighbor Award finalists for their outstanding volunteer work and for exemplifying everything we strive to be as Realtors and as engaged, compassionate members of a community.”

The 10 finalists are: Eric and Janet Baucom, Coastlands Real Estate Group, Ventura, Calif.; Linda K. Brown, Amax Real Estate, Springfield, Mo.; Jeff Fields, Russ Lyon Sotheby’s International Realty, Scottsdale, Ariz; Debra Griggs, RE/MAX Central, Norfolk, Va.; Tamara House, RE/MAX Centerstone, Lafayette, Ind.; Vickie Lobo, Einstein Realty, Fontana, Calif.; Greg Masucci, Coldwell Banker Residential, Washington, D.C., and Atoka Properties, Purcellville, Va.; Sandra Nardoci, Berkshire Hathaway Blake, Albany, N.Y.; Janice Ash Sialiano, Coldwell Banker Sea Coast Advantage Surfside, Surfside Beach, S.C.; Linda Wolf, KW Metro Center, Alexandria, Va.

Now in its 21st year, the Good Neighbor Awards provides $10,000 grants to five winners, who will be chosen in October, to further their charitable efforts. The winners will also be recognized at the virtual Realtors Conference & Expo this November and be featured in the November/December issue of Realtor Magazne. The five honorable mention selections will receive a $2,500 grant for their respective nonprofit organizations.

The public is invited to weigh in on the 10 finalists from now to Oct. 2, 2020, as the top vote-getter will receive a $2,500 award and the second and third place finishers will each earn $1,250. These ‘Web Choice Favorites’ and the five judged winners will be announced on Oct. 6.

Realtor.com® is the primary sponsor of the Good Neighbor Awards program and funds the Web Choice Favorite grants. Wells Fargo Home Lending also supports the program.

Learn more about the Good Neighbor Award finalists.

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It Hasn’t Been This Hard to Get a Mortgage in 6 Years

Due to tight supply, MBA’s credit availability Index fell 4.7% in Aug., the lowest since March 2014; however, home lending is still expected to hit a 15-year high in 2020.

WASHINGTON – Mortgage credit in August was the tightest in more than six years as a weak economy prompted lenders to tighten standards, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA).

The MBA’s Mortgage Credit Availability Index (MCAI) fell 4.7% to 120.9 last month, the lowest since March 2014.

The drop in the availability of credit was “driven by a reduction in supply from both conventional and government segments of the market,” said Joel Kan, an MBA associate vice president.

Measuring credit availability by loan type, the Conforming MCAI that tracks loans backed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac fell 8.6% to the lowest in the data series that goes back to 2011.

The Jumbo MCAI measuring high-balance loans fell 8.9%, and the Conventional MCAI that measures loans not backed by the government fell 8.7%. The Government MCAI that includes mortgages backed by the Federal Housing Administration, Veterans Affairs, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture fell by 1.4%.

Even with tighter standards, the lowest mortgage rates on record will push home lending this year to a 15-year high of $3 trillion, MBA said in an Aug. 20 forecast, and refinancing probably will reach $1.7 trillion, the most since 2003.

Source: HousingWire (09/10/20) Howley, Kathleen

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